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General advice: Applying for admission to earn an MS degree in structural geology at Baylor

You must be intent on pursuing a Master of Science degree. Baylor does not have the range of faculty, facilities or graduate courses available to offer a competitive doctoral degree program in structural geology.

  1. Be certain that your GRE scores are above (and preferably well above) the 50th percentile as defined by the people who administer the GRE exams (see ). Current information about GRE scores is available online from ETS by searching on "GRE scores average." On 9 January 2015, the average score on the verbal reasoning part of the GRE was 151, and the average for quantitative reasoning was 152 (, pages 22-23).
  2. Be sure that you are familiar with (and meet or exceed) Professor Cronin's standards for admission as an MS student in structural geology are posted at
  3. Be sure your GPA in geoscience is very good, and that you have taken a conventional set of courses appropriate for a BS degree in geology or geophysics at most US universities.
  4. Be sure you have at least three geoscience professionals (faculty, supervisor, et cetera) who will serve as references for you.
  5. Non-native English speakers and the TOEFL exam: If you are not a native English speaker, you will need an overall TOEFL score of greater than 100, with very good scores (close to 30) in speaking and writing.
  6. Then complete and submit the formal/official application for admission to Baylor's MS program in geology.

You need to be aware that funding for MS students in geology at Baylor is uncertain because of instability in the oil business and policies in our graduate school that strongly favor supporting doctoral students rather than MS students. Most M.S. geoscience students are funded through graduate teaching assistantships.

You need to understand and accept that Dr. Cronin's graduate students write and submit grant proposals to solicit funding for their M.S. thesis research. Some funds are available from Baylor in support of thesis research, but only after graduate students have applied to external funding sources. If you are looking for a free ride, look elsewhere.

What is structural geoscience?

Structural geoscience is the study of the processes and products of the deformation of rocks and minerals. The interests of structural geoscientists range in length scale from atom-scale dislocations in crystal structures upward to the interaction of tectonic plates. In terms of time, we work with the very rapid propagation of fractures to processes that extend over the ~4.6 billion year history of Earth. The techniques of structural geoscience help us unravel Earth's history, find economic accumulations of petroleum and industrial minerals, analyze possible ground-water flow directions due to fracture permeability, understand and characterize earthquake hazards, and determine the stability of gravity-driven structures such as landslides.

What do M.S. graduates in structural geoscience do for a living?

Most Baylor graduates with a Master of Science degree with a specialization in structural geoscience are employed in the oil business. Of course, that is not the only option, because people who have developed background in structural geoscience (and in active structures like seismogenic faults, in particular) are also found working in engineering geology companies, in government service (USGS, state surveys, etc.), and in university geology departments. Information about some of Dr. Cronin's current and past students at Baylor is posted at

Motivation: Dr. Cronin

In the departmental newsletter for 2013-14, I wrote "I am motivated by the pursuit of interesting and useful geoscience problems. My research currently includes the search for faults that can produce earthquakes that might hurt people. I am fascinated by the quest to learn new things, but my particular research interest involves geoscience processes that affect people, whether positively (like identifying fracture trends that might help improve the production of groundwater or hydrocarbons) or negatively (like landslides, debris flows or active faults). I am motivated by helping people learn about Earth and the processes by which it changes over time. I especially enjoy helping people who are not normally drawn to the sciences to understand how we know what we know about Earth and its 4.6 billion year history. I love to teach, and spend a great deal of time and effort working on how best to facilitate learning. I am motivated by helping students in our department's degree programs to develop into capable geoscientists. I want to help them learn how to transition between being a teacher-fed student into being a self-directed life-long learner. I want them to be humble in the face of their ignorance, and yet fearless in the quest to dispel that ignorance through hard work and scientific inquiry. I am motivated by a sense of service."

Structural Geology Q&A

Q: Who teaches courses related to structural geology at Baylor?

A: I am the primary structural geologist at Baylor and my credentials are listed elsewhere on this site. Other Baylor faculty members with significant background in structural geology or closely related topics include John Dunbar, and Jay Pulliam. John Dunbar brings his extensive knowledge of mechanics and geophysics to investigations of crustal dynamics. Like me, most of Dr. Dunbar's students pursue careers in petroleum geoscience. Jay Pulliam is the Keck Professor of Geophysics at Baylor, and has a strong research interest in understanding the structure of the lithosphere using earthquake seismology.

