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Environmental Geology Degree and Training Program Information

Environmental geologists study the Earth's surface and its processes with the goal of solving ecological problems, such as the effects of pollution, global warming, and natural disasters. Students can pursue this field as a major or concentration.

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Essential Information

Degrees in environmental geology are available at the bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. levels. Students seeking a career in the field can start by pursuing the less common bachelor's degree in environmental geology or look into other program options. These include a degree in Environmental Science with a specialization in environmental geology or a major in geology.

Students can then proceed with advance studies by pursuing a master's or doctoral degree. Graduate schools often ask for letters of recommendation, as well as an essay describing the applicant's career objectives and reasons for selecting a school's program. Undergraduate instruction in physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and geology may also be recommended. A test may be administered to prove understanding of the field. Reading knowledge of at least one foreign language may be expected of Ph.D. applicants.


Bachelor's Degree in Environmental

A high school diploma or GED is required for entrance into a bachelor's degree. Programs in environmental geology generally combine math and science courses, such as calculus and physics, with field study and classes related to the chosen area of study. Course selection includes:

  • Physical geology
  • Field methods
  • Structural geology
  • Sedimentology
  • Mineralogy
  • Geochemistry

Master's Degree in Environmental Geology

In a master's program, students learn how to examine soil and water for contamination. They also study waste disposal, natural disasters, and the demand for ecologically sound energy derivation techniques. Students are taught professional development and networking strategies. For admission into a master's program, students must have obtained a bachelor's degree in geology, engineering, architecture or a related field. Master's programs may be taken on a full-time or part-time basis. Courses include:

  • Environmental geology
  • Soil geochemistry
  • Analytic methods in environmental geology
  • Hydrogeology
  • Environmental geophysics

Ph.D. in Environmental Geology

A Ph.D. program generally trains students to be independent researchers. Students enroll in courses that augment their scientific knowledge and skills and work with faculty to develop a program. Programs may be interdisciplinary in nature. Students applying to the Ph.D. environmental program must submit their Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. They are also usually expected to seek out a research advisor to produce a research leading to a dissertation with a presentation. A range of courses is generally available to Ph.D. candidates. These include:

  • Geodynamics
  • Water resource geochemistry
  • Soil mechanics
  • Reflection seismology
  • Basin analysis

Popular Career Options

Environmental geologists are scientists who are concerned with important societal issues including water purification, water pollution, landslides, volcanoes, storage of nuclear waste, erosion, and analysis of bedrock and soil for construction projects. Graduates with a degree in environmental geology are qualified for employment with government agencies or private consulting firms. Ph.D. graduates tend to work in research and teaching at the college level. Career options include :

  • Field geologist
  • Geological engineer
  • Petroleum geologist
  • Geology teacher

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of environmental scientists and specialists is expected to increase by 11% between 2014 and 2024, which represents a faster growth rate than the national average. Environmental scientists made a median annual wage of $67,460 as of May 2015. For geoscientists, the BLS projects job growth of 10% from 2014 to 2024, which is faster than the national average. As of May 2015, the median annual income for geoscientists was $89,700. The BLS predicted that employment of postsecondary teachers is expected to increase by 13% from 2014 to 2024, which is faster than the average for compared to other professions. Additionally, the BLS reported in May 2015 that college teachers of the geological sciences earned a median annual salary of $83,150, while environmental science college teachers earned a median annual income of $78,770.

Environmental geologists study the earth's processes in an effort to understand geological patterns and problems. Those who obtain a degree in this field usually work in laboratories or in academic environments.

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