Graduate Programs

We offer Master's and PhD as part of our graduate studies here at the department of AOS. For more details on each program, please click on the tab with the program name in the table below. We have listed the credit requirements for each program. All the courses that may be offered to the students are also listed. However, please note some courses are not offered every year.

For graduate course descriptions and more details on the course restrictions, click here

Students are also encouraged to meet with the graduate program director or the Administrative & Student Affairs Coordinator in the department to plan their academic program and to make sure they meet all program/ degree requirements for graduation. Contact information for our faculty and staff can be found here.

Master's Program


  • The M.Sc. degree requires a minimum of 45 credits, up to a maximum of 51 credits.
  • The program includes from 9 to 27 credits of coursework and the remainder are thesis credits (depending on the student's background).
  • Master's students with no previous background in atmospheric or oceanic sciences or related fields generally take 21 course credits spread over two semesters (September–December and January–April).
  • Students with a suitable background, such as a strong B.Sc. in atmospheric science, or a Diploma in Meteorology, may be given permission by the Graduate Program Director or Department Chair to take fewer course credits (as few as 9 course credits).

M.Sc. Curriculum – (45 credits)

Note: This is the default option chosen by the majority of students entering the program.


Thesis Component (24 credits)

ATOC 691 Master's Thesis Literature Review (3 credits)
ATOC 692 Master's Thesis Research 1(6 credits)
ATOC 694 Master's Thesis Progress Report and Seminar (3 credits)
ATOC 699 Master's Thesis (12 credits)


Must complete or have completed 7 of the following complementary 3-credit courses or equivalent (21 credits)

ATOC 512 Atmospheric and Oceanic Dynamics (3 credits)
ATOC 513 Waves and Stability (3 credits)
ATOC 515 Turbulence in Atmospheric and Oceans (3 credits)
ATOC 519 Advances in Chemistry of Atmospheric (3 credits)
ATOC 521 Cloud Physics (3 credits)
ATOC 525 Atmospheric Radiation (3 credits)
ATOC 530 Paleoclimate Dynamics (3 credits)
ATOC 531 Dynamics of Current Climates (3 credits)
ATOC 540 Synoptic Meteorology 1 (3 credits)
ATOC 541 Synoptic Meteorology 2 (3 credits)
ATOC 548 Mesoscale Meteorology (3 credits)
ATOC 568 Ocean Physics (3 credits)
ATOC 557 Research Methods: Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (3 credits)
ATOC 626 Atmospheric/Oceanic Remote Sensing (3 credits)

CHEM 519 Advances in Chemistry of Atmosphere (3 credits) 

Note: Students may select either ATOC 519 or CHEM 519. Or other courses at the 500 level or higher recommended by the Department’s Graduate Program Director.


Students registered in M.Sc. programs are expected to regularly attend the Department seminar series during their second year in the program.

All M.Sc. 2 students are also required to attend one of the Student Seminar series, ATOC 751 or ATOC 752, even though they are not registered for these seminar courses. M.Sc. 2 students are required to register for ATOC 694 (Master’s Thesis Progress Report and Seminar) in either the Fall or Winter, and must present a seminar for the Student Seminar series in order to satisfy the seminar component of ATOC 694.

Choosing your supervisor

The formal procedure for choosing a supervisor for M.Sc. thesis research begins in December, near the end of the first Fall term of the M.Sc. program. At that time, a set of research topics prepared by the faculty is circulated to all the M.Sc. 1 students.

Normally, these topics are related to the material presented by each professor in ATOC 550, which is taken in the Fall term of the M.Sc. 1 year. However, not all faculty members submit a research topic annually. It is advisable that all M.Sc. 1 year students discuss their research interests with the department’s faculty members prior to receiving this set of research topics in December.

Each student chooses up to three research topics (in ranked order) and consults the professors about their choices. At the start of the Winter term, each student sits for an interview with a committee of two to three professors. The student must present a justification for their choice of research topics and report whether they have received a confirmation of supervision from the professors associated with each topic.

Most students receive their first choice of research topic. However, in the case of conflict, i.e., two students choosing the same topic as their first choice, the interview committee determines, based on various factors, including the academic performance of the student in the topics of their choice, and the availability of faculty members, which student is better suited for research on the topic. The other student will be assigned their second choice of research topic. Students then nominally begin their thesis research in late April or early May of their first year.

