Earth Sciences: Geochemical Systems (M.S.)

Earth Sciences: Geochemical Systems (M.S.)

mountains with ice and water

The demand for skilled geoscientists is expected to grow rapidly in coming years. This degree prepares you to meet the public and private sector demand for knowledgeable and analytical earth science professionals with strong scientific communication skills.

Credit Hours: 30-34   |    Courses: 9-10   |    Program Length: 2 years



Earth scientists enable society to engage in the responsible and prudent use of Earth’s resources and to understand and facilitate the mitigation of natural disasters and climate change. The demand for skilled geoscientists in the United States and worldwide is expected to grow rapidly in coming years. This M.S. degree, allowing you to specialize in geochemical systems, will prepare you for jobs in either the public or private sector that require knowledge of the geochemistry of bedrock, sediment, water, ice and air; laboratory analytical techniques; quantitative and geospatial data analysis; and scientific communication. 


Earth sciences students at UNH gain experimental, numerical, and analytical skills in rigorous classes and research projects focused on sites in New England and around the world. Cutting-edge research experiences involve instrumentation such as scanning and transmission electronic microscopes, inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometers, and ion chromatography. The Department of Earth Sciences is one of the key academic centers of UNH’s renowned programs in Earth and environmental sciences, with many students working with faculty in the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS), the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping (CCOM), and the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering (SMSOE).


  • Academia 
  • Computer modeling 
  • Consulting firms 
  • Data analysis 
  • Environmental hazard assessment 
  • Government agencies (e.g., EPA, USGS, NOAA) 
  • Natural resources 
  • Science journalism  
  • Surveying and cartography 
  • Water resource management 
  • Wetland delineation


Rosemarie Came

Earth Sciences Graduate Coordinator
Phone: (603) 862-1720
Office: Earth Sciences, James Hall Rm 214, Durham, NH 03824
Department of Earth Sciences
56 College Road
214 James Hall
Durham, NH 03824

P: (603) 862-1718

Request Information

We use text messages to communicate important event and application information (msg and data rates may apply).

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Admission decisions will be based on:
  • Alignment with and advocacy from a potential advisor. Prospective students should reach out directly to faculty with relevant research interests to ensure that the faculty member is actively recruiting students and that a relevant research project can be identified.
  • Academic preparation. An applicant to the M.S. program is expected to have demonstrated competency in the following college courses: one year each of calculus and chemistry and two semesters of physics and/or biology. In addition, the applicant is expected to have an undergraduate degree or equivalent in geology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science, engineering, or the biological sciences. Students lacking some background in a particular area may be admitted provided they are prepared to complete courses, without graduate credit, in which they may be deficient.
  • Scholarly potential (research, technical, oral communication, and written communication skills, acquired both from academic and non-academic settings).
  • Persistence, motivation, and realistic self-appraisal.
  • Potential to capitalize on their unique experiences, perspectives or talents to contribute to the scholarly community at UNH.

Many of our students receive funding from Teaching Assistantship (TA) or Research Assistantship (RA) positions. Contact potential advisors to discuss sponsorship.

For fall admission, apply by January 15 if seeking funding, and by April 1 for regular admission. For spring admission, apply by December 1. Admission decisions will be made a few weeks after those dates. Admission decisions do not guarantee funding; if funding is offered, a separate offer letter will be sent.

In person program. Most students are full-time students, although different arrangements may be possible depending on the selected research project. Contact potential advisors to discuss alternative arrangements.

Applicants are highly encouraged to reach out directly to faculty with relevant research interests to identify a relevant research project.

Curriculum & Requirements

The option in Geochemical Systems is intended for students with interests in all aspects of geochemistry: bedrock, sediment, water, ice, and air with particular emphasis on interpreting and modeling the interaction of these media (e.g., biogeochemistry, air quality, and climate change).

Admission Requirements

An applicant to the M.S. program is expected to have demonstrated competency in the following college courses: one year each of calculus and chemistry and two semesters of physics and/or biology. In addition, the applicant is expected to have an undergraduate degree or equivalent in geology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, engineering, or the biological sciences. Students lacking some background in a particular area may be admitted provided they are prepared to complete courses, without graduate credit, in which they may be deficient. The program of study a student wishes to follow and the student's undergraduate major determine the level of preparation necessary. The preparation of each student is determined before the beginning of the first semester in residence in order to plan the course of study. Each entering student is assigned an academic adviser to assist in planning a program of study.

Plan of Study Grid
First Year
Core Curriculum 1 Course 4
Elective I Course 3-4
ESCI 997 Seminar in Earth Sciences 1
Core Curriculum 2 Course 4
Elective 2 Course 3-4
ESCI 998 Proposal Development 1
Second Year
Core Curriculum 3 Course 3-4
ESCI 899 Master's Thesis ( or Elective for Directed Research Option) 3-4
Elective 3 Course 3-4
ESCI 899
or ESCI 898
Master's Thesis
or Directed Research
2 or3
 Total Credits27-33

Degree Requirements

Students in the thesis option must satisfactorily complete at least 30 graduate credits, which include the credits accumulated in the core curriculum. Students in this option must complete a master's thesis (6 credits) and give an oral presentation of the results.

Students in the non-­thesis option must satisfactorily complete at least 34 graduate credits, which includes the core curriculum, a 2­-credit directed research project (ESCI 898 Directed Research), and a written and oral presentation of that research.

