Master of Science (Earth Sciences)

Course MC-SCIEAR (2014)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2014.

Year and Campus: 2014 - Parkville
CRICOS Code: 062189B
Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Level: Graduate/Postgraduate
Duration & Credit Points: 200 credit points taken over 24 months full time. This course is available as full or part time.


Assoc Prof Kevin Walsh



Melbourne Graduate School of Science
Faculty of Science
The University of Melbourne

Tel: + 61 3 8344 6128
Fax: +61 3 8344 3351


Course Overview:

The Master of Science (Earth Sciences) is a coursework masters degree incorporating a substantial research project.
The Master of Science gives students the opportunity to undertake a substantive research project in a field of choice as well as a broad range of coursework subjects including a professional skills component, as a pathway to PhD study or to the workforce.

The program includes collaboration between Earth Sciences/Geosciences departments from at least two other institutions (originally Monash and La Trobe universities, under our Victorian Institute of Earth and Planetary Sciences or ‘VIEPS’ legal agreement and partnership) expanding in the last decade to involve cooperation between several institutions (including Melbourne). Cooperation at this national level provides students from all participating institutions with the opportunity to access the best and broadest array of advanced coursework in the Earth Sciences discipline.

Learning Outcomes:

This course aims to:

  • equip students with discipline-specific knowledge and expertise appropriate for post-graduate research in the Earth Sciences field;
  • exercise critical judgement;
  • undertake rigorous and independent thinking; and
  • adopt a problem-solving approach to new and unfamiliar tasks.
Course Structure & Available Subjects:

Students must complete 200 pts including:

  • Discipline Core subjects (50 points);
  • Discipline Elective subjects (0 - 12.5 points);
  • Professional Skills subjects (12.5 - 25 points);
  • Research Project (125 points).

Two streams are offered in the Master of Science (Earth Sciences program): the Atmospheric Science stream and the Geology stream.

Subject Options:

Discipline Core - Atmospheric Science stream

Students must take four of the following:

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:
Not offered in 2014

* Students who satisfy the mathematics prerequisites for the 3rd-year subjects of the Atmospheric Science major are permitted to substitute one 3rd-year or level 9 Atmospheric Science subject in place of any core discipline subject, after first obtaining the permission of the Masters Coordinator.

Discipline Elective - Atmospheric Science stream

Students must choose a further 12.5 points from level 9 Earth Sciences subjects, Professional Skills subjects or 300-level Science subjects. One elective from another stream within the Master of Science, Master of Environment or the Master of Energy Systems may also be approved on a case-by-case basis.

Discipline Core - Geology stream

Students must take four of the following subjects, two of which are required to correspond to their thesis topic:

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:
Semester 1
Semester 1
Not offered in 2014
Semester 1
Semester 1, Semester 2
Semester 1, Semester 2
Not offered in 2014

Discipline Elective - Geology stream

Students must also take a further 12.5 points of approved coursework subjects, selected either from the above subjects, professional skills subjects, or from 300-level geology subjects. Electives from another stream within the Master of Science, Master of Environment or Master of Energy Systems may also be approved on a case-by-case basis. Students who satisfy the prerequisites for the 3rd-year subjects of the Geology major are permitted to substitute one 3rd-year subject in place of any core discipline subject, after first obtaining the permission of the Masters Coordinator.

Professional Skills

Students must take one to two subjects:

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:

Research Project

Students enrolled in this program are required to complete a 125 point Research Project. Students will gain research experience in Earth Sciences by completing an original research project in their main field of interest. The amount of work completed in this project should be comparable to that undertaken for a published journal article, and students will be encouraged to submit their work for publication. Although the assessment weighting for the literature review may be viewed as low given the word limit, particularly when compared with the final thesis, the former is largely a ‘reading topic’, from which the student is expected to place their research project into a broader context. In contrast, and as noted above, the final thesis is expected to be a far more rigorous scientific document, showing an appropriate level of insight and scientific interpretation of results, and be of publishable quality.

Assessment is based on:

  • satisfactory completion of a research presentation after completion of 50 points of the research project (hurdle requirement);
  • a literature review of no more than 4,000 words (5%);
  • a project-related oral presentation within two months of the conclusion of the project (5%); and
  • a thesis of no more than 25,000 words (90%) due at the end of the course.

These assessment requirements are applicable to the entire 125 point Research Project.

The project will be taken over four consecutive semesters and will begin on the Monday of semester of entry (semesters 1 or 2) (indicative for 2013: March 4 and July 29) and continue for up to 88 weeks until the end of the fourth semester, minus recreation leave of between 4 and 8 weeks (22 weeks per semester over the four semesters). For how long and at what time within the enrolment the actual period of leave is to be taken needs to be negotiated with a student’s supervisor. The Research Project will be due for submission by the end of the formal examination period of the fourth semester of enrolment if an earlier date is not specified.

Research Project (125 points)

Students may enrol in a combination of research project subjects and coursework subjects over their two years of full-time study or over their four years of part-time study as long as once the Research Project is commenced (which may not be the first semester in the case of part-time course enrolments), the consecutive enrolment requirement is met and to ensure they have completed a total of 125 points for the research project by the end of their course.

Students may need to enrol in a subject of the same credit point value more than once which is why there are multiple Research Project subjects of the same points value.

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:
Semester 1, Semester 2
Semester 1, Semester 2
Semester 1, Semester 2
Semester 1, Semester 2
Entry Requirements:

An undergraduate degree with a major in Agricultural Science, Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences, Biochemistry, Botany, Chemistry, Engineering, Environmental Science, Food Science, Genetics, Geography, Geology, Mathematics, Microbiology, Physics, Plant Science or Zoology, with at least an H3 (65%) in the major, or equivalent.

Quotas may be applied and preference may be given to applicants with evidence of appropriate preparation or potential to undertake research. Entry is subject to the capacity of the department to provide adequate supervision in, and resources for, a research project appropriate to the interests and preparation of the individual student and may be subject to the agreement of a member of academic staff to supervise the project module. Selection is not automatic and, in particular, is subject to competition.

*Course orientation for semester 1, 2014 begins Monday February 3, 2014.

Core Participation Requirements:

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study and reasonable steps will be made to enhance a student’s participation in the University’s programs. Students who feel their disability may impact upon their active and safe participation in a subject are encouraged to discuss this with the relevant subject coordinator and the Disability Liaison Unit.

Further Study:

The Master of Science offers a pathway to a PhD.

Graduate Attributes:

Graduates will:

  • have the ability to demonstrate advanced independent critical enquiry, analysis and reflection;
  • have a strong sense of intellectual integrity and the ethics of scholarship;
  • have in-depth knowledge of their specialist discipline(s);
  • reach a high level of achievement in writing, research or project activities, problem-solving and communication;
  • be critical and creative thinkers, with an aptitude for continued self-directed learning;
  • be able to examine critically, synthesise and evaluate knowledge across a broad range of disciplines;
  • have a set of flexible and transferable skills for different types of employment;
  • be able to initiate and implement constructive change in their communities, including professions and workplaces.
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