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Departments & Programs


Coterminal Masters Program

Students visit a wind farm on a class field trip

The Stanford coterminal degree plan enables an undergraduate to embark on an integrated program of study leading to the master's degree before requirements for the bachelor's degree have been completed. Undergraduates majoring in Earth Systems, or a related field, may apply to work simultaneously toward their Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree and master’s degree in Earth Systems.

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 subplan. The M.S. degree in Earth Systems allows increased 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 M.A. degree in Earth Systems provides an overview of the theory, techniques, and challenges of communicating environmental concepts to non-specialist audiences and includes hands-on experience with different modalities of communication, principally writing, multimedia production, and education.

All coterminal master's students are required to take the capstone course, EARTHSYS 290 Master's Seminar. The process of building mastery in the field for both degrees is enriched through steady communication with a faculty adviser.

Application and Admission

 The application process is the same for both the Master of Arts and the Master of Science in Earth Systems. To apply, complete and return the following to the Earth Systems office (Y2E2, 131, Attn: Kristin Tewksbury):

  • The Stanford 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)
  • A list of courses that fulfill degree requirements signed by the master's adviser and the Director of Earth Systems
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. Students applying from an undergraduate major other than Earth
    Systems should review their undergraduate course list with Deana
    Fabbro-Johnston, Richard Nevle, or Katie Phillips.
  5. 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

University Coterminal Requirements

Coterminal master’s degree candidates are expected to complete all master’s degree requirements as described in this 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 this bulletin.

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.

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

These specific requirements must be fulfilled to receive a Master of Arts degree or a Master of Science 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.
  • A minimum overall GPA of 3.4 must be maintained.
  • For the Master of Arts degree in Earth Systems, prerequisites may vary based on the interests and academic background of each student, to be determined in consultation with the master's adviser and Director of Earth Systems. At a minimum, entering students will have completed EARTHSYS 10 (may be audited), EARTHSYS 111, and EARTHSYS 112. Additional coursework in the sciences, mathematics, or other fields may also be required on a case-by-case basis: such required foundational coursework may not count toward the 45 units of master’s-level requirements.
  • For the Master of Science degree in Earth Systems, please see the Stanford Bulletin for a list of courses that must be taken if not completed in the undergraduate degree program. These may not be counted as part of the 45-unit master's degree.