Geochemical Systems

Required Courses:
ESCI 997Seminar in Earth Sciences (first year)1
ESCI 998Proposal Development (first year)1
Select two of the following courses:6-8
ESCI 841
ESCI 845
Isotope Geochemistry
ESCI 847
Aqueous Geochemistry
ESCI 852
Chemical Oceanography
ESCI 860
ESCI 865
NR 844
Plus one of the following4
ESCI 801
Quantitative Methods in Earth Sciences
ESCI 820
Ocean Measurements Lab
ESCI 864
Spectral Analysis of Geophysical Time Series Data
ESCI 877
GIS for Earth & Environmental Sciences
ESCI 878
Remote Sensing Earth & Environmental Sciences
Select Master's Thesis or Directed Research:
ESCI 899
Master's Thesis ( 6 credits)
ESCI 898
Directed Research (2 credits)
Elective Courses

Additional electives are to be selected from graduate level courses in the department and/or from graduate level courses  in related disciplines outside of the department (e.g., civil and environmental engineering, natural resources, chemistry, mathematics and statistics, and computer science). More detailed information is available from the department. 

Students graduating with a MS in Earth Sciences: Geochemical Systems should achieve the following learning outcomes:

Core Knowledge

  • Demonstrate a foundation of knowledge in Geochemical Systems that results in expertise and an understanding of the chemistry and chemical interactions of the Earth’s mantle, crust, or on the surface of the Earth in terrestrial, aquatic, or atmospheric environments at a range of timescales focused on, for example, biogeochemical processes that govern the distribution and cycling of elements and nutrients, processes that add and remove elements in various environments, or the chemical transformations and exchanges between the atmosphere, oceans, and solid Earth.
  • Demonstrate basic knowledge of how the processes within this field interact with other related disciplines.
  • Demonstrate specialized knowledge of a field within geochemical processes and elemental cycles on Earth sufficient to conduct substantive supervised research.

Research Methods and Analysis

  • Identify and demonstrate knowledge of a range of qualitative and quantitative methodologies typically used in geochemistry research.
  • Discover and critically read published research in the Earth sciences and related fields of mathematics, statistics, physics, chemistry, and biology.
  • Frame empirical research and/or theory guided by prior knowledge.
  • Implement a rigorous study using appropriate methods, measures and techniques.
  • Critically evaluate and systematically analyze data to reach appropriate findings and interpretations

Scholarly Communication

  • Structure a coherent argument that rigorously presents and evaluates evidence to support claims.
  • Review and cogently synthesize relevant literature.
  • Write at a level and in a style of English consistent with that found in leading academic journals.
  • Understand and properly use styles of citing, referencing, and formatting found in leading academic journals.
  • Clearly convey research findings through oral presentation supported by appropriate digital media.
  • Cogently summarize research and its significance to non-specialist audiences.

Professionalism and Pedagogy

  • Prepare manuscripts that meet the standards of academic and research journals and respond appropriately to recommendations for revision.
  • Demonstrate collaboration, leadership and teamwork.
  • Create a welcoming environment that is supportive, inclusive and equitable.
  • Make effective contributions to university, community and professional service.
  • Communicate effectively to groups in a lecture format.


Applications must be completed by the following deadlines in order to be reviewed for admission:

  • Fall: Jan. 15 (for funding); April 1 (final)
  • Spring: Dec. 1
  • Summer: N/A
  • Special: N/A

Application fee: $65

Campus: Durham

New England Regional: No

Accelerated Masters Eligible: No

New Hampshire Residents

Students claiming in-state residency must also submit a Proof of Residence Form. This form is not required to complete your application, but you will need to submit it after you are offered admission or you will not be able to register for classes.


If you attended UNH or Granite State College (GSC) after September 1, 1991, and have indicated so on your online application, we will retrieve your transcript internally; this includes UNH-Durham, UNH-Manchester, UNH Non-Degree work and GSC. 

If you did not attend UNH, or attended prior to September 1, 1991, then you must upload a copy (PDF) of your transcript in the application form. International transcripts must be translated into English.

If admitted, you must then request an official transcript be sent directly to our office from the Registrar's Office of each college/university attended. We accept transcripts both electronically and in hard copy:

  • Electronic Transcripts: Please have your institution send the transcript directly to Please note that we can only accept copies sent directly from the institution.
  • Paper Transcripts: Please send hard copies of transcripts to: UNH Graduate School, Thompson Hall- 105 Main Street, Durham, NH 03824. You may request transcripts be sent to us directly from the institution or you may send them yourself as long as they remain sealed in the original university envelope.

Transcripts from all previous post-secondary institutions must be submitted and applicants must disclose any previous academic or disciplinary sanctions that resulted in their temporary or permanent separation from a previous post-secondary institution. If it is found that previous academic or disciplinary separations were not disclosed, applicants may face denial and admitted students may face dismissal from their academic program.

Letters of recommendation: 3 required

Recommendation letters submitted by relatives or friends, as well as letters older than one year, will not be accepted.

Personal Statement/Essay Questions

Prepare a brief but careful statement regarding:

  1. Reasons you wish to do graduate work in this field, including your immediate and long-range objectives.
  2. Your specific research or professional interest and experiences in this field.

Important Notes

All applicants are encouraged to contact programs directly to discuss program-specific application questions.

International Applicants

Prospective international students are required to submit TOEFL, IELTS, or equivalent examination scores. English Language Exams may be waived if English is your first language. If you wish to request a waiver, then please visit our Test Scores webpage for more information.

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