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Degree Program

Atmospheric Science


The Department of Atmospheric Science offers programs leading to the Master of Science (M.S.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees. The degree programs incorporate both coursework and research activity components. Students take core courses and elective courses chosen from those offered in our graduate curriculum and through other departments. A student's coursework program may be tailored to his/her specific needs and interests.

Students earning degrees in Atmospheric Science must show proficiency in the core courses through adequate progress in the classroom. 


Road Map to a Degree

Students are admitted into the Atmospheric Science Program either as Master’s Degree Students (M.S. Students), dual-degree students (M.S. plus Ph.D.), or Ph.D. Degree Students (Ph.D. Students). The majority of incoming students are M.S. students, although some of these may be ‘Ph.D. bound’. Ph.D. bound students are M.S. students on track to pursue a Ph.D. in the Department. They should be registered as dual-degree (M.S. plus Ph.D.). This registration may occur upon admission, or it may have to wait until the student has demonstrated proficiency in coursework and research, e.g. upon completion of the first semester. The transition to Dual-Degree status requires approval of the student’s advisor and the Department Head (see: UW Graduate Student forms).

Those students who already have earned M.S. Degrees (w/ thesis) in Atmospheric Science or a related discipline typically are admitted as Ph.D. students. In rare cases, exceptionally strong students without a M.S. degree may be admitted as Ph.D. students at the discretion of the student’s advisor and the Department Head, but in general, even such candidates are encouraged to complete a M.S. degree along the way.


degree flow chart

M.S. Degree

Requirements for a Master’s Degree are set by the University and include a total of 30 hours; 26 hours of coursework and a minimum of 4 thesis research hours.

All M.S. students are required to complete the ATSC core courses (see M.S. Program of Study) that include 9/8 hours in the first/second semester and 3 hours in the third semester, for a total of 20 hours. The remaining 6 hours of coursework should be divided amongst electives directed toward courses relevant to the student’s research. Choice of appropriate electives should be made with consultation of the student’s advisor.

Research for M.S. students should begin during the first semester. Students are encouraged to meet with their advisors on a regular basis throughout the first semester to identify the primary objectives of their thesis research. Students will be expected to present their research objectives at the end of the first semester in the ATSC5018: Research Methods and Ethics.

Research should continue through the ensuing semesters (and breaks) and will become a larger portion of the student’s overall workload as course-load decreases. By the end of the second semester, students should have a M.S. Committee assigned (see: UW Graduate Student forms).

Completion of the Program of Study (see: UW Graduate Student forms) should be completed prior to the beginning of the third semester of coursework.

Prior to (or during) the third semester, students should prepare a Research Plan. The Research Plan will be presented to the student’s committee who will vote to approve or disapprove the plan. Approval typically includes suggestions to improve the research outcome. The Research Plan will outline the student’s proposed research project and should include relevant background information (literature review), preliminary results from work already accomplished, a list of work to be completed, and a reasonable timeline. Details of the Research Plan are provided below.

Submission and approval of the Program of Study and approval of the Research Plan elevates the status of a M.S. Student to M.S. Candidate.

During the third and fourth semesters, M.S. Candidates will be completing the work outlined in the Research Plan. Compilation of the student’s thesis is often occurring at the same time. It is expected that the student completes all requirements of the M.S. degree by the end of the 4th semester, implying a final defense no less than a few weeks before the UW thesis submission deadline. Inability to make this deadline may result in a loss of the graduate assistantship. The defense will consist of a public presentation of the student’s research followed by a question and answer session with the student’s committee.



Dual (M.S. plus Ph.D.) Degree

Requirements for Dual Degree students are the same as those for (terminal) M.S. students. Ph.D. bound M.S. Students who demonstrate advanced research and writing skills through the preparation of their M.S. Research Plan (see above) are expected to become Ph.D. students upon successful completion of the M.S. requirements. At that point, all UW course credits completed for the M.S. degree count towards the Ph.D. degree.

Typically, Dual-Degree students, upon completion of their M.S. degree, continue along the same research, under the same advisor. The student only needs to broaden the M.S. Committee membership, to satisfy the requirements of a Ph.D. Committee (see: UW Graduate Student forms). The student then should aim to prepare a Ph.D. Research Plan and defend this in the Preliminary Exam, ideally to be scheduled no later than the end of the fifth semester at UW (that is, the end of the first semester as Ph.D. student). Upon passage of the Preliminary Exam, the student officially is recognized as a Ph.D. Candidate. Details follow under the Ph.D. degree, below. We realize this timetable is ambitious, especially for students that switch research project and/or advisor upon completion of the M.S. degree. The intent is that the completion of a M.S. degree “along the way” should not delay the aspirant Ph.D. student in the completion of his/her doctoral studies.   



Ph.D. Degree

Requirements for a Doctorate of Philosophy Degree are set by the University of Wyoming and include a total of 72 hours with a minimum of 42 hours of coursework. A maximum of 48 hours (including 4 thesis research hours) may be transferred from another institution.

All Ph.D. students are required to demonstrate proficiency in all the ATSC core courses (listed below), defined here as a grade B or better. Depending on the student’s background, this may include taking some or all of the core courses as part of the student’s curriculum. There is no Ph.D. qualifying exam, only core course proficiency and advisor support. For University of Wyoming M.S. students (including those registered as Dual-Degree) to be admitted into the PhD program, a non-binding written recommendation from the M.S. Thesis Committee is needed, but ultimately admission into the PhD program is the decision of the Advisor.

