Masters Program

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.


Students who enter the program without an academic adviser are assigned a graduate adviser in the Fall quarter and should consult with this adviser when planning their graduate study. Before the first year of graduate study is completed, students choose their principal academic adviser(s). The adviser(s) also serves as the chair for the student’s faculty advising committee, members of which are selected by the student in consultation with the principal adviser(s) before the end of the first year. This committee assists the student in creating a program of study that satisfies departmental and university requirements.

If the student chooses the thesis plan, the guidance their faculty advising committee serves as the master’s thesis committee and evaluates the thesis. If the student chooses the comprehensive examination plan, this committee administers the examination.

Evaluations of the academic progress of each student are made each Fall quarter when the graduate advisers, sitting as a committee, review student records, formally apprise students of their progress, and assist them in making future plans. The graduate advisers are also available throughout the year to meet with students as required.

Course Requirements

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 and published on the website by the department and chosen to ensure proper breadth and preparation. The minimum of 12 additional units of coursework is chosen from the 200-series to prepare for their specific research area. 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 the Spring quarter of their first year. Subject to the approval of the student’s faculty advising committee, the program of study may be amended 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.

Core Courses

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

  • Scientific communication course (course number TBD)
    And 5 of 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

*By petition to the Graduate Advising and Curriculum (GAC) committee, one if the five courses can be replaced by another advanced course.

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. Capstone Plan The master’s capstone is a written examination that is administered by the student’s faculty advising committee after the successful completion of their program of study. The examination is graded pass or fail and it is designed based on criteria that demonstrate mastery in an area of atmospheric and oceanic sciences through a project in the student’s area of interest,, Students are permitted two attempts to obtain a grade of passto satisfy the master’s written examination requirement. The Ph.D. written exam is acceptable as a written M.S. capstone examination. M.S. students who wish to continue towards a Ph.D. have to fulfill the Ph.D. examination requirements.
  2. Thesis Plan Students may receive the master’s degree by writing an original thesis as an alternative to the comprehensive examination. The thesis is assessed by the student’s faculty advising committee and it is graded on the basis of critical, creative, and independent thought. M.S. students choosing the Thesis Plan who wish to continue towards a Ph.D. have to fulfill the Ph.D. examination requirements

    If a thesis is chosen as an alternative to the written 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 academic quarters (and two summer terms). The maximum allowable time limit for the degree is nine academic quarters (and three summer terms).

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 written examination after two attempts. Appeals may be made to the Department Chair, but you will be allowed to continue only due to special circumstances.

Requirements for students that joined before Fall 2021