Note: If an entering M.Sc. student already has an agreement to work with a particular supervisor on a topic of mutual interest, the student would not participate in the formal selection process, and may begin research with their supervisor prior to May of their first year (if they have the appropriate background).

Guidelines on the Completion of the M.Sc. Thesis

Refer to the “Regulations Concerning Theses” section of the McGill University eCalendar .

Purpose of the Thesis

A thesis for the master's degree, while not necessarily requiring an exhaustive review of work in the particular field of study, or a great deal of original scholarship, must show familiarity with previous work in the field and must demonstrate the ability to carry out research and to organize results, all of which must be presented using appropriate scientific writing.


The thesis should demonstrate a thorough understanding of the subject matter. It should define the problem clearly, give an adequate summary of previous work, explain the methods used, and present the results. Details should be sufficient to enable a researcher outside the particular area of specialization to comprehend the approach and the significance of the work, and to reproduce it if desired. The thesis should not normally exceed 100 pages.


Although it is not required that the M.Sc. thesis contain a great deal of original scholarship, some originality is expected. This might consist of extending the application of an existing method or theory, of comparing several such methods or theories, or of giving a new interpretation to concepts already established. While it is not a degree requirement that the thesis be of publishable quality, it is very much in the student’s and the supervisor’s interest to strive, after the thesis is submitted, to prepare a paper based on the thesis for submission to a refereed journal.

Research Schedule

For students who have completed their course requirements, the total time devoted to the thesis work should be about 12 to 14 months, two or three of which are needed to write the thesis and have it read and commented on by the supervisor. For example, students completing the course requirements at the end of April of the M.Sc. 1 year, and starting their research in early May, should submit their theses preferably by the end of April, and no later than the end of June of the M.Sc. 2 year.



PhD Program

A student who has obtained a master's degree at McGill University or equivalent in Atmospheric Science (Meteorology), Physical Oceanography, or a related physical science field, and is proceeding to a Ph.D. degree will, on the recommendation of the department, be admitted at the Ph.D. 2 level.  In this case, the residency requirement for the program is two years.

Students without a related Master's degree may be admitted to the Ph.D. 1 level. The first year is then devoted mainly to coursework and is usually similar to the M.Sc. 1 year (refer to M.Sc. 1 curriculum). The selection of courses is made in consultation with the Ph.D. research supervisor, and is subject to the approval of the GPD. Candidates entering Ph.D. 1 must follow a program of at least three years' residency at the University.

Ph.D. Curriculum

The minimum course requirements are given below.


ATOC 700 Ph.D. Proposal Seminar (1 credit)

ATOC 700 consists of a written proposal and an oral presentation (approximately 30 minutes in length) followed by an examination before a committee of at least three professors (four if the student is co-supervised), consisting of the student’s supervisor(s) as well as at least two other full-time AOS faculty members designated by the Department’s Chair. 

This examination is intended to assess the candidate's preparedness for undertaking original research in a particular subject area and it should be taken 6 to 12 months after passing ATOC 701.

The student must submit a written thesis proposal of about 20 pages (typewritten, double-spaced) to the ATOC 700 examination committee at least one week before the date of the oral presentation. This proposal should define the problem to be discussed, demonstrate that the candidate is familiar with the literature, describe the methodology to be used, present some preliminary results, and outline future work.

The oral presentation can be given as part of the ATOC 751 or 752 seminar series (see complementary courses below), or at a specially scheduled seminar open to the students and faculty of AOS. Following the question period after the presentation, the candidate will be questioned further by the examination committee in absence of an audience.

 ATOC 701 Ph.D. Comprehensive (General) (0 credit)

ATOC 701 is an oral examination conducted by a committee ordinarily consisting of three examiners, one of whom is the student’s supervisor. The examination will normally take place in the last four months of the Ph.D. 2 year. 

