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Graduate Program

M.S. in Earth Science

The Master of Science in Earth Science program is designed to develop master's level competence in applied earth sciences, with an emphasis on Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing of the physical environment, or general earth science, which is designed to enhance the knowledge of earth science teachers and other professionals who wish to pursue additional graduate work. The Master of Science in Earth Sciences curriculum requires satisfactory completion of a minimum of 36 semester-hours of approved graduate credit. All students are required to take a core curriculum of 12 semester hours, with the rest being taken in a student’s concentration of Applied Earth Science or General Earth Science. The core courses are designed to provide students with the analytical and methodological skills necessary to understand or derive explanations for individual occurrences, for recurring processes, and for invariable as well as statistical regularities in the earth’s lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere.

The program consists of a 36 semester-credit hour curriculum (33 credit hours of course work plus three [3] credit hours of thesis or internship credit) designed to develop master's level competence in (1) applied earth sciences (with an emphasis on remote sensing and computer mapping of the physical environment), or (2) general earth sciences (designed to enhance the knowledge of earth science teachers, those who wish to pursue additional graduate work, and other relevant professionals). These tracks will enable students to match their degree program with their educational and occupational needs and interests. All students will be required to complete a common twelve (12) hour sequence of core courses.

The graduate program in Earth Sciences has four primary objectives:

  1. To provide students with the analytical and methodological skills necessary to understand or derive explanations for individual occurrences, for recurring processes, and for invariable as well as statistical regularities in the earth's lithosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere.
  2. To support the educational needs of students seeking to develop master's level skills in applied earth sciences that are useful in achieving entry or mid-career advancement in occupations requiring these skills.
  3. To meet the educational needs of students seeking a master's level education in general earth sciences in preparation for pre-college or community college teaching, further graduate work, or as a general background for current or planned occupations.
  4. To offer a graduate program that will clearly communicate to students its learning objectives, provide for student involvement in the learning process, and regularly assess the degree to which expectations and standards are being met.

The four objectives will be met through the following components:

  1. a core curriculum consisting of 12 credit hours,
  2. a concentration of 9 credit hours in applied earth sciences or a concentration of 9 credit hours in general earth sciences,
  3. 12 credit hours of electives with or without teacher certification (note: graduate teacher certification in earth sciences is pending, subject to approval according to the North Carolina Certification Standards), and
  4. a thesis or internship project (3 credit hours) coupled with a systematic program of guidance, advisement, and evaluation that involve students from entry through graduation.

Educational Objectives of the Core Curriculum

The core curriculum is designed to provide students with the analytical and methodological skills necessary to understand or derive explanations for individual occurrences, for recurring processes, and for invariable as well as statistical regularities in the earth's lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere. Within this broad goal are several specific objectives.

The first specific objective of the core curriculum is to develop an understanding that the major parts of the earth -- core, mantle, crust, oceans, atmosphere -- can be profitably studied as a dynamic, interactive system in which there is a cyclic flow of material from one reservoir to another. It emphasizes that in spite of all changes that are observed at many different scales of space and time, the earth as a whole stays remarkably constant. Another important part of this objective is the development of conceptual skills to evaluate the universe, the natural environment on earth, and the various effects of human activity that interact with this environment. Students will attain an in-depth understanding of the universe as well as the composition and behavior of the earth, characteristics and formation of minerals, tectonics, geophysical processes, historical geology, meteorology and climatology, characteristics of the world's oceans, and natural resources as they relate to the environment. EASC 5000, GEOMORPHIC PROCESSES, EASC 5010, CLIMATOLOGY AND METEOROLOGY, EASC 5020, WATER AND MINERAL RESOURCES, and EASC 5031, ASTRONOMY, will provide for students the opportunity to pursue graduate level study of these areas.

The second objective of the core curriculum is to enhance one's ability to frame questions concerning the earth's natural environment. Specifically, the objective is to formulate questions which: (1) reflect an understanding of the chemical and physical relationships that produce landforms, mineral resources, and environmental changes that affect human survival on the planet earth, (2) are answerable through available research techniques, and (3) reflect a basic understanding of both the possibilities and limitations of various methodological strategies for seeking answers to these questions. EASC 5030, METHODS AND TECHNIQUES OF EARTH SCIENCE and EASC 5031, ASTRONOMY, are designed to meet this objective.

The third objective of the core curriculum is to provide an understanding of the methodological and statistical tools to answer questions concerning the earth's environment. The specific aim is to introduce research methods and techniques utilized by contemporary earth scientists; specifically those related to computer mapping, geographic information systems, and remote sensing. The EASC 5030, METHODS AND TECHNIQUES OF EARTH SCIENCE, is also designed to meet this objective.

Objectives of the courses (EASC 5000, EASC 5010, EASC 5020, EASC 5030, EASC 5031) are basic to the graduate program overall. Four of the five courses will be required of all students regardless of whether they opt for applied earth sciences or general earth sciences track.

Educational Objectives of the Applied Earth Sciences Track

In addition to completing the core curriculum outlined above, students must elect to complete a track option in either applied or general earth sciences. The overall objective of the applied earth sciences track is to support the educational needs of students seeking to develop skills in applied earth science areas such as remote sensing of natural resources, computer-assisted cartography, digital geographic information systems, and research and data analyses related to mineral resources, waste disposal, siting of critical facilities, geophysical hazards, water resource management, agriculture, urban and regional planning, and coastal zones. It is anticipated that many students enrolled in the program will be individuals seeking mid-career development of research and data analysis skills relevant to their areas of employment or persons seeking entry into positions requiring applied earth science skills.

The applied earth sciences track is specifically designed to provide students with the skills to:

  1. determine the data requirements needed to answer such questions as those related to the location of mineral and energy resources, the selection of waste disposal sites, the location of critical facilities such as dams or nuclear reactors, environmental processes responsible for geophysical hazards, the long-term effects of climatic change on water supply, and land use planning in coastal zones;
  2. conduct computer-based regional geographic studies, digitize and reformat data for spatial analyses, provide programming services for statistical, analytical and high resolution computer (geo) graphic applications, perform tests and development on spatial data models, and evaluate USGS (United States Geological Survey) and other digital geodata products for end-user applications;
  3. evaluate and make policy recommendations on land use/land cover data, carry out spatial analyses related to natural resources management; and
  4. provide expert advice on state-of-the-art developments in image processing, digital cartography, spatial data base management, and modernization of mapping technology.

The track in applied earth sciences encompasses a minimum of 36 credit hours divided between regular course work and internship. Students electing the applied earth sciences track will be required to complete three specific courses:

  • EASC 5100, EARTH SCIENCE FIELD METHODS AND TECHNIQUES;
  • EASC 5110, REMOTE SENSING OF NATURAL RESOURCES;
  • EASC 5120, DIGITAL GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS

These courses are specifically designed to prepare students to conduct applied research in organizational settings.

Graduate Program (PDF)

Contact

Gordana Vlahovic

Graduate Director

Telephone icon (919) 530-5172