Upon their admission into the Ph.D. program, students should form a Ph.D. Committee (see: UW Graduate Student forms). Ph.D. students will continue with their coursework through ensuing semesters. There is no set requirement for number of courses to be taken each semester. It is expected that students will continue with 3 to 6 credits of coursework per semester in areas most relevant to their research. Electives should be chosen in consultation with student’s advisor.

The timetable of the steps towards a Ph.D. degree is less rule-driven, and more driven by the student’s own aspirations and dedication. No later than their 2nd semester (for students continuing the Ph.D. along the lines of their M.S. research) or their 4th semester (for students pursuing a different line of research for their Ph.D.), student should prepare and defend their Research Plan. The Research Plan will outline the student’s proposed research project and should include relevant background information (literature review), preliminary results from work already accomplished, a list of work to be completed, and a reasonable timeline. Details of the Research Plan are provided below. The Research Plan should provide sufficient detail to demonstrate the student’s capability to conduct the intended research and should also demonstrate the uniqueness and relevance of the work to be accomplished. The formal presentation of the Research Plan to the committee should take place in Academic Year 2 or early in Year 3, and no later than the fifth semester. Presentation and defense of the Research Plan to the Ph.D. Committee will fulfill the UW requirement for a Preliminary Examination. Sufficient research should already be completed to allow the committee to assess the student’s capability. Concurrent with the Preliminary Exam, students will complete a Ph.D. Program of Study (see: UW Graduate Student forms). If the committee approves the Research Plan and follow-up oral examination, this is a ‘pass’ of the Preliminary Exam and results in elevating the student’s status to Ph.D. Candidate. Failure of the Preliminary Exam may place the student back on the M.S. track or the student may be asked to complete additional work and re-take the Preliminary Exam.

During the ensuing years, Ph.D. Candidates will complete the work outlined in the Research Plan. Compilation of the student’s dissertation and submission of manuscripts to peer-reviewed journals often occurs at the same time. The dissertation defense ideally occurs no later than the end of the fifth year at UW, even for students that completed a M.S. degree at UW, although in some cases more time is needed. The defense will consist of a public presentation of the candidate’s research followed by a question and answer session with the student’s committee.

JLATSC courses

Core Courses

see UW Catalog for details
ATSC   First Semester # credits
5010 Physical Meteorology I 4 includes lab
5014 Dynamic Meteorology I 4 includes lab
5018 Ethics and Research Methods 1
Second Semester
5011 Physical Meteorology II 4 includes lab
5016 Synoptic Meteorology 4 includes lab

Elective Courses

5008 Mesoscale Meteorology 3
5009 Objective Analysis in Geoscience 3
5040 Climate Science and Climate Change 3
5210 Cloud and Precipitation Systems 3
5320 Ocean Environment 3
5330 Boundary Layer Meteorology 3
5340 Radar Meteorology 3
5350 Atmospheric Chemistry 3
5360 Aircraft Instrumentation 3
5370 Satellite Remote Sensing 3
5500 Atmospheric Radiation 3
5600 Advanced Cloud Microphysics 3
5700 Numerical Modeling 3
5880 Problems in Atmospheric Science 3


Graduate students may also enroll in ATSC 5155, Weather Analysis and Forecasting, and/or ATSC 5890, Atmospheric Science Seminar (both S/U grading). MS students may take any combination of these courses, for 1 cr per semester, for a cumulative, combined total of 3 credit hours with a S grade. This reduces their required number of elective 3 cr courses from three (9 cr) to two (6 cr). PhD students may choose to take either or both courses as well, up to the catalog-mandated limit of 3 cr (3 semesters) for ATSC 5155 and 6 cr (6 semesters) for ATSC 5890 over their entire curriculum at UW, be that MS+PhD or PhD-only. With permission of the ATSC 5890 Instructor, students can take the Seminar course for 2 cr in one semester, but the degree-specific maximum number of credits for ATSC 5890 remain.

M.S. (PhD) students may also take up to one (two) non-ATSC elective courses, for instance ENR/ZOO 5270, a 4 cr course on writing and reviewing science papers, or GRAD 5910, a course in college-level teaching for graduate students.

JLATSC Research Plan

The Research Plan will document, in a concise format, the research that the student will conduct as part of his or her M.S. Thesis or Ph. D. Dissertation. Elements that should be included are: background information illustrating the utility and/or relevance of the research that is being proposed, overall scope of the project that includes both work to be accomplished and work already completed, preliminary findings resulting from work that has been completed (this may include reference to conference presentations or manuscripts that have been submitted for publication), and details of the work to be accomplished with a timeline for completing that work.

For a MS degree, students should target 8-10 pages for the research plan (not exceeding 15 pages); the research plan should be no longer than 15 pages for a PhD degree. The format should following NSF style guidelines for research proposals: figures are included, but references fall outside the page limit. Either plan should convey to the Committee the uniqueness and importance of the project being proposed.

The PhD-level Research Plan presentation is part of the Preliminary Exam. The Research Plan should be made available to Committee members no later than a week before the oral presentation to the Committee.


Contact Us

University of Wyoming,

Atmospheric Science,

EN 6034

Dept. 3038

1000 E. University Ave.

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307)766-3245


1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
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