The following Master of Science (M.S.) requirements are formulated within the framework of the Graduate College requirements as described in A Handbook for Graduate Students and Advisors. The requirements of the degree of M.S. in Atmospheric Sciences correspond to the general requirements of the Graduate College for the degree, with the additional requirements outlined below.  A total of 32 hours are required; a minimum of 16 of the 32 hours must come from 500 series core courses.
The Department offers two options for an M.S. degree, a thesis option and a non-thesis option.  In both options, students admitted to the M.S. program are required to take the following four core courses:  Atmospheric Dynamics (ATMS 500), Physical Meteorology (ATMS 504), Weather Systems (ATMS 505), and Climate Dynamics (ATMS 507).  Students must complete core course requirements within the first 4 semesters of entering the M.S. program.  Under extenuating circumstances, students may petition to the department for a time extension in order to satisfy core course requirements.  Non-core courses may be completed at any time prior to graduation.
In addition to credit hour requirements, DAS graduate students are required to enroll in the departmental seminar course (0 credit hour) during all academic semesters while registered as a graduate student.  Students must also successfully complete the departmental course on Professional Development (1 credit hour), typically during the first Fall semester of entering the program.  Students who are participating in off-campus academic or research opportunities may petition the department for an excused absence from seminars.
Students must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.0 (B) in the core courses (500, 504, 505, 507), while not earning less than a B- in any of these courses.  S/U grades are not acceptable in these courses. In the event a student earns a grade lower than a B- in a core course, the student will be allowed one opportunity to retake the course and earn an acceptable grade (B- or better).  If the student is unable to secure a B- or better on the second attempt, the student will not be able to complete the MS degree.
Students must also maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher over all courses while enrolled in the M.S. program, in accordance with guidelines set by the UIUC Graduate College.  Course grades from previous graduate programs will be considered in the GPA evaluation, for any course credit applied to the M.S. degree program, subject to rules of the Graduate College regarding transfer credit.

For students entering the program in or after Fall 2019, each M.S. student will have a committee consisting of the advisor and at least two other faculty members. At least one of the additional committee members must be from DAS.  The M.S. committee must be formed within one year from the student’s start date. Each student will meet with their committee at least once a year after the committee is formed. During these meetings, the student will present their progress, discuss milestones, and obtain feedback from committee members. The date of this meeting, and the outcomes, will be documented in the student’s annual review document. The committee will review the student’s annual progress, the M.S. thesis, and cast a pass/fail vote at the oral defense.

There are two options for an M.S. degree:


The thesis option is intended for those students who wish to pursue a career in research in the Atmospheric Sciences. This option is strongly recommended for students who wish to later pursue a Ph.D. degree.


ATMS 500, ATMS 504, ATMS 505, and ATMS 507

16 hours

Additional Graduate-level Courses in ATMS or approved graduate-level courses in another discipline 

 8 hours

ATMS 599 Thesis Research  (min/max applied toward degree)

 8 hours

Total Hours

32 hours



The student is required to write a thesis and give a seminar on his/her thesis research.


Minimum GPA




When the thesis is near completion, or is completed, the student is required to give a departmental seminar on their research. The seminar is intended to permit the departmental faculty to assess the student’s skills in organizing and presenting a self-contained piece of research. If the student expects to complete the thesis during the summer, the student must either schedule the seminar for the previous spring or return to give the seminar during the fall semester. Only in extenuating circumstances (e.g., prolonged illness) will the possibility of a summer seminar be considered. Students are strongly advised to check possible dates with their committee members, to ensure their attendance.

For students entering the program in or after Fall 2019, the seminar for M.S. students may be shortened to 30 min (25 min presentation and 5 min questions); the advisor may elect for their students to give a full 50 min seminar.

The departmental seminar must be given at least two weeks before the defense.


Students entering the program in or after Fall 2019 will be required to pass an oral defense focused on their research as part of the thesis M.S. degree requirements.  The defense may also include broader course-related questions pertaining to the student’s research. The defense will be attended by the committee and will be initially open to the public. The public portion of the defense will be followed by a closed committee session for further examination of the student by the committee. Two positive votes (one of them by the advisor) are required for passing the defense. If two positive votes are not obtained, the student can attempt to defend the thesis research once more within six months. The defense will be in addition to the departmental seminar that each M.S. student is already required to give. 

