Geology is the study of the Earth, the materials of which it is made, the structure of those materials, and the processes acting upon them. A sampling of these processes are: landslides, earthquakes, floods, and volcanic eruptions. Respectively, each process involves a specialty: structural geology, hydrology, geophysics, and volcanology.
Is this a good career choice?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), market for geoscientists is expected to increase by 16% through 2022. This will require 6000 additional geologists as new hires and/or replacements for retirees. As of 2012, there were just over 38,000 jobs in this field, with a median income of $91,000 annually. This statistic was based on an education level of a Bachelor’s degree.
Anyone considering pursuing geology as a career should start in high school with the appropriate selection of courses. Namely, an emphasis on the sciences, math and writing skills; the latter will bode well for composing detailed and technical reports.
There are in excess of 600 U.S. colleges and universities offering undergrad programs in geology and over 400 with graduate degree programs. The undergrad programs traditionally involve a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in the geological sciences. This program is designed for those interested in a professional career in geology, or for those students who intend to continue in graduate study. Some programs offer a B.S. in Environmental Geology Concentration for those wishing to pursue a professional career in this particular field. This degree entails courses concerning minerals, rocks, fossils, structural geology and geochemistry, among others. Lastly, there are graduates with a B.A. in geology for those interested in a career in city management, planning, law, science writing, or regional development. The B.A. courses parallel the Environmental Geology courses along with introductory chemistry, biology, and math.
Those with the ambition for greater specialization enter a graduate program. Masters in Science (M.S.) programs at most U.S. universities last 2 years but often go 3 years. Generally, the M.S. degree is an apprenticeship or guided training experience for an advanced technical career in the field. Not all schools require one’s B.A. or B. S. be devoted to geology courses, however, there will probably be a minimum number of semester hours of coursework in geology. Many M.S. programs are open to undergrads with majors in physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, or mathematics.
At the Master’s level, there are thesis option and non-thesis option programs available depending on the learning institution. Each has a requisite number of semester credit hours of course work. The former program is typically around 30 credit hours, plus 6 hours of Master’s Thesis. The latter has more hours, for example, 39 hours which may entail a specific number of hours in required courses. Both options have a minimum GPA of 3.0 to graduate. For those so inclined, there are Ph.D. programs in geology. Statistically, one’s choice of premium institutions decreases if you’re interested in becoming a geoscience professor. Of the teaching faculty (geology) of American universities, an overwhelming 79% earned their geoscience Ph.D.’s from just 25 institutions. The top 10 are:
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
- University of California, Berkeley
- University of Wisconsin, Madison
- University of Washington
- Columbia University
- Stanford University
- Pennsylvania State
- Harvard University
- University of California, San Diego
Geology is an extremely diverse field with an array of vocation possibilities ranging from city planning to discovering the next subterranean deposit of liquid gas or oil shale. Whether you’re graduating with a B.S., B.A. or Ph.D., the arena for job growth is as vast as the field of geology has specialties. And if your working life commences with a Bachelor’s degree, there are numerous apprenticeships, online courses, employer sponsored programs, and funding to advance your formal education.