Master of Science in Applied Geosciences

Master of Science in Applied Geosciences students in the field

Take the lead in applied geosciences with an online graduate degree

An advanced degree in applied geosciences prepares you to manage a range of pressing environmental or engineering geology problems. The online Master of Science in Applied Geosciences (MSAG) is a highly practical program that helps you build your skillset and prepare for your next professional move. You’ll master approaches to mitigating soil and water contamination, addressing environmental remediation challenges, developing infrastructure resilience, reducing impacts due to climate change, and responding to human-induced natural disasters such as landslides and floods. As you deepen your theoretical and technical expertise in geochemistry, geophysics, hydrogeology, and engineering geology, you also hone essential skills necessary for leadership and advancement in environmental remediation, pollution prevention, and geotechnical evaluation. While you’re completing your studies, our program facilitates your preparation for licensure as a professional geologist. 

With a faculty of leading academic researchers and experienced government and industry experts, the online MSAG provides all the world-class resources, connections, and professional insights of a traditional on-campus degree—with the accessibility and flexibility of an online education. Our dedicated team knows what you need to move forward in your career, and we’ve designed this program for your success.

Online courses

The online Master of Science in Applied Geosciences core courses provide you with foundational knowledge of geochemistry, engineering geology, ground-water hydrology, computational geoscience, and geomechanics—so you are equipped with an array of scientific tools to address complex environmental challenges. Students choose three electives from a selection of online courses in areas such as engineering geology, groundwater modeling, and environmental geology.

All MSAG program courses are offered online and asynchronously, so you can pursue your graduate education without interrupting your career.

MSAG curriculum

The MSAG degree is structured to deepen your mastery in applied scientific knowledge as well as enhance the project management and leadership skills necessary to effectively put that knowledge into action in the field. The curriculum is structured with a combination of required courses and electives, which allow you to focus on topics best suited to your interests and goals.

The online MSAG requires the completion of 12 course units (c.u.)* as follows:

  • 9 required courses
  • 3 electives
  • 1 Project Design thesis

Required courses help deepen your knowledge in core, applied geoscience topics. Every project in the geosciences—whether choosing the best site for a new bridge, developing stormwater solutions for a city, or helping to restore damaged wetlands—requires mastery in the areas covered by the required courses. In order to become a leading problem-solver in the geosciences, you need to be able to draw on scientific knowledge from many aspects of the geosciences and be equipped with a wide variety of tools that help you apply this knowledge effectively.

The following are the nine required courses for the online MSAG program:

  • EESC 5200 Aqueous Geochemistry
  • EESC 6810 Applied and Environmental Geophysics
  • EESC 6770 Geocomputations
  • EESC 5630 Hydrology
  • EESC 6820 Geomechanics: Solids
  • EESC 6620 Environmental Groundwater Hydrology
  • EESC 6840 Engineering Geology: Rock Mechanics
  • EESC 6850 Engineering Geology: Surficial Materials and Processes
  • EESC 6998 Project Design

While the required courses provide the structure you need to be successful in any geoscience field, the elective courses allow you to choose areas to develop specific expertise and also signify your mastery of an applied geosciences subdiscipline to current or potential employers. The elective courses also help prepare you to pursue the final Project Design exercise (below). The selection of elective courses is made in consultation with an academic advisor assigned to you when you enter the program.

The Project Design exercise is a distinguishing feature of the online MSAG, blending academic and professional experiences and serving as the culmination of your work in the program. You develop a project drawing from your learning inside and outside of the classroom to demonstrate mastery of an area in the geosciences.

The subject of this project is related to your professional focus and may be selected to complement or further develop a work-related interest. It’s an opportunity to showcase your specialization, your expertise, and your unique perspective within the field. 

The year-long Project Design exercise demonstrates your proficiency in critical professional practice which includes the ability to:

  • Identify a geotechnical, hydrologic, or environmental problem or issue that would be encountered in professional practice
  • Design a protocol
  • Acquire the data necessary to clarify, if not resolve, the question
  • Critically assess the quality of the data acquired
  • Draw defensible conclusions from the data
  • Communicate this process and conclusions to professional colleagues with clarity and precision

You work with two project advisors who act as supervisors for the Project Design. One advisor is drawn from the faculty in the Department of Earth & Environmental Science, and the other may be from the University or be an industry expert. Advisors are identified in the second semester of the program in the Project Design Seminar class.

Our rigorous coursework also provides the academic depth needed for licensure as a Professional Geologist (PG) in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. When you complete the degree, your professional geological work requirement is shortened from five years to four in most states. See your state’s specific requirements.

In addition, we offer a one-week Philadelphia-based immersion course in geologic field methods every other summer as an elective. Through a series of daily intensive field trips, this course trains you in the field techniques needed to satisfy state licensure requirements in states like Pennsylvania.

Online MSAG students may enroll on either a part-time or full-time basis. Your time to graduation varies depending on how many classes you take each semester and whether you take summer classes. Full-time students can complete the program in two years, taking three or four classes per semester. Part-time students typically complete their work in three years, taking one or two classes per semester. Individuals working full time are advised to take no more than two courses per term.

Incoming students may petition to transfer up to two graduate-level credits from classes completed prior to their admission at Penn if those credits were not used to complete another degree. Students seeking transfer credit should fill out a form after they matriculate into the program and submit it to the Program Director before the end of their first semester at Penn. Transfer credit is evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the Faculty Advisory Committee.

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*Academic credit is defined by the University of Pennsylvania as a course unit (c.u.). A course unit (c.u.) is a general measure of academic work over a period of time, typically a term (semester or summer). A c.u. (or a fraction of a c.u.) represents different types of academic work across different types of academic programs and is the basic unit of progress toward a degree. One c.u. is usually converted to a four-semester-hour course.