College of Sciences

Marine Science

The University of Massachusetts School of Marine Sciences (SMS) offers both Master's (M.S.) and Doctoral (Ph.D.) programs in marine science. Students graduating with a MS or Ph.D. degree from SMS receive a joint degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth and Lowell. The degree programs are fundamentally grounded in a broad, integrated, interdisciplinary approach to the study of marine science. Students located at the four participating campuses are required to complete core courses in the areas of biological, physical, and chemical oceanography, as well as a course in policy/management to equip them for interdisciplinary studies and research before focusing upon an area of concentration.

The programs prepare students for employment opportunities in the private and governmental sectors and academia. Emphasis is placed on the education of researchers and scholars who will contribute not only to basic research but also to the application of that research in a coherent approach to resource management and economic development issues.

Combining facilities and resources on four campuses into a single, coherent graduate program greatly expands the opportunities for SMS students. Students have access to a much greater range of education and research opportunities, expertise, and facilities than exists on one campus alone. Each campus has a number of departments and interdepartmental programs with areas of strength in marine-sciences related teaching, research, and outreach that either complement or constitute critical units of SMS.

SMS is also closely affiliated with a number of on-campus research centers and institutes and off-campus marine research facilities, expanding its realm of research opportunities and resources.

Core Courses

To achieve interdisciplinary breadth and depth, each SMS student will be required to take courses in four areas:

Biological Oceanography (BO)

Chemical Oceanography (CO)

Physical Oceanography (PO)

Socio-Economics of Coastal/Marine Systems (S/E)

Marine-related Technologies (MT)

Courses in BO, CO, and PO are generally taken in the first 4 to 6 semesters (preferably in the first 2). For each area, course content is fairly uniform, though there may multiple offerings between campuses.

Courses in S/E and MT are taken after selection of an area of concentration. Course content is not uniform and selection of course should be consistent with a student’s concentration area. Depending on the student’s concentration, the socio-economic requirement might be met best by courses in policy, economics, law or international/intergovernmental relations. Courses satisfying the technology requirement could be drawn from such areas as marine measurement technology, wastewater and environmental mitigation technology, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Data/Information Management Systems, graphic display technologies or marine modeling approaches.

To build on the core courses, each SMS student selects an area of concentration and chooses electives appropriate to this concentration, as approved by their faculty advisor and/or thesis committee. Reflecting the interdisciplinary character of SMS, both natural and social science courses support certain concentrations, and many courses support more than one concentration.

Students typically take most of their courses on the campus where they and their major faculty advisor are in residence. Some courses, however, including at least two core courses each semester, will also be taught using the University’s substantial distance learning facilities. Students may also choose to be in residence at different campuses for a period of time during their course of study, in order to take certain courses or to take advantage of research opportunities.

Admissions Standards

Successful applicants will generally have completed an undergraduate or graduate degree with a GPA of 3.00 or better and will have an undergraduate major in one of the basic scientific disciplines or engineering, or will have strong multidisciplinary training with completion of at least six semesters of coursework in the natural sciences, generally to include biology, chemistry, and/or physics. Preparation in mathematics at least through integral calculus is strongly encouraged. Students who do not meet these criteria need to identify a faculty advocate who must bring a request for exception before the Admissions Committee. At the discretion of the Admissions Committee applicants may make up deficiencies in prior coursework either before or after admission is granted to the SMS. Consideration will be on a case-by-case basis, and the recommendation of the committee will be forwarded to the Dean for approval.

Candidates may apply for admission at either the Masters or Doctoral level. Students admitted directly into the Doctoral Program are expected to have exceptional academic credentials and/or work experience. Students entering with a Bachelor’s degree may be required to complete the requirements of a Masters degree before admission to the Doctoral Program. Students entering with a Masters can be admitted at the Doctoral level provided the degree, coursework and research experience warrant such a decision by the Admissions Committee.

Application Criteria

The Admissions Committee will evaluate a number of additional criteria in its consideration of applications. The following five items must be submitted for consideration by the UMass School of Marine Sciences(SMS):

A single application form has been prepared for the use of applicants for admission to the UMass School of Marine Sciences. It is available in the graduate admissions offices of each participating campus. 

Three letters of recommendation from those familiar with the applicant’s academic and/or work experience are required.

Official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate coursework.

Graduate Record Examination (GREs) scores and The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL, if the applicant is not a native English speaker). Typically, for the GREs students should have a combined score 1200 or greater. For TOEFL, a minimum of 550 (or 213 on the computer based exam) is highly recommended. 

Statements of interest and intent are also requested. The statement of interest should provide reviewers an indication of the motivation of the student for pursuing graduate work. The statement of intent should describe how graduate training would address the student’s career goals.

**It is imperative that prospective students take an active role in contacting faculty member(s) who could potentially advise them, as well as making an effort to seek funding before applying to SMS. Students must also understand that we have a limited number of TA positions, so to be considered they must get their applications in before the deadline.

Admissions Procedures

Applications for admission to the graduate programs of the UMass School of Marine Sciences are currently being processed by the Office of Graduate Studies at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. You will send your application and its associated materials and should address any inquiries about your application to that campus.

Students considering entry into the fall semester must be aware of the following dates:

December 15th: 
Students who are interested in obtaining a TA must have a completed application and all other appropriate forms sent to the Graduate Office. Prospective students who are not interested in receiving a teaching assistantship are highly encouraged to apply at this time as well. 

January 15th: 
Admissions Committee will have evaluated all applicants and will send a revised list of all prospective students to the SMS faculty. Any revisions and reconsiderations to the list will be made within a week

February 1st: 
The Dean will send final acceptance letters to students who are being awarded a TA, as well as those students who have sufficient funding and an SMS advisor. 
The Dean will send conditional letters of acceptance to students who have found an advisor, but have a lack of funding. 
The Dean will send letters of deferral to qualified students who have been waitlisted, due to having no apparent advisor and inadequate funding. 
The Dean will send letters of rejection to students who do not meet the standards of the school.

March 1st: 
Students should be receiving their acceptance, deferral, and rejection letters between February 1st and March 1st. Students who have been accepted with funding and an advisor are expected to reply within one month of receiving the letter. 

April 15th: 
All students accepted with funding and an advisor must reply by this date, in order to be able to enter into the SMS program. 

May 1st: 
The admissions committee will evaluate all acceptances and deferments from students who had to send in their applications by April 15th. Depending on the number of students admitted, the Admissions Committee will consider the following, in order:

  1. Students who have an advisor, but no funding.
  2. Students who have no advisor or funding.

May 15th: 
The Dean will send final letters of acceptance and rejection to the two groups of students listed above. 

June 15th: 
Students who are accepted by or after May 15th have until this date to reply, in order to enter into the SMS program. All admission decisions are closed by this date.
Students considering entering in the spring semester must be aware of the following dates:

September 1st: 
Students must have a completed application and all other appropriate forms sent to the Graduate Office. 

September 30th: 
Admissions Committee will have evaluated all applicants and will send a revised list of all prospective students to the SMS faculty. Any revisions and reconsiderations to the list will be made within a week.

October 15th: 
The Dean will send out acceptance and rejections letters by October 15th.
Accepted students are encouraged to reply promptly.

November 15th: 
All students who are accepted must reply no later than this date, in order to enter into the SMS program. All admission decisions are closed by this date.

Admission decisions will be made as expeditiously as possible once the application file is complete. The SMS application deadlines will go into effect once the semester begins. Prospective candidates must observe these deadlines throughout the entire application process. Those who apply out of sequence will automatically be placed in the next cycle of admissions.