The doctorate is a research degree and is granted only to those who demonstrate proficiency in conducting independent research. Students must have a broad foundation and understanding of the discipline; these should have been achieved in a comprehensive master's program.
Course requirements for the degree shall be determined by the student's faculty committee in accordance with specific interests and needs. The program must include GEOG 415 , GEOG 504 , GEOG 515 , GEOG 599 , 9 hours of 600-level seminars, and (at each offering during residency) GEOG 501 . A minimum of 9 hours must be earned in collateral fields, with courses selected for their relevance to the special fields. PhD students whose master's-level work was in a field other than geography and for whom the master's area remains close to their PhD specialty areas may petition to substitute geography hours in courses outside of their specialty areas for up to 3 of the 9 required outside hours. Competency in quantitative/qualitative methods and basic human and physical geography is required. Additional tools, including languages, will be required as appropriate to the student's areas of research specialization.
Examinations required for admission to candidacy include a written comprehensive examination, consisting of two written examinations in which the student will be tested on his/her knowledge of two special fields and related areas of geography, and an oral examination on the student's program, the special fields and related areas, and the dissertation proposal. All parts of the written comprehensive examination should be taken within the same semester.
The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences participates in the interdisciplinary Watershed Minor for graduate students. Any student pursuing a master's or PhD with a major in geology, who completes the appropriate requirements, can receive a Watershed minor. For additional information, see the description of the Interdisciplinary Watershed Graduate Minor on the website at https://ag.tennessee.edu/watershedminor/Pages/default.aspx. The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences also contributes courses to the Watershed program curriculum.