The interdisciplinary field of geophysics is also one of the highest-paying bachelor’s degrees. Combining studies in geology, physics, mathematics and engineering, geophysics is an Earth science with plenty of practical applications. When you pursue a bachelor’s degree in geophysics, you’ll take plenty of classes in different areas of geology as well as coursework in math and physics. Although geology is often oversimplified as the study of rocks, this field encompasses so much more. Geology is a field of science concerned with the study of the Earth and its properties, processes and changes over time. Some of the areas of geology that are of particular interest to aspiring geophysicists include topics concerned with what’s on or beneath the surface of the Earth as well as the atmospheric fields that surround the Earth.
Focusing on Planet Earth
Many geophysicists specialize in the search for resources buried deep below the surface of the Earth. Taking geology classes that focus on the soil and the history of planet Earth can help future geophysicists who work in fields like searching for and obtaining valuable natural resources. Geophysicists rely on this knowledge of Earth geology to identify and evaluate sites where resources like water, iron, minerals, oil or fertile soil exist and how to obtain those resources.
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Then there are seismologists, who study earthquakes and other aspects of the internal structure of the Earth. Sometimes called earthquake scientists, these geophysicists might focus on studying volcanic activity and be called upon when a volcano looks like it might erupt. This aspect of geophysics is more fast-paced, since there might not be much time before a large-scale volcanic eruption occurs, and people in the vicinity need as much time as possible to prepare. If a volcano erupts unexpectedly, geophysicists with a background in seismology can analyze the event after the fact to understand what caused it to happen and to be better able to predict future volcanic activities.
Classes in physical geology, introductory foundations in geophysics, global seismology, structural geology, sedimentary geology, the geology of volcanoes and earthquakes are valuable if you wish to explore a career in these areas of geophysics. You can also benefit from studying the remote sensing technologies geophysicists use to understand, measure and predict seismic events like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Your studies in geology might also cover aspects of the oceans on our planet, which can help aspiring geophysicists who want to specialize in those areas. Sometimes called hydrologists, some geophysicists focus on the properties of the water on our planet, both at the surface level and underground. With a career interest in hydrology, you might benefit from taking classes in environmental hydrology, oceanography, marine geophysics and groundwater and engineering geophysics.
Hydrologist is a relatively small occupation, currently employing just 6,700 Americans, and more than 60 percent of this profession is employed by the government at the federal, state or local level, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, this career field is expected to grow at a faster than average rate of 7 percent.
Studying the Earth’s oceans is one area of geological study that can help geophysicists that want to focus on the more fluid part of our planet.
Looking at Earth’s Atmosphere and Beyond
If you think geologists are always looking down at the surface of the Earth and what’s beneath it, you may be in for a surprise. Some geophysicists investigate the upper atmosphere of our planet and its magnetic and electric fields. Geology classes about these different fields will offer future geophysicists the background information they need to pursue their careers.
Using their knowledge of geomagnetism, or the magnetic fields of the Earth, geophysicists can handle topics like identifying minerals and mitigating the risks of geomagnetic hazards and disturbances. In addition to physics courses in electromagnetism, geophysics classes in topics such as geophysical fluid dynamics and atmospheric circulation are valuable in this field.
Some geophysicists, called planetary geophysicists, look beyond the Earth to study other solid bodies in our solar system. They use what they know about our planet to simulate what the conditions might be like on other planets. This includes the internal structures of these planets and studying earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Some geology programs include classes about space, which would be useful to those aspiring to be a planetary geophysicist.