Graduate Program

Geology Option, Masters Degree Program in Environmental Systems

The Geology Department at Humboldt State University offers a Masters program in Geology.  The program is offered under the auspices of the Environmental Systems Graduate Program within the College of Natural Resources and Sciences. The degree conferred is: Master of Science, Environmental Systems Program, Geology Option.

Student at Monument Park

So, what is our Geology Masters programs about? We are a small graduate program that matriculates 3-4 new graduate students each year. We emphasize basic research and your graduate experience will revolve around your thesis research done with a mentor. The program consists of a set of required courses (including course options) as well as completion of the  Masters thesis. Courses usually take three semesters to complete, but we expect that you will establish your thesis and get it rolling while you are completing classes.

The thesis is an original, curiosity-driven piece of independent research.  The thesis is carried out under the mentorship of a primary adviser within the Geology Department.

How long to complete your master's degree? Residence time for course and thesis completion takes two to three years.  Most graduate student residencies are closer to three years.

You can apply to our program without initially aligning yourself with a potential thesis advisor. However, we suggest you look through our Faculty and Research Associates on the geology home page and contact those faculty with whom you may want to work.

Thesis topics: Historically, our specialty has been (and still is) Quaternary geology, geomorphology and neotectonics; but theses may be completed in any field for which there is faculty mentorship available.  Over the years, most Masters theses have been completed in the general areas of neotectonics or Quaternary geology. But we have had theses completed (or now ongoing) in structural geology, tectonics, economic geology, petrology and micropaleontology/climate change.

The required courses (in addition to the thesis research) are:
  • Graduate Orientation in Environmental Systems (one-time, one day)
  • Topics in Environmental Systems (one course, many options can fulfill this requirement)
  • Graduate Colloquium in Environmental Systems (one course taken by all Environmental Systems graduate students)
  • Data Collection & Analysis (a required statistics course specially designed for, and required of, all Environmental Systems graduate students).
  • Fluvial Processes (within the Geology Department)
  • Hillslope Processes (within the Geology Department)
  • Quaternary Stratigraphy (within the Geology Department)
  • Advanced Geology Field Methods (within the Geology Department)
  • Neotectonics (within the Geology Department)
  • And other relevant courses to reach a required 30-credit minimum. Courses (from other programs) that we encourage to fulfill the additional credits include GIS-skills courses, mathematical modeling (especially Matlab-related) and a soil genesis and classification course.

For a specific list of course requirements that encapsulates the above requirements in an official catalog format please view the Geology option for the Environmental Systems Master of Science.

Graduate Application Instructions

The following link provides instructions for application to the Environmental Systems Graduate Program within the College of Natural Resources and Sciences.  Visit the Graduate Studies for the most up-to-date information on the application process.

Application Deadlines:
  • For fall semester admission: ALL application materials must be received by February 1st. The priority application period for Graduate programs is October 1 through February 1.  Completed applications, with all materials received in the Admissions office by February 1, will get priority consideration by the graduate program.  Applications for which required materials arrive at the Admissions office after February 1 will subsequently be considered in the order received. Please check the graduate program websites for application requirements.
  • For spring semester admission: ALL application materials must be received by September 30.
  • Meeting all deadlines is one way of showing that you are both serious and conscientious. Additional graduate information can be found at the Humboldt State Office of Research and Graduate Studies website.

Please send all required application materials, iuncluding letters of recommendation, directly to the Office of Admissions by email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or by postal; mail to Office of Admissions, 1 Harpst Street, Arcata, CA 95521.

Complete the California State University Graduate Application online at Cal State Apply. A $55.00 application fee is required at time of application. The CSU Application Fee Waiver is No longer available for Master's Applications.  If you are unable to pay with a credit card, a check can be mailed to the address indicated below.
Letters of Recommendations
Three letters of recommendations are required. At least one of these letters should be from a former university instructor who may judge your promise as a graduate student. Letters of Recommendation are now submitted online through CSU Mentor, Page 11.  If you have questions, please contact the Graduate Admissions Office, 707-826-6250. Your letter of recommendation authors can also send a hard copy of your letter to the Office of Admissions, 1 Harpst Street, Arcata, CA 95521.
To re-send emails to referrers:  Log into Cal State Apply and follow these steps:
1.       Apply Online
2.       Graduate Admissions Applications
3.       Click on the application term (i.e.Fall 2013) box
4.       Scroll down to “Online applications already submitted”
5.       Click on “View letters of recommendation”
6.       Click “Resend email” for those referrers
Remind your references to check their spam folders.

GRE Scores
Arrange to have an official report of your GRE (general writing and math) scores sent to: Office of Admissions The Institution Code for Humboldt State University is 4345


Mailing Address

Office of Admissions
Humboldt State University
1 Harpst Street
Arcata, CA 95521-8299

College Natural Resources & Sciences
Humboldt State University
1 Harpst Street
Arcata, CA 95521-8299

One official transcript is required from any college or university you have ever attended. Official transcripts must be in their original sealed envelope.  Official transcripts should be submitted to the Office of Admissions. Transcript exception:  You do not need to request transcripts for any work completed at Humboldt State University.

Supplemental Materials
Supplemental material should be submitted to the Environmental Systems Graduate Office - Geology Option , College of Natural Resources and Sciences (see mailing address to the right) or submit it electronically to the graduate program administrative coordinator via email.
  1. Send a detailed Statement of Purpose (SOP). Your statement should be a concise statement of your research interest including potential thesis topics if your interests are specifically focused.  If you intend to work with a specific mentor and have already made contact, please indicate. If your SOP is longer than permitted through CSU Mentor, submit it to the College of Natural Resources and Sciences graduate coordinator.

  2. Send a resume of your work experience.

You can follow your application status by:
  • Reviewing your HSU status by looking at your Student Services Center. Approximately two weeks after application submission, you will receive a Posted letter with your HSU Student ID and Log-In Information.
  • Contacting the College of Natural Resources and Sciences to ensure all required materials have been received before the deadline.