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, in addition to the University’s minimum requirements and those listed on UCLA’s Admission Requirements for AOS website, all applicants are expected to submit a statement of purpose. In addition to students holding bachelor’s degrees in meteorology or atmospheric sciences, those with a degree in related disciplines — astronomy, chemistry, engineering, geophysics, oceanography, mathematics, and physics — are encouraged to apply for graduate status in the department.

Please go to our “Application – How to Apply” for step-by-step instructions to guide you through the application process.

Students admitted to the M.S. program are not guaranteed admission to the Ph.D. program. M.S. students interested in transitioning to the Ph.D. program will need to complete the Major/Classification Change petition and have it approved by the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and the Division of Graduate Education (DGE). Approval is not guaranteed.

Faculty Advising Committee

Students should form their faculty advising committee by the start of the Spring quarter of their first year. The faculty advising committee consists of three AOS faculty members. The student can petition to the Graduate Advising & Curriculum Committee (GAC) to have one non-AOS faculty member serve on the FAC. The FAC assists the student in creating a program of study that satisfies departmental and university requirements. If the student chooses the thesis plan, the FAC serves as the master’s thesis committee and evaluates the thesis. If the student chooses the comprehensive examination plan, this committee administers the examination.

Course Requirements (effective Fall 2021)

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 the Spring quarter of their first year. Subject to the approval of the student’s FAC, 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 comprehensive examination. Satisfactory completion of the program of study requires an S grade for all S/U graded courses and a B average in all letter-graded courses that are part of the 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.

Common Core

All graduate students are required to take the following 4 common core courses (16 units):

  • 200A Introduction to Atmospheric and Ocean Fluid
  • 200B Introduction to Dynamics of Earth Systems
  • 200C Introduction to Atmospheric and Oceanic Radiation, Physics, and Chemistry
  • 200D Scientific Communication for Atmospheric and Oceanic Scientists

Specialized Core

All graduate students are required to complete 2 specialized core courses (8 units) selected from the following:

  • 201A Geophysical Fluid Dynamics I
  • 202 Introduction to Ocean Science
  • M203A Introduction to Atmospheric Chemistry
  • 203B Introduction to Atmospheric Physics
  • C205A Introduction to Solar Systems Plasmas
  • 205B Introduction to Solar-Terrestrial Physics
  • 209 Climate Change Assessment
  • M210 Dynamics of Planetary Circulations
  • 211 Planetary Wave Dynamics and Teleconnections in Atmosphere/Ocean
  • M235 Ocean Biogeochemical Dynamics and Climate

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 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. 1. Comprehensive Examination Plan: The master’s comprehensive examination 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 pass to satisfy the master’s comprehensive 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. must fulfill the Ph.D. examination requirements 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. 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.

    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 academic quarters + 2 summer terms. The maximum allowable time limit for the degree is 9 academic quarters + 3 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 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.