The student’s committee must receive the M.S. thesis draft no later than two weeks before the defense. At least two of the three members (one of them being the advisor) must approve the thesis before the final defense may be held.


All departmental theses must satisfy the format regulations described in the Graduate College Thesis Handbook.  Students should be aware of these guidelines prior to writing their thesis.  A department staff member will generally perform the format check. After the format approval has been obtained, the approval of the thesis by the advisor and the Department Head constitute an official acceptance. The thesis may account for up to 8 hours of credit toward the required 32 hours. 


Students who entered the program before Fall 2019 that elected to pursue the thesis option can, with the Graduate Affairs Committee (GAC) approval, continue directly into the Ph.D. track following completion of all Master’s degree requirements. The student must notify the Department Head regarding their intention to petition to continue into the Ph.D. program, two weeks prior to the departmental seminar. If the student fails to inform the department, then they may enter the Ph.D. program only through re-applying to the DAS graduate program through standard University admission procedures. A letter of assessment is required from the student’s M.S. advisor and a letter of support from the anticipated Ph.D. advisor. If the student plans to continue their Ph.D. with the same advisor, one letter of support is sufficient. The GAC will evaluate the candidate based on the following information: course performance, M.S. thesis, seminar presentation, letter(s) of assessment/support, and the student’s annual review documents. Within fourteen days after receiving the student’s material, the committee members will vote, and the GAC Chair will notify the Department Head of the outcome.

For students entering the program in or after Fall 2019, the M.S. Committee will evaluate the student performance at the conclusion of the defense to determine their suitability for the Ph.D. program. The decision will be made by the advisor with input from the other two committee members. A written record of the evaluation and the decision will be included in the student’s file. 


The non-thesis option is intended for students who wish to pursue careers in education, applied meteorology, computer applications in meteorology, or other areas within atmospheric science not specifically tied to research. The non-thesis option is not intended for students who wish to pursue a Ph.D. degree afterward. Students who complete the non-thesis M.S. option and later wish to enter the DAS Ph.D. program will be required to reapply for admission to the Department following standard University procedures. 

Students selecting the non-thesis option are required to demonstrate professional writing, presentation and computing skills, while obtaining a solid background in atmospheric science through course work. The student is required to complete a project that will focus on a topic in the desired area for future employment. The project may account for four hours of credit toward the required 32 hours through registration in ATMS 596.


ATMS 500, ATMS 504, ATMS 505, and ATMS 507   

16 hours

Additional Graduate-level Courses in ATMS or approved courses in another discipline 

12 hours

ATMS 596-Non Thesis Research (no more than 4 hours may be applied toward the degree) 

4 hours

Total Hours

32 hours





Minimum GPA


The MS student electing the non-thesis option is required to submit a project description (no more than two pages long) to the Department Head before beginning the project. Normally this should be done by the end of the student’s first year. The project description should clearly describe the topic and the scope of the project. The Department Head will assign a faculty advisor to the student, with consideration of the project topic and faculty interest/expertise.  The advisor will then select two other faculty members to serve on the student’s committee.

Through completion of the project, the student is required to demonstrate: 

a) Advanced Writing skills, by writing a substantial report summarizing the project; 

b) Advanced Presentation skills, by presenting the project in an informal talk to the committee; 

c) Advanced Computer skills, as dictated by the project. 

The topic of the project will depend on the student’s interest and generally target the employment sector in which the student wishes to work following graduation. For example, a student interested in Applied Meteorology might develop a project related to an applied field within the Atmospheric Sciences, such as hydrology, agricultural meteorology, air pollution, consulting meteorology, financial applications, forecasting, or emergency management. A student interested in K-12 Science Education might develop online modules for K-12 Education, or contribute to a faculty member’s textbook development for the college level. A student interested in Computer Applications might develop computational tools that would be useful in the Atmospheric Sciences. Examples might be objective analysis schemes, internet educational instructional units, or radar algorithms. 

The project and presentation will be graded together (Pass/Fail) by the student’s faculty committee. If the student project is graded as “Fail” by any faculty member, the student will be given an opportunity to correct the deficiencies and resubmit the work. Third and subsequent attempts will only be granted after petitioning the Department.

Giving a full departmental seminar is not required for this option.