This examination is intended to determine whether the candidate has a sufficiently broad understanding of topics in atmospheric sciences, climate dynamics and/or physical oceanography to proceed in the Ph.D. program. The level of knowledge should be sufficient, for example, to allow the candidate to teach at the undergraduate level. The candidate will be examined on three topics of atmospheric and oceanic sciences:

  • Atmospheric Chemistry- ATOC/CHEM 519
  • Atmospheric Radiation- ATOC 525
  • Climate Dynamics- ATOC 531
  • Cloud Physics- ATOC 521
  • Geophysical Fluid Dynamics - ATOC 512, 513
  • Mesoscale Meteorology- ATOC 548
  • Numerical Methods- ATOC 558
  • Physical Oceanography- ATOC 568
  • Remote Sensing - ATOC 626
  • Synoptic Meteorology- ATOC 540, 541
  • Turbulence- ATOC 515


1 Another topic of direct relevance to atmospheric and oceanic sciences may be substituted for one of the above only in special cases and only with the approval of the Graduate Program Director or Chair.

2 The listed associated courses provide guidance on the material covered and the level of knowledge expected. While having taken an associated course may be beneficial, it is not a requirement for selecting a certain topic (e.g. a student may already possess equivalent knowledge). Students are advised to discuss expectations for their selection of topics with their exam committee sufficiently in advance of the comprehensive exam.

Note: Refer to the “Ph.D. Comprehensives Policy” section of the McGill University eCalendar. Both ATOC 701 and ATOC 700 fall under this comprehensive policy.


ATOC 751 D1/D2 Seminar: Physical Meteorology (1 credit)
ATOC 752 D1/D2 Atmospheric, Oceanic & Climate Dynamics Seminar (1 credit)

Note: The remaining 6 credits are chosen from the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, at the 500 or 600 level (see course descriptions), as approved by the research supervisor and the Graduate Program Director (GPD). 

Ph.D. Supervisory Committee

  • A Supervisory Committee will be selected after the Ph.D. Comprehensive (General) examination, usually on the basis of consultations between the student, the supervisor, prospective members of the committee and the Department Chair.
  • This Committee should consist of at least one full-time McGill faculty member in addition to the supervisor(s). Committee members are typically professors in the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences; however professors in other McGill departments may also be appropriate in some cases.
  • The role of the Supervisory Committee is to assist the Ph.D. student in the advancement of his/her research and thesis, and to evaluate and report on progress.
  • The primary responsibility for carrying out the research project rests with the student.

Graduate Student Research Progress Tracking

McGill requires annual tracking of doctoral students’ progress toward the degree. The Graduate Student Research Progress Tracking Form is to be used during face-to-face meetings between the doctoral student, supervisor, and at least one other departmental representative.

At least annually, there must be a progress tracking meeting at which objectives for the upcoming year are established and prior progress recorded and evaluated. For doctoral students whose committees have already been formed, a member of the supervisory committee or a representative from the academic unit must also attend.

  • At the first annual progress reporting meeting (to be held shortly after doctoral students begin their programs), written objectives/expectations for the year must be recorded in the OBJECTIVES box on page 1 of the form. Those attending the meeting—the student, the supervisor, and, in the case of Ph.D. students whose committees have been formed, a member of the supervisory committee or a representative from the academic unit—must sign the form on page 3.
  • Subsequently, the student and supervisor(s), and a member of the supervisory committee or a representative from the academic unit, must meet annually to review the progress that has been achieved toward the recorded objectives. Prior to these meetings, the student should record his/her accomplishments and progress for the year by completing the PROGRESS box on page 1 of the form. This completed form is then evaluated by the committee (i.e., supervisor and the member of the supervisory committee or a representative from the academic unit) on page 2 of the form. All parties sign the form on page 3. At this same meeting, objectives for the following year should be recorded in the OBJECTIVES box on page 1 of the same form.
  • This form may also be supplemented with unit-specific details or documents (see page 2 of the form).
  • If progress is judged unsatisfactory, a follow-up progress tracking meeting must occur not sooner than 4 months and not later than 6 months after the first report. A deadline for the follow-up meeting must be indicated on page 2 of the form.
  • Two unsatisfactory reports (not necessarily successive) constitute unsatisfactory progress towards the degree and, if recommended by the academic unit, the student will be withdrawn from the University.
  • The Graduate Program Director must review and sign all Progress Tracking Reports. If the Graduate Program Director is the supervisor, the Chair's signature is required.​
  • It is the graduate student’s responsibility to properly complete these forms throughout the duration of their Ph.D. degree. 

​Note: In cases where the student has missed an established progress report deadline and has not responded to the unit within 4 weeks after being contacted by the academic unit, the report may be completed in the student’s absence, and progress may be judged unsatisfactory.

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