Geology programs are available at the associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels. While associate's degree programs can lead to work as a geological technician, aspiring geoscientists usually have a bachelor's or master's degree in geology or a related subject. Completion of a bachelor's degree program covers foundational courses and prepares students for graduate-level geology programs. Graduate studies are usually focused on a concentration, such as environmental geology or petroleum geology. Students take advanced geology courses related to their chosen specialty and do research. A doctoral degree is suitable for those who want to teach college-level geology or work as a researcher in the field. Coursework at all levels includes extensive lab and field research.
Here is an outline of common concepts taught in Geology course work:
- Earth science
- Historical geology
- Field geology
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List of Courses
Introduction to Geology Course
During this foundational course, students learn basic concepts behind geology, such as how stream erosion, earthquakes and weathering played a major role in the formation of the earth. They explore how such processes continue to impact the structure of landscapes today. The properties of the materials that make up the earth are also a large focus. Interdependent global systems, like the hydrosphere and biosphere, are discussed as well.
Mineralogy and Crystallography Course
Mineralogy and crystallography courses are common in geology programs and are usually taken towards the beginning of a student's education. Elementary principles of mineralogy are first covered, including the structure, chemistry, growth and habit of crystals. During the course, students learn how to analyze the chemical composition of minerals and how to use various crystallography techniques, such as X-ray diffraction, Scanning Electron Microscopy and Polarized Light Microscopy. A great deal of lab time is often spent exploring rock-forming minerals.
Environmental Resources Course
Environmental resources classes focus on relationships between minerals, water, soil, forests, grasslands and wildlife and how humans impact these natural environments. Issues that affect the environment, like pollution, environmental degradation and resource limitation are discussed. Students learn how to effectively manage and conserve natural resources. This course is usually offered near the beginning or midway through a program.
Natural Disasters Course
The course on natural disasters is often taken at about the midpoint of a program. During the class, students learn about geological processes that can have devastating results. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, coastal and river floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis are among the topics covered. Students also learn about the geographical distribution of these events, what causes them to occur and what methods are used to predict volcanoes and earthquakes.
Earth History Course
The earth's formation and development are discussed in this course, which is normally taken at the middle to the end of a geology program. Students learn how sea-floor spreading and plate tectonics have molded mountain ranges, ocean basins and continents into shape. The organic, physical and chemical changes that have occurred since the earth's origin, 4.5 billion years ago, are analyzed in this course as well. Students also examine how the ideas about the earth's history have evolved throughout time.