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Geology/Earth Science, General

Program Description

Just the Facts

Geology/Earth Science, General. A program that focuses on the scientific study of the earth; the forces acting upon it; and the behavior of the solids, liquids and gases comprising it. Includes instruction in historical geology, geomorphology, and sedimentology, the chemistry of rocks and soils, stratigraphy, mineralogy, petrology, geostatistics, volcanology, glaciology, geophysical principles, and applications to research and industrial problems.

This program is available in these options:

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

High School Courses

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this career cluster:

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this pathway:

Additional Information

Studying geology provides students with an understanding of the Earth, its minerals and rocks, and the processes that have shaped our surroundings.

Geology can often be combined with other majors. Geology professor John Waldron says his university offers combined major and honors programs in geology and geography, geology and commerce, and geology plus any other science, including biology, chemistry, environmental studies and physics.

"It also is possible for students to take a cooperative education option, in which periods of paid employment -- work terms -- are interleaved with academic study," he says. Such programs generally take one additional year.

Thor Hansen is chair of the geology department at Western Washington University. His students begin with introductory courses in physical geology, which discusses the physical processes at work in and on the Earth; and historical geology, which examines the history of the Earth and its life.

Other courses deal with the study of minerals, glaciers, plate tectonics, mountain building, rivers, fossils, groundwater, earthquakes and volcanoes.

The program includes numerous field trips and ends with a six-week field camp in which students investigate and map the geology of a remote wilderness area.

By the time students graduate, they can observe and interpret rocks and geologic landforms, Hansen says.

"They can make predictions about the consequences of geological processes and therefore assess geological hazards. They also can go into a situation where there is a geological question, such as, 'What are the chances of an earthquake occurring in this spot?' They can assemble a team and find answers to questions."

Geology students typically enjoy spending time in the outdoors. "A geologist should be someone who likes to occasionally go in the field and examine rocks, climb mountains, live on a ship or drill wells," says Hansen.

In high school, take a geology or earth science class to see if it interests you.

"It is also a good idea to take as much chemistry, physics and math as you can," Hansen says. "These subjects will prepare you for a career in any field of science. Lastly, go camping; see if you like sleeping on the ground once in a while, climbing a glacier or hiking in the mountains."

There are the usual costs of tuition and books. For field camps, there is a fee for the accommodation and transportation. Students may also have to buy a hand lens, sampling hammer and a compass-clinometer.


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

U.S. Geological Survey
Learn about the land around you

American Geological Institute
A nonprofit federation

Bob Campbell Geology Museum
Take a tour with Abbey the amethyst


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