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Geophysics and Seismology

Program Description

Just the Facts

Geophysics and Seismology. A program that focuses on the scientific study of the physics of solids and its application to the study of the earth and other planets. Includes instruction in gravimetric, seismology, earthquake forecasting, magnetrometry, electrical properties of solid bodies, plate tectonics, active deformation, thermodynamics, remote sensing, geodesy, and laboratory simulations of geological processes.

This program is available in these options:

  • Certificate / Diploma
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Graduate Certificate
  • Master's degree
  • Doctoral degree

High School Courses

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Additional Information

Geophysics students study the physics of the Earth. This is wide-ranging education -- these students study everything from the Earth's core to the upper atmosphere.

The basic geophysics degree program is a four-year bachelor of science degree. For many jobs in the field, a master's or PhD is required.

This discipline is often found under the labels (or within the departments) of geology, geoscience, earth sciences or even environmental science. Geophysicists can also come from pure physics, pure mathematics or engineering programs.

Such phenomena as continental drift and seafloor spreading, reversals of the Earth's magnetic poles, the fluid core of the Earth and the thickness and structure of the Earth's crust are all studied by geophysical methods.

"This is a demanding program for people with good math and physics skills," says geophysics professor Jim Merriam.

"Our program is unique in that the field school is the focus of the final year. This provides students with an experience that is very close to a professional project, where the problems of poor, incomplete, contradictory and inconclusive data must be overcome."

Many geophysics programs offer students the opportunity to complete co-op work terms. "Co-op programs involve four years of courses intermixed with four or five four-month, paid work terms, primarily in the petroleum or minerals industries," says geophysics professor Deborah Spratt.

You'll need a strong background in math and physics, says Spratt, especially if you plan to pursue graduate studies in geophysics.

In high school, take geometry, trigonometry, algebra, physics, chemistry and English. Students should have "good to excellent oral and written communication skills," she adds.

And don't just concentrate on the books. "Hiking and orienteering would be useful for learning to read maps and visualize three-dimensional problems, and preparing students for outdoor labs and geophysics field school," says Spratt.

"Car mechanics, carpentry and computer hardware and software troubleshooting skills come in handy when setting up and acquiring data in field surveys in less than ideal conditions -- improvisation is often required in fieldwork!"

Besides tuition and books, geophysics students face other costs. You may have to buy boots and rain gear for field school, says Spratt. There's also drafting supplies such as graph paper and a protractor.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Environmental Scientists and Geoscientists

Careers in the Geosciences
From the American Geological Institute

Profiles of Geoscientists
Geoscientists can do all kinds of work


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