Yale EPS Admissions Frequently Asked Questions

Thinking about Ph.D. programs? Interested in applying to Yale? We’re glad you’re interested, and we hope that this FAQ might answer some of the questions you have about our department, our students, and the application process. If you have a question that’s not answered here, please feel free to email the Director of Graduate Studies at dgs@eps.yale.edu or a faculty member in your subfield.

What is the mission of the EPS graduate program?

The EPS graduate program aspires to train exceptional Earth and planetary scientists in a collaborative, diverse, inclusive, and supportive community of scholars. We seek to recruit students whose intellectual curiosity, drive, preparation, work ethic, and capacity for problem solving will enable them to develop into outstanding scientists who do research of the highest caliber and who teach and communicate effectively. Our graduate students make important and lasting contributions to our understanding of the Earth and planets during their time at Yale, and leave our program with the potential to become leaders in their chosen fields.

How do I find out more about the research going on in the EPS department?

We encourage you to browse the department webpage, the webpages of the individual research groups in the department, and the webpages of faculty and their research groups.

Should I contact a potential advisor(s) before applying?

Yes, it can be very helpful to contact a potential advisor(s) during the Fall semester to inquire whether they are looking for new students and to talk about potential projects. While it’s not strictly necessary, we encourage you to contact relevant faculty via email before applying, as this is a great way for you to get information about potential advisors.

Are graduate students in Yale EPS typically funded?

Yes, all students accepted into our graduate program are fully funded, including summers, through a combination of departmental/university support, grant-supported research assistantships, and/or outside fellowships. Funding is guaranteed through completion assuming satisfactory progress in the program. For reference, the stipend for the 2023-2024 academic year (including summer) is $40,530; typical year-to-year adjustments include a cost of living increase. Health care coverage is also included in graduate student support.

Do I have to have a bachelor’s degree in Earth & Planetary Sciences to be considered?

No, many of our students come into our program with previous degrees in related fields (for example, biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, mathematics, or engineering).

What is the application process like?

For complete details about the application process and requirements, please see the Graduate School admissions webpage. Briefly, the application itself requires a statement of purpose, transcripts, test scores (if applicable), letters of recommendation, and a diversity statement.

What should I put in my statement of purpose?

The statement of purpose is a chance for you to tell us about your scientific interests and how they have developed over time, how your previous coursework and any previous research experience have shaped your plans for graduate study, and what kinds of scientific problems you are interested in working on during graduate school.

What do you look for in graduate applicants?

We undertake a holistic review of applications, and no single factor determines admission. Some of the traits we look for in prospective students include rigorous academic preparation, particularly in relevant basic subjects (some combination of Earth science, math, physics, chemistry, and biology, depending on subfield), research experience and/or potential, research trajectory and plans, motivation/drive, work ethic, intellectual curiosity and initiative, potential for leadership, analytical and writing ability, and communication and interpersonal skills.

Do you require the GRE? How about TOEFL/IELTS scores for international applicants?

As of the 2022 admissions cycle, we no longer require GRE scores. If a prospective student would like to submit GRE scores as part of their application package, they are allowed to do so. However, we do not expect our applicants to submit scores; applications that do not include GRE scores are not disadvantaged in our evaluation process in any way.

The Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences requires TOEFL or IELTS scores for some international applicants; details can be found on the GSAS webpage

Do you have a minimum GPA cutoff?

We do not have a minimum GPA cutoff. Evaluation of applicants is based on the entire application package, and is not exclusively based on GPA.

What’s the application deadline?

The deadline for application is typically January 2 for matriculation in the following Fall semester. Additional details can be found on the GSAS webpage.

Can I apply to start in the spring semester?

We only accept applications in early January for matriculation during the fall semester; we typically do not allow graduate students to start in January unless there are extenuating circumstances. We only evaluate applications once a year.

Do you expect all applicants to have field work experience?

No. While we have strong field programs in our department, there are many students (and faculty!) in EPS who do not do field work or have extensive field experience. If you’re interested in doing field work or participating in field trips during your time as an EPS student, that’s great, but we do not expect all of our applicants to have field experience.

Can I apply for an application fee waiver?

Yes. Fee waivers are coordinated through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and more information can be found on their website. You can also contact the DGS for help with the fee waiver process.

