Masters Program before 2021

Masters Degree: Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences M.S.

For official university admissions information and program degree requirements, please visit the Graduate Division website.

Program Requirements


For the Master of Science degree in Atmospheric Sciences there are no admission requirements in addition to University minimum requirements and no application form in addition to the one used by Graduate Admissions/Student and Academic Affairs. Three letters of recommendation are required. In addition to students holding bachelors’ degrees in meteorology or atmospheric sciences, graduates with degrees in related disciplines — astronomy, chemistry, engineering, geophysics, oceanography, mathematics, and physics — are encouraged to apply for graduate status in the department. Programs are arranged by consultation between the student and the department’s graduate advisers, and considerable flexibility is maintained so that maximum advantage may be taken of previous education. Please go to our “Application – How to Apply” for step by step instructions to guide you through the application process.


Evaluation of academic progress is made at the beginning of each academic year by the graduate advisers. Progress is reviewed, and future plans are formulated. Records are kept of these meetings. Additional meetings are held if you are not advancing as expected.

Course Requirements (effective Fall 2011)

Course requirements for the master’s degree are satisfied by completion of a departmentally approved program of study. Each program of study must consist of at least nine courses (36 units), six (24 units) of which must be entry level graduate courses drawn from a list maintained by the department and chosen to ensure proper breadth and preparation. The minimum of 12 additional units of coursework are chosen, from the 200-series, to develop a specialization. The advanced course requirements also may be partially satisfied by: (1) 200-series courses taken for a grade outside of the department; (2) directed studies courses (596) within the department; and, in case of thesis plan students, (3) research courses (598) within the department. Only one 500-series course (four units) may be applied toward the minimum graduate course requirement for the master’s degree. Each student submits their program of study to the department prior to the beginning of their second year. Subject to the approval of the student’s guidance committee, the program of study may be amended, repeatedly and at any time, based on course offerings and evolving interests. The final program of study will be the basis for the departmental oral comprehensive examination. Satisfactory completion of the program of study requires an S grade for all S/U grades courses and a B average in all letters-graded courses that are part of the program of study, and a grade-point average of 3.5 or great in both the sequence of five preliminary courses that form the core of the program of study, and the overall program of study.

In addition to the program of study, all students in the master’s program are required to enroll in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences 270 for S/U grading every quarter in which they are registered.

Core Courses

All graduate students are required to take the following 6 courses:

  • 200A Introduction to Atmospheric and Ocean Fluid
  • 200B Introduction to Dynamics of Earth Systems
  • 202 Introduction to Ocean Science
  • M203A Introduction to Atmospheric Chemistry
  • 203B Introduction to Atmospheric Physics
  • C205A Introduction to Solar System Plasmas

Students with a background in AOS may petition out of one or more of the required core courses.

Advanced Courses

12 units of AOS electives courses from the 200-level course and directed studies, or AOS department approved advanced courses taken outside of the department. These should be chosen with the students’ advisor or the graduate advisors so as to develop a specialization. Prior to advancement to candidacy students are required to enroll in at least one 200-level course per year.

Typical Program: Sequence of Classes

Degree Options

  1. Comprehensive Examination PlanThe master’s comprehensive examination is an oral examination that is administered by the student’s departmental guidance committee after the successful completion of their program of study. The examination is graded fail, master’s level pass, or Ph.D. level pass. The material within the student’s program of study, especially within the chosen specialization, serves as the basis for this examination. Students are permitted two attempts to obtain a grade of pass, either for termination with award of the M.S. degree or for award of the M.S. degree and continuation for the Ph.D. degree. Students must receive a grade of pass (master’s or Ph.D. level) to satisfy the master’s comprehensive examination requirement. Students must receive a grade of Ph.D. level pass on this examination and have their entire record deemed acceptable for doctoral study by the guidance committee in order to be eligible to continue for the Ph.D. degree.
  2. Thesis PlanStudents may receive the master’s degree by writing an original thesis as an alternative to the comprehensive examination. The thesis is graded in the same manner as is the comprehensive examination: fail, master’s level pass, or Ph.D. level pass. A Ph.D. level pass is considered to be sufficient to satisfy the written qualifying examination requirement for the Ph.D. degree (see below). The thesis is graded on the basis of critical, creative and independent thought. 

    If a thesis is chosen as an alternative to the comprehensive exam, it is the student’s responsibility to find a thesis advisor from the AOS faculties.

Teaching Experience

There is no formal requirement for teaching experience at the M.S. level, but it is strongly recommended.


From graduate admission to conferral of degree, normal progress is six quarters. The maximum allowable time limit for the degree is twelve quarters.

Disqualification and Appeal of Disqualification

Students are normally dismissed if they fail to maintain a 3.0 GPA for two consecutive quarters or if they fail to pass the comprehensive examination after two attempts. Appeals may be made to the Department Chair, but you will be allowed to continue only due to special circumstances.