Q: What sorts of research projects are contemplated for the future?

A: I am interested in working on several topics in the next decade or so, some of which will involve graduate thesis work by MS students. Here are some possible topics.

Q: Where do recent Baylor MS grads in structural geology work?

A: For the most current information, go to

Q: What opportunities are offered for structural geology students who are interested in a career in petroleum geology?

A: At Baylor, students can enroll in graduate course work in petroleum geology from a stratigraphic, structural and geophysical viewpoint. Baylor is a University affiliate of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, and has an active AAPG student chapter. My students have regularly participated in the AAPG-AEG Student Expos. My students also present thesis results at AAPG and GSA national meetings and take advantage of AAPG short courses, which they attend with financial support from the AAPG.

Q: How are the expenses associated with pursuing an MS in structural geology funded?

A: The current funding situation is unclear, because the Baylor Graduate School Dean has reportedly decided not to support graduate student stipends for MS students in geology anymore unless they have spectacular GRE scores, preferring to spend that money on doctoral students. My two current MS students are funded through donations from oil companies to the Geology Department. I have no input or control over these externally funded stipends, which might not continue during times of austerity in the oil business. In the past, my MS students received graduate teaching assistantships that could be extended to a total duration of 2 years, given favorable evaluations. With this came a tuition waver and a stipend provided by the Baylor Graduate School.

The Geology Department makes some thesis-support funds available when a thesis proposal is successfully defended. The amount of these funds in recent years seems to have varied betweeh around $500 and $2,000, for reasons that are not clear to me. Previous MS students of structural geology have secured additional funding in support of their thesis research through competitive grant programs operated by the Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies, Sigma Xi, the AAPG Foundation Thesis Grant Program, the SIPES Foundation, the Roy Shlemon Scholarship Program, the GSA Foundation Field Grant Program, Desk & Derrick Club Scholarships and Ellis Exploration. I maintain a list of potential funding sources at

Q: What are the general MS degree requirements of Baylor University and its Department of Geology?

A: The various requirements are available via

Q: What are the academic standards required to be accepted to the MS program in structural geology at Baylor?

A: My standards for admission as an MS student in structural geology are posted at

Q: How long does it take to earn an MS in structural geology?

A: Virtually all of my students complete their MS work in 18 to 24 months. Financial support from Baylor ends after 24 months. Assuming that a given student goes to work for an oil company, every semester spent trying to finish MS work beyond the 2-year period funded by Baylor will cost that individual an estimated $60,000 in tuition, fees, living expenses, and lost oil-company wages and benefits, constituting a substantial motivator to complete MS work in two years.

The successful completion and defense of a Master of Science thesis is the sole responsibility of each individual MS student. I am not a field assistant, copy editor, loan officer, chauffeur, father or minister. I am happy to provide thesis advice and some appropriate limited help, but the completion of a Masters thesis is the sole responsibility of each individual MS student. It is quite possible for an individual to complete all requirements for an MS degree, other than the production of an accepted MS thesis, and consequently leave Baylor without a Master of Science degree.

Information about the required thesis proposal is available at A generic thesis outline and related advice is available at

Q: What courses are encouraged or required to earn an MS in structural geology?

A: I require MS students of structural geology to take every graduate course that I offer during their graduate career. I require that students who work with earthquake data take a course in earthquake seismology if one is offered during their MS-student period. I strongly recommend that they take at least one course directly related to petroleum geology, one related to engineering geology/hydrogeology, and at least one course in Geographic Information Systems.

Q: Can a person earn a doctorate with a focus on structural geology at Baylor?

A: Yes in principle, but not under my advisement. Baylor does not have the relevant faculty, staff, facilities or resources to offer a doctoral program in structural geology that is competitive with other major research universities (e.g., Stanford, Texas A&M, Penn State, etc.) at the present time, and the optimal degree for most professional structural geologists is the Master of Science degree. Consequently, Iam focused on the education of BS and MS students in structural geology.

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