Feb 29, 2024  
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog 
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog

Doctor of Philosophy in Earth, Atmosphere and Environment

The Ph.D. program prepares students to design, conduct and manage research projects with large, diverse data sets. A student seeking admission to the Ph.D. program in EAE must meet all the requirements for admission to the Graduate School and have earned a baccalaureate or master’s degree in  geography, geology, environmental science, meteorology, soil science, biology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, physics, or related field from an accredited college or university.

All new students who are admitted to a program are required to consult with the department’s director of graduate studies before registering for courses. The coordinator will assist students in identifying an appropriate advisor who will form a committee to arrange a program of study. A student whose background is deficient may be required to take additional course work at the undergraduate level. Deficiencies should be resolved in the first year and do not normally carry graduate credit toward the degree.

Check departmental information for additional requirements.

The student learning outcomes for this degree are located at http://www.niu.edu/assessment/clearinghouse/outcomes/index.shtml.


The Ph.D. program in Earth, Atmosphere and Environment consists of at least 90 semester hours of graduate credit beyond the baccalaureate degree, or 60 semester hours beyond the master’s degree. Students entering the Ph.D. program with a B.S. or B.A. degree who does not elect to undertake a master’s thesis must take the non-thesis option M.S. examination in the semester in which they will complete 30 semester hours of graduate study. The student must complete this examination satisfactorily in order to continue in the Ph.D. program.

Students entering the Ph.D. program with an M.S. degree, must take at least 24 semester hours of graduate course work of which 12 credit hours must be within the department, and in addition to EAE 799. Students entering with a B.S. must take a minimum of 42 credit hours of course work with at least 21 credit hours in courses within the department, in addition to EAE 799. The remaining credit hours must be selected from electives and/or an internship program, with the consent of the advisor. Students can receive graduate credit for professional experience and/or development by taking EAE 795, Graduate Internship, for 1-9 credit hours.

With the approval of the department and the office of the dean of the Graduate School, a maximum combined total of 15 semester hours of graduate courses beyond the master’s degree taken as a student-at-large at NIU, plus credit earned in NIU courses taught outside of the U.S., plus graduate credit for courses accepted in transfer from other accredited institutions, may be counted toward meeting doctoral degree requirements.

  • Credits: 3
  • Credits: 1
  • To be taken eacher semester in residence.
    Only 6 credits count toward the semester-hour requirement for the Ph.D. degree in the department.

  • Credits: arranged
  • To be taken as soon as possible after candidacy examination, with enrollment each semester until completion.
    A maximum of 39 semester hours of EAE 799 may be counted toward the Ph.D. degree.

  • Satisfactory completion of the requirements for the dissertation.

Candidacy Examination

The candidacy examination is based on the graduate courses taken and area of research. The examination is to be taken in the semester following completion of 30 semester hours of course work in the Ph.D. program, or in the semester following satisfactory performance on the non-thesis M.S. examination. The student will be admitted to candidacy after successful completion of the written candidacy examination and an oral presentation of a dissertation research proposal. Details concerning this examination and proposal may be obtained from the Department of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment.

Language Requirement

There is no general foreign language/research tool requirement for the Ph.D. degree. Each doctoral student’s advisor will identify any language/tool competencies to be required for that student and will decide when satisfactory competence has been achieved.


Before or during tenure in the Ph.D. program, the student may complete an internship with industry, a public or private research organization, or a government agency for credit. The internship position and arrangements must be approved by the department. The internship must be appropriate to the candidate’s program.


The student must undertake an approved research problem and incorporate the results in a dissertation. The dissertation will be a substantial contribution to knowledge, exhibiting original scholarship and the ability to conduct independent research. An oral defense of the student’s work and dissertation is required, in accordance with department and Graduate School policy.

Each doctoral candidate is required to make a presentation of their dissertation research at a national or international conference. The Director of Graduate Studies, in consultation with the graduate committee, will determine the acceptability of a given presentation.

At least one manuscript detailing the dissertation has to be, at a minimum, submitted and under consideration in an appropriate journal. The Director of Graduate Studies, in consultation with the graduate committee, will determine the acceptability of a given submission.

Each doctoral candidate is required to meet once each academic year with their dissertation director and a dissertation progress committee chosen by the student and the dissertation director. The committee will evaluate the presentation and will inform the student in writing of its assessment of the progress of the research.