Doctor of Philosophy in Hydrology and Water Resources

Description   |   Admission   |   Financial   |   Degree Program Reqs   |   Learning Outcomes   |   Contact

Description  top

Time-to-completion for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Hydrology is approximately 3.5-5 years (coursework, research, writing the dissertation, all exams) for well prepared students.  All candidates must submit a dissertation or dissertation publication manuscript which has been judged by the student's committee to be eligible for publication in appropriate scientific journals and present the results at a national or international scientific meeting.  Active research areas include hydrogeology, hydrogeochemistry, hydrometeorology, hydroclimatology, environmental hydrology, ground-water hydrology, surface water hydrology, vadose zone hydrology, mathematical and statistical methods in hydrology (including stochastic and numerical modeling), water resources sytems, and water resources policy.

The program is designed for students interested in the physical, chemical, and biological aspects of the hydrologic cycle, as well as water resources systems, environmental studies, or water policy and the social sciences related to water resources.  Students may concentrate in one or a combination of these fields but should acquire some proficiency in all aspects of hydrology and water resources. Research-based Ph.D. student programs are individually planned to meet the student's special interests and professional objectives.

Ph.D. applicants should have completed a Master of Science degree with a major in hydrology, water resources, environmental sciences, environmental engineering, or a related field.  (Holders of a bachelor's degree cannot enter the program directly.)  Students who have completed the fundamental undergraduate mathematics and science courses (listed below) have a decreased time to completion.  All students are expected to acquire basic computer programming skills and complete a field methods course. To meet the professional development requirement, students are required to attend seminars and colloquia at the beginning of academic residency, officially enroll in the HWRS colloquium (695A) for one semester at some time during residency, and make two formal seminar presentations of their own dissertation research at two approved professional conferences (local, regional, national, international) at or near the end of their residency.

Ph.D. students may, or may not, be required to complete fundamental core courses in hydrology and water resources depending on each student's prior educational background.  Where gaps exist in background knowledge of relevant subject matter, the student may be required to take additional course work prior to the Oral Qualifying Examination.  The Oral Qualifying Examination must be passed by the end of the second semester in residence.  Comprehensive Examinations (Written/Oral) must be passed by the end of the third year in residence.  The Final Doctoral Oral Examination, or defense of the dissertation research, is required.  See the PHD Hydrology Handbook for full details.

Admission  top

Apply at the Graduate College website: Click on the Apply Now button for the Program of Study "Hydrology (PHD)."  You will be required to upload a variety of documents, including:

  • Scanned copies of original transcripts (do not send original transcripts with official seal and signature until after you are accepted into the program)
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation (submit online)
  • Resume or curriculum vitae
  • Statement of research interests
  • Report of GRE scores (minimum Quantitative 155, minimum Written 4.5)
  • Scanned copies of TOEFL Report of Scores (minimum 550, IELTS 7)
  • Graduate Assistantship Application form (optional)

GRE Institution Code for the University of Arizona:  4832

ETS Major Field Code for Hydrology MS:  1699

NRC Taxon(a) for this program:  Earth Sciences, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Chemical Engineering

Admission deadlines:

  • Domestic Applicants:  January 15 for Fall Semester.  October 1 for Spring Semester.
  • International Applicants:  January 15 for Fall Semester.  August 1 for Spring Semester.

Financial  top

Students may be eligible for support through Graduate Assistantships in research and teaching (see the Graduate Assistantship Application form), fee waivers (scholarships), and fellowships. 

Degree Program Reqs  top

See the PHD Handbook for full details.

At the doctoral level, there are 3 primary examination periods:  During the first year (Qualifying Examination), post-course completion (Comprehensive Examinations), and the final semester (Final Oral Defense).  Please review the HAS Doctoral Exam Steps and Timing (PDF file) and the HAS Doctoral Examination Procedures documents (PDF file) for details.

