Successful completion of the PhD requires a minimum of 24 hours of approved graduate coursework beyond that required for the master's degree (i.e., a student entering the PhD program with a bachelor's degree must complete 48 hours of approved graduate coursework), an additional 24 hours of dissertation credit, approval of a written dissertation proposal, completion of a comprehensive examination, and successful oral defense of a written dissertation.
Students are required to pass a comprehensive examination. The examination includes both written and oral components in which individuals are tested on their knowledge of their intended research area and related fields. The candidate is expected to be conversant across a wide range of the geological sciences. Students entering the PhD program with a Master's degree must complete the comprehensive examination by no later than the end of the student's third semester. Students entering the PhD program with a Bachelor's degree (but without a Master's degree) must complete the comprehensive examination by no later than the end of the student's fourth semester.
The written dissertation will demonstrate high-quality, original research by the student. Research results will be presented orally in a departmental seminar open to the public, and will be defended in a private defense restricted to the Dissertation Committee and interested departmental faculty.
In addition to University requirements, the Department has several compulsory additional course work requirements for the PhD. All students pursuing a PhD degree must enroll in course number GEOL 595 every semester they are in residence unless course or teaching conflicts preclude a student from being present. Each student must also enroll in course GEOL 596 one time during their residency. A student may apply a maximum of 4 hours of GEOL 595/596 toward graduation. All PhD students are required to complete a minimum of 9 hours of graded approved coursework at the 600-level (this requirement supersedes the University requirement). Before receiving a PhD degree, students must demonstrate committee-approved proficiency in field-based Earth Sciences. A minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA is required in all graded graduate course work, and taking courses from outside the department is encouraged.
Interdisciplinary Graduate Minor in Computational Science (IGMCS)
The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences participates in the interdisciplinary graduate minor in computational science (IGMCS) program. Any student pursuing a master's or PhD with a major in geology can receive a minor in computational science by completing the appropriate IGMCS requirements. For additional information, see the description of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Minor in Computational Science listed under the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science or visit the IGMCS website at http://igmcs.utk.edu/. The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences also contributes courses to the IGMCS program curriculum.
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.