Online College Geology Classes and Courses Overview

Geology degree programs that are taught completely online are rare, primarily because most physical science programs require field work and on-campus laboratory experience. However, some online bachelor's and master's degree programs in related areas, such as environmental science, geoscience, and geotechnics, include geology courses.

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Online Courses in Geology

The summaries below provide an overview of some commonly offered online geology courses.

  • Basic Geology Course: Students in this course study the basics of physical, structural and sedimentary geology. The course introduces the concepts of geologic time, rock formation, mineral composition and dynamic geologic change. Students also explore the history of geology as a science and how temperature, chemical interactions, pressure and environmental factors produce observable results that lead to scientific theories.
  • Sedimentary Geology Course: This course examines how the sedimentary actions of streams, lakes, oceans and glaciers create and change landforms. Topics include the chemical and physical properties that transport, deposit and transform sediment into rock.
  • Plate Tectonics Theory Course: This course focuses on the history of plate tectonics theory and how the theory has evolved and developed. Students examine the nature of structural change and survey major faults, folds and volcanoes, as well as the physical effects of earthquakes, rifting and volcanic eruptions.
  • Terrestrial Planet Geology Course: Students apply the basics of geology to other rocky planets within and outside of our solar system. They correlate observable data with current theories to identify possible extraterrestrial geologic features. The major theories of how terrestrial planets accrete, develop and change are discussed.
  • Geology and Biology Course: Students taking this course learn how biologic and geologic functions interact. Topics cover the geologic and chemical requirements for fossil production and the methods for interpreting rock strata. The formation of coal and oil is examined.
  • Historical Geology Course: In this course students will learn about the history of Earth, through study of fossils, minerals and sediment archived in terrestrial layers. The course will also cover fundamentals of plate tectonics and provide students with an overview of past geologic eras.
  • Structure of Earth Materials Course: In this course, students will examine crystalline structures, chemistry associated with crystals and chemical bonds in Earth materials. Other topics may include crystal symmetry, seismic velocity and the structures of diamonds and mica.
  • Essentials of Geophysics Course: This course will teach students about the various subcategories of geophysics. These areas include geomagnetism, geodesy and geodynamics.

Program Information

Most online geology classes are geared towards students who are fulfilling core requirements for a related degree, preparing for a teaching degree in the earth sciences or learning for personal enrichment. Online programs leading to a bachelor's or master's degree or a certificate in fields like geology, petroleum geology and geological engineering are available. In addition to basic geology courses, schools offer specialized courses on unique geologic formations and on specific industries, such as mining, environmental stewardship and oil and gas exploration. Online geology courses may be taught in a hybrid format, with independent study online as well as field trips and/or on-campus laboratory time.

For online work, students must have a computer with Internet access; for online laboratory experiments, they may also need instant messaging and Internet phone applications. Individual courses may have other technical requirements as well, such as specialized geology software and/or a high-quality color printer and scanner to reproduce geological maps, charts and diagrams.

Online college geology classes are available as individual courses or as part of certificate programs or bachelor's or master's degree programs in related fields. Topics of study include sedimentary rock, terrestrial planet geology and plate tectonics.

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