Graduate College Steps to Your Degree requirements timeline and the sequence of (i.e. the order in which you file) GradPath forms for the Doctor of Philosophy degree:

  • Responsible Conduct of Research Form
  • Evaluation of Transfer Credit
      • Only if using external transfer courses
  • Doctoral Plan of Study
  • Comprehensive Exam Committee Appointment Form
  • Announcement of Doctoral Comprehensive Examination
  • Results of Oral Comprehensive Examination for Doctoral Candidacy
      • Submitted by Committee Chair
      • Candidacy Fees charged to student bursar's account upon advancement to doctoral candidacy
  • Verification of Prospectus/Proposal Approval
  • Doctoral Dissertation Committee Form
  • Announcement of Final Oral Exam (Defense of Dissertation)
      • Must be submitted and approved at least one week before the date of final examination/defense
  • Results of Final Oral Exam/Defense
      • Submitted by Committee Chair
  • Submission of Final Dissertation Manuscript for Archiving
  • Exit Survey


Undergraduate course prerequisites in mathematics and science include:

  • Physical geology:  1 semester
  • College chemistry:  2-semester sequence in Inorganic/Analytical chemistry
  • College physics:  2-semester sequence, one course in mechanics and one course in electricity/magnetism or optics/thermodynamics
  • Fluid mechanics:  1 semester
  • Mathematics:  Calculus 1, calculus 2, vector calculus, and introductory differential equations
  • Statistics:  1 semester in statistics for the physical sciences or engineering

The degree requires a minimum of 54 semester units. Minimum for the major includes 36 semester units of graduate coursework and 18 semester units of dissertation.

No specific Core Courses are required for Ph.D. students, although Master's Core Courses may be used in preparation for the Doctoral Oral Qualifying Examination to be taken by the end of the second semester in residence.  A student will select three subject areas for the examination, so his or her prior degrees and majors will determine which Core Courses might be beneficial.  Master's Core Courses include:


Fundamentals in Hydrology and Water Resources

  • HWRS 517A Fundamentals of Water Quality (3 semester units)
  • HWRS 518 Fundamentals in Subsurface Hydrology (3 semester units)
  • HWRS 519 Fundamentals in Surface Hydrology (3 semester units)
  • HWRS 528 Fundamentals: Systems Approach to Hydrologic Modeling (3 semester units)


Advanced elective course work must be approved by the department.  The Doctoral Plan of Study must include a minimum of 18 semester hours of course work with primary HWRS faculty members.  (Independent study, professional development enrollment, and field methods are not included in this category.)


  • HWRS 513A Field Methods (2 semester units)


  • Enrollment for the HWRS 695A Weekly Colloquium for one semester is required.  This unit is not included in the doctoral plan of study.
  • Two paper or poster presentations of the doctoral dissertation research at approved national or regional conferences.  No academic credit is awarded for paper or poster presentation.
    • One of the two required paper or poster presentations may be made at a local conference (e.g. the HAS department's annual spring student research symposium, the Arizona Hydrological Society Fall Symposium) or as a guest speaker for the HWRS 695A Weekly Colloquium; this requires special approval and arrangement.


  • A doctoral minor area of study (outside the department) that complements and supports the dissertation research is required.  The minimum semester units required vary by department, ranging from 9-15 semester units (the average is 12 units).
  • Typical minors for HWRS students include Applied Mathematics, Atmospheric Sciences, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Geological Engineering, Geosciences, Global Change, Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis, Renewable Natural Resource Studies, Soil-Water-Environmental Sciences, and Systems Engineering.  Other minor areas of study may also be possible.


  • Year 1 Doctoral Qualifying Examination in the Major
  • Year 1 Doctoral Qualifying Examination in the Minor (may be optional--consult Minor Department)
  • Year 3 Doctoral Oral and Written Comprehensive Examinations in the Major and Minor
  • Year 4-5 Doctoral Final Oral Examination


Electronic submission of the doctoral dissertation to the Graduate College and archival with ProQuest UMI is required.  The department does not maintain a separate archive, although members of the student's faculty committee may request a copy of the manuscript.

Learning Outcomes  top

Refer to the Assessment section for learning outcomes and measures.

Contact  top

Admissions Contact:  Terrie Thompson - 520-621-3131

Director of Graduate Studies:  Martha P.L. Whitaker - 520-621-9715

Graduate College Degree Counselor:  Cindy Nguyen - 520-621-0119

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