The formal prerequisite for initiating a doctorate is a Diploma, Master's or equivalent College Degree which includes an independent project equal to the Master's Thesis. To enter the doctorate the thematic basis of the Master is of secondary importance. Doctoral students in Earth Sciences are frequently, chemists, physicists or even mathematicians. The candidate's eligibility for one or more departmental research groups is the crucial factor which determines admittance to the doctorate. In order to determine the eligibility of the candidate for the doctorate a qualifying examination may be required, depending on the professional qualifications of the candidate.
Usually the doctoral students are hired as assistants, funded from research grants from government, industry or the ETH Zurich. Prospective doctoral students may participate in the writing of a research proposal during their Master's Degree by collaboration with a potential doctorate advisor, thereby participating in the project definition. More frequently, however, project positions are advertised internationally and candidates selected from the international talent pool. All doctoral students contribute to teaching or to the administration of the departmental laboratory infrastructures.