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Important Information Regarding COVID-19

In light of the University’s newly released policy regarding COVID-19 -- recommending the community minimize social contact -- we encourage students to utilize virtual options when seeking support or information from the Earth Systems Program. Please contact staff via email or phone and we will be happy to assist! Latest information about the University's response to COVID-19 can be found here:

Coterminal Master of Science Program

The Earth Systems Program offers current Stanford University undergraduates the opportunity to apply for a one-year coterminal master's program. Earth Systems offers a coterminal Master of Science (M.S.) degree in Earth Systems and a coterminal Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in Earth Systems, Environmental Communication.


The application process is the same for both the Master of Arts and the Master of Science in Earth Systems. Applications in 2019-20 are due: November 5, 2019 (to apply for Winter matriculation); February 18, 2020 (to apply for Spring matriculation); and May 12, 2020 (to apply for Autumn matriculation). A $125 application fee will be assessed by the Registrar’s office for those accepted and matriculated into the program. To apply, students should submit an online application. The application includes the following:

  • Coterminal Application
  • A statement of purpose
  • A resume
  • A current Stanford unofficial transcript
  • Two letters of recommendation, one of which must be from the master's adviser (who must be an Academic Council member)
  • Master's Program Proposal (M.S.): A list of courses that fulfill degree requirements signed by the master's adviser 
  • Applications must be submitted no later than the quarter prior to the expected completion of the B.S. degree (check with program office for specific application deadline). An application fee is assessed by the Registrar's Office for coterminal applications, once students are matriculated into the program.
  • Students applying to the coterminal master's program must have completed a minimum of 120 units toward graduation with a minimum overall Stanford GPA of 3.4.
  • All applicants must devise a program of study that shows a level of specialization appropriate to the master's level, as determined in consultation with the master's adviser and the Director of Earth Systems.
  • Students applying from an undergraduate major other than Earth Systems should review their undergraduate course list with Deana Fabbro-Johnston, Richard Nevle, or Tom Hayden (for the M.A.).  
  • The student has the option of receiving the B.S. degree after completing that degree's requirements or receiving the B.S. and M.A./M.S. degrees concurrently at the completion of the master's program.
  • Students must submit a new application to change from the M.S. to the M.A. in Earth Systems, or from the M.A. to the M.S. in Earth Systems. If accepted, the student must submit a Graduate Authorization Petition through Axess; a $125 fee applies to a successful Graduate Authorization Petition.
  • Application decisions: Applicants will be notified of the admission decision in writing, typically 3-4 weeks after the application deadline.

University Coterminal Requirements

Coterminal master’s degree candidates are expected to complete all master’s degree requirements as described in the bulletin. University requirements for the coterminal master’s degree are described in the “Coterminal Master’s Program” section. University requirements for the master’s degree are described in the "Graduate Degrees" section of the bulletin. Additonal information can be found at the Registrar's Coterm web page.   

After accepting admission to this coterminal master’s degree program, students may request transfer of courses from the undergraduate to the graduate career to satisfy requirements for the master’s degree. Transfer of courses to the graduate career requires review and approval of both the undergraduate and graduate programs on a case by case basis.

In this master’s program, courses taken during or after the first quarter of the sophomore year are eligible for consideration for transfer to the graduate career; the timing of the first graduate quarter is not a factor. No courses taken prior to the first quarter of the sophomore year may be used to meet master’s degree requirements. Course transfers are not possible after the bachelor’s degree has been conferred. All course transfer requests must be submitted to the Student Services Center no later than the Late Application to Graduate Deadline of the intended bachelor’s degree conferral quarter.

The University requires that the graduate adviser be assigned in the student’s first graduate quarter even though the undergraduate career may still be open. The University also requires that the Master’s Degree Program Proposal be completed by the student and approved by the department by the end of the student’s first graduate quarter.

Degree Requirements

The coterminal master's program in Earth Systems provides specialization in the field through either a Master of Science or Master of Arts, Environmental Communication.

The Master of Science degree in Earth Systems allows specialization through graduate-level course work that may include up to nine units of research with the master’s adviser. This may culminate in the preparation of a M.S. thesis; however, a thesis is not required for the degree. The process of building mastery in the field is enriched through steady communication with a faculty adviser.

These degree requirements are the same for both the Master of Arts degree and the Master of Science degree in Earth Systems, and must be fulfilled to receive an M.A. degree or M.S. degree in Earth Systems:

  • A minimum of 45 units of course work and/or research credit (upon approval).
  • At least 34 units of the student's course work for the M.A./M.S. must be at the 200-level or above.
  • All remaining course work must be at the 100-level or above.
  • All courses for the M.A. and M.S. degrees must be taken for a letter grade; courses not taken for a letter grade must be approved by the master's adviser and Director of Earth Systems.
  • Transfer courses are not permitted to count towards the coterm.
  • A minimum overall GPA of 3.4 must be maintained.
  • All coterminal master's students are required to take the capstone course, EARTHSYS 290 Master's Seminar.

For the Master of Science degree in Earth Systems, the following courses must be taken if not completed in the undergraduate degree program. These courses do not have to be completed before applying to the coterm program. These may not be counted as part of the 45-unit master's degree:       

  • EARTHSYS 111 Biology and Global Change
  • EARTHSYS 112  Human Society and Environmental Change

Biology (select one of the following):

  • BIO 81 Introduction to Ecology
  • BIO 82 Genetics
  • BIOHOPK 81 Introduction to Ecology 
  • HUMBIO 2A & HUMBIO 2B Genetics, Evolution, and Ecology and Culture, Evolution, and Society
  • EARTHSYS 116 Ecology of the Hawaiian Islands

Chemistry (select one of the following):

  • CHEM 31M Chemical Principles Accelerated
  • CHEM 31A & CHEM 31B Chemical Principles I and Chemical Principles II

Physics (select one of the following):

  • One physics class from the PHYSICS 20 or 40 series, or GEOPHYS 110

Mathematics (select one of the following):

  • MATH 51 Linear Algebra and Differential Calculus of Several Variables
  • CME 100 Vector Calculus for Engineers

Statistics (select one of the following):

  • BIOHOPK 174H Experimental Design and Probability
  • BIO 141 Biostatistics
  • ECON 102A Introduction to Statistical Methods (Postcalculus) for Social Scientists
  • STATS 110 Statistical Methods in Engineering and the Physical Sciences
  • STATS 116 Theory of Probability
  • CME 106 Introduction to Probability and Statistics for Engineers

Also found at Explore Degrees

Learning Outcomes (Graduate)

The coterminal master's degree in Earth Systems provides the student with enhanced analytical tools to evaluate the disciplines most closely associated with the student's focus area. Specialization is gained through course work and independent research work supervised by the master's faculty adviser.