Geoscience Education and Training Program Information

Oct 25, 2019

Educational opportunities in the geosciences include both undergraduate and graduate degrees, although most careers require advanced schooling. Explore the different programs, course topics, career options and more.

Essential Information

Geoscientists study the Earth, its atmosphere and its water sources, to understand the impact of humans on nature, as well as on the planet's natural evolution. Geoscience programs are interdisciplinary, combining studies in geology, physics and chemistry, and including related topics such as organic chemistry and paleontology. Programs are available at the bachelor's, master's and doctorate levels, and field research and lab work are typical at all levels. Specializations may include geology, climatology, oceanography, environmental geochemistry and geophysics.

A bachelor's degree in earth sciences is usually required to enter a master's program. Strong communication skills are also recommended for effective participation in an interdisciplinary environment. PhD program prerequisites usually include completion of a master's degree in earth sciences.

Bachelor's Degree in Geoscience

Prospective students benefit from proficiency in math and science; computer skills are also crucial for using specialized geoscience software. Undergraduate programs usually have several different tracks or minors available, including environmental chemistry, climatology and biological oceanography. Geoscience courses may include:

  • Earth materials and history
  • Geology of oil and gas
  • Soil and water resource management
  • Structural geology
  • Physics of atmosphere and climate change
  • Organic chemistry

Master's Degree in Geoscience

Master's students continue to explore the formation of the Earth and its components, as well as examining the steps needed to diminish the effects of natural disasters and energy usage. Programs typically require completion of a research project or thesis. Master's level courses may include:

  • Petrology
  • Paleontology
  • Mineralogy
  • Earthquake seismology
  • Sedimentary geology
  • Environmental geochemistry

PhD in Geoscience

A PhD degree expands a geoscientist's career options to include teaching and research at the university level. Candidates pursue their interest area through formal coursework, original research and completion of a dissertation. Possible topics include:

  • Modeling techniques for hydrology
  • Research experience for educators
  • Volcanology
  • Advanced structural geology
  • Plate tectonics

Popular Career Options

Graduates with a bachelor's degree may find work opportunities with oil companies, utilities and the government as research assistants or geoscience technicians. In addition, with the necessary certification(s), they can teach science in middle and high schools.

A master's degree is the typical degree required for advanced geoscientist jobs, with opportunities for individual specialization and independent research, such as in energy or natural resources management.

For PhD degree holders, the most traditional role is as a professor at the university level. Other possibilities include:

  • Hydrologist
  • Conservation engineer
  • Oceanographer
  • Geophysicist

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipated that job growth for geoscientists (except hydrologists) would increase at a rate of 6% from 2018 to 2028; hydrologists can expect a 7% increase in jobs during the same period. The BLS also reported the average annual wage for geoscientists as $107,800 as of May 2018, and hydrologists earned $82,790 as a mean income.

Aspiring geoscientists can study this interdisciplinary field at the bachelor's, master's or doctorate levels. Employment outlook in the field is favorable, and graduates may also be able to find work as hydrologists, geoscience technicians, professors and more.

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