Do successful applicants tend to come from certain schools or backgrounds?

We have had students come through our Ph.D. program from a wide variety of undergraduate majors and educational trajectories, from different types of schools (public and private, big and small, urban and rural, liberal arts schools and research universities, community college transfers, etc.), from all over the U.S. and all over the world.

Do you have a Master’s program?

We do not admit students who are intending to pursue a Master’s degree; we only admit students who intend to complete a Ph.D. Some students decide to pursue an M.S. degree en route to, or instead of, a Ph.D. after entering our program. Ph.D. students earn an M. Phil. (Master of Philosophy) degree after passing to Ph.D. candidacy, typically after two years in our program.

Do I need to have a Master’s degree to apply to the Ph.D. program?

No. Some of our applicants have a Master’s degree, while others are coming straight from a Bachelor’s degree.

Does the EPS graduate program value diversity, equity, and inclusion?

We do! Our departmental IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Anti-Racism/Anti-Discrimination) committee was formed in early 2020 to spearhead departmental activities in the DEI space. IDEA sponsors a number of regular departmental activities and initiatives – please check out the IDEA committee webpage for more details. We are committed to equity and inclusion in our graduate program, and we work to recruit and retain a student body that is diverse along many dimensions, including race, ethnicity, economic status, age, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, philosophy or ideology, educational background, veteran status, and (dis)ability. A number of programs to support the diverse student body of the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences are offered through the Office for Graduate Development and Diversity, including the Transitions: First Year Experience program. Links to a number of resources at Yale, including cultural centers, LGBTQ resources, and other supports, are available on the Grad School website and on the IDEA committee webpage.

How long does it take to complete the Ph.D. program?

Our program is designed to be completed in 5 years, and typical times to completion range from 5-6 years. Full funding is provided through degree completion, assuming satisfactory progress through the program.

What are some of the unique opportunities offered in the EPS graduate program at Yale?

Our program offers many unique opportunities: First, our program is structured such that students undertake two significant research projects during their first two years of study, including a minor project that is outside the student’s field of specialization. Also, we offer $3000 (tax free) to all students to support computer equipment, conference attendance, or other travel during the first two years of the program. The department furthermore sponsors (and heavily subsidizes) a field trip for students (graduate and undergraduate) and faculty every other year; recent destinations have included Alaska/Yukon, Japan, Scotland, the Alps, and New Zealand. Finally, after the second year, students can apply to participate in our Public Outreach/DEI Fellowship, which allows graduate students to undertake a meaningful semester-long project in the realm of public outreach or diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Do EPS students serve as teaching assistants?

Yes, there is an academic teaching requirement for all students in our program, which involves two semesters as a teaching assistant, with a time commitment of up to 10 hours per week. This teaching requirement is typically fulfilled in the first two years of our program. Beyond that, additional teaching requirements depend on the student’s funding situation. For students who are on departmental or university funding beyond the second year of the program, each year of support comes with a one-semester teaching assistant assignment, with a time commitment of up to 10 hours per week. Students who are supported by research grants or outside fellowships do not have additional teaching duties beyond the two-semester academic requirement.

What do EPS graduates typically do after finishing their Ph.D.? What kinds of career paths are typical?

Graduates of our program go on to a wide variety of careers, and EPS alums are currently employed in academia, government, and the private sector (see more information on the GSAS webpage). While the most common post-Yale job placement is a postdoctoral research position, our graduates go on to a variety of jobs. Yale EPS alums are represented in faculty positions (at research institutions, liberal arts colleges, and community colleges), at museums, in government agencies such as the USGS and national laboratories, in private-sector jobs in fields such as consulting, data science, and the energy industry, in the nonprofit sector, and in science policy positions.

Where can I find more information about the demographics and career paths of the EPS student body?

This information is available via the Yale GSAS demographic information page. You can view demographic information for GSAS as a whole or for the EPS department, and can also explore data on career outcomes for EPS graduates.

How do Yale and EPS support graduate students who are parents?

A semester of fully-supported parental leave,  provided by GSAS, is automatically available for graduate students who become parents during their time in our program, with an associated extension of the typical time to completion. Our department is supportive of graduate students who are or who become parents during their time here. EPS has a lactation room located on-site in the Kline Geology Laboratory building for members of our community who are nursing.