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Getting a MS in Earth/Energy Science without a science background


MoltBé
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Hello, I am applying to several graduate programs this fall in the earth/energy/geology field; however, I do not have a background in the geosciences. Based on my experiences and additional coursework listed below, what would you say my chances are at a graduate program in this area?

 

My objective is to work in the energy and/or water field and gain some solid technical/research experience for a few years before moving towards enviro policy later in my career. If anyone has any advice or tips I would greatly appreciate them!

 

-B.A Political Science, 4.0 (small relgional school)

-Fulbright ETA

-Intern at the ABA, law related journal editor, more law related things as well but none in energy/environmental law

-Helped organize a small water film festival 

-Intern at an organic urban greenhouse this summer, researching water and energy usage on my own (though I am disappointingly getting little support from my mentor so I am not able to do any substantial research, it's mostly just greenhouse work, unfortunately), volunteering at the Groundwater Conservation District

 

In regards to math/science classes have taken Chemistry 1 & 2, Calculus 1 & 2, Bio 1, Physical Geology, Statistics

 

This upcoming fall I am taking additional coursework on my own: a graduate level Water Resource class and Geographical Analysis class and a basic Physics 1. I am also hoping to volunteer in a lab or water related organization this fall.

 

Are there other specific classes I should try for in the spring semester? 

 

 

Based on my past experience and what I hope to accomplish this upcoming year, I hope to be able to get into UT's Earth and Energy Resource Program but I am worried I am not competitive enough. 

 

Are there other programs I should look at? I am a Texas resident.

 

Thanks very much!

Edited by MoltBé
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Your LOR are going to be HUGE. They need to speak about your ability to learn Advanced Technical knowledge. From your description, you haven't really taken a very intense science course.

 

If you can prove that, at least to PI's through interviews or LOR, I think you would be a strong candidate for a masters program. I think a straight shoot to PhD would be difficult.

 

Depending on what types of energy you want to research, you are going to have to take geochemistry or geophysics courses that will require higher level math and physics or chemistry than you have seen in your coursework. Most first year geology graduate students have trouble with them even if they do have a geology background.

 

That's just my opinion, I think contacting professors you want to work with is the first step. If you don't get good responses for at least some of them, you may have to rethink your strategy.

 

Geosciences is definitely the field where a lot of people just "fall" into so to speak, but generally those people come from the natural sciences, math, computer science, and engineering. Though I do know of a philosophy major who is doing a PhD in environmental geology.

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Thanks, GeoDUDE! 

 

Are you at all familiar with UT's EER program and its admissions statistics? Any advice on that program?

Edited by MoltBé
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UT is a very competitive program, at least in the geosciences. I'm not sure if the admissions there is done separately between geosciences and EER.  That being said, in science graduate school, especially ones like the one you are applying to, Research Experience and fit is key. I don't know about what UT's statistics are like, but I know that Columbia's acceptance rate is ~ 10%, and those are simular sized and ranked programs. My guess is UT's is around the 10-20%, but a lot of people apply there because of all their private funding. I would definitely have a back up... 

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Have you considered Geography? Your background and goals seem better suited to me than EER. Unless there is a particular reason you want to go that route. For example, Syracuse has Tom Perrault and Farhana Sultana who both study water policy and governance and you would be able to make connections with the PA/IA program in Maxwell as well.

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Hi, jmu. Thanks for your suggestion on Syracuse! I have looked at some Geography programs and I'm still looking. My hesitation is that the programs I have looked at didn't seem to be as quantitative or technical (although the GIS route looks very interesting). I realize my background isn't technical either but my goals is to get a degree that can give me more options. I think in my case I have a social science/government background, and I would like to merge it with a better technical understanding.

 

Are you focusing on water issues in you geography studies? Would you mind sharing some of the courses you took/are taking in your program?

Edited by MoltBé
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I study agricultural policy and climate change from a political ecology perspective. Water is a part but not all of it.

Geography can be as quant as you want. I use quant (surveys, census data, records, etc) to make my GIS data and support it with historical methods (archives, historical readings, oral histories) and qual methods (ethnography, discourse analysis). That's actually why I chose an interdisciplinary department/ degree. Syracuse has a similar interdisciplinary degree (PhD in Social Sciences) as does Georgia (PhD in Integrative Conservation). Berkeley's Geography PhD is also really open and allows for courses from any department as long as you can justify it.

I'll actually be taking some geology/ environmental science courses in mine as well because having a strong understanding of ecological processes is important in my subfield.

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Annals of the Association of American Geographers Vol. 103(2) was a special edition on water. Might be worth checking out if you need some ideas of people or universities.

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Thank you!

 

I have another question to put out there: I have been doing a bit of "job searching", looking at what employers look for in positions I would be interested in. I have noticed that in the water field, engineering is a sought after degree. Is it worth it to get an environmental engineering degree for water related work? Any advice on that would be appreciated!

 

Finally, how good is TAMU's water program? The M.S. program looks really interesting to me. Any thoughts?

 

Many thanks again.

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