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The Breakdown

Our beloved and beleaguered planet (that would be Earth) has a checkered past, a tumultuous present and an uncertain future. With many natural riches buried deep beneath its surface and an ever evolving landscape, the Earth is ripe for study. And that, of course, is where geology comes into play. If you fancy yourself an explorer of sorts and enjoy adventure, then this could be the field for you!

As a geology major, you’ll study the Earth’s history, materials and natural processes. More specifically, you will learn about identifying and stemming hazards such as earthquakes, coastal erosion and volcanic eruptions. Further, you will study how geologists locate and mine materials from rocks. And you’ll also investigate how climates have changed across time (in an effort to understand where our planet is headed). Outside of your specific geology courses, you should also expect to take a handful of chemistry, physics and calculus (or at least math) classes. Finally, the vast majority of programs expect their undergrads to participate in field work (often within state parks – bonus!). These projects can range from GPS surveying and geologic mapping to collecting samples for later analysis.

In order to thrive in geology, you’ll need to be a sort of academic renaissance man/woman. Certainly, you’ll require strong quantitative skills to appropriately analyze the data you collect. You will also have to rely on technical prowess as you’ll be using sophisticated computer equipment. Moreover, geology isn’t just about conducting experiments in a lab. You’ll have to demonstrate solid communication skills when you share your research findings. And, perhaps most important, you shouldn’t mind getting some dirt under your finger nails every now and again.

Nuts and Bolts

If you choose to study geology, you’ll likely enroll in classes such as: Weather, Climate and Change, Surface Processes: Landscape and Water, Plate Tectonics and Tectonic Hazards, Oceanography, The Unexpected Earth, Impacts and Mass Distinctions, Rock-Forming Minerals, Water and Society, Geochemistry, Geomorphology and Glacial Geology and Field Methods in the Earth Sciences.

Decisions, Decisions

Geology majors are clearly keen on science and demonstrate interest in the natural world. Therefore, they also might consider studying biology, biochemistry, environmental science, oceanography, physics, astronomy, marine biology, ecology, energy management, paleontology, archeology, engineering, botany and soil science.

What's Next

As a geology major, you’ll be able to apply your academic interests to a variety of different professions. Certainly, many recent grads find employment with government agencies, be it at a national park or the U.S. Geological Survey. The oil and mining industries are also quick to poach geo majors, putting them to work in exploration and extraction. It’s also common for graduates to work in resource management, resource economics or conservation. Outside of scientific research, geology majors sometimes land positions in architecture or real estate development. And, of course, education is always a popular choice with geo majors often working in museums or teaching in schools (naturally).


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Don Munce