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Geophysical Engineering Degree Programs

Learn about geophysical engineering bachelor's degree programs, including courses you might take, how to apply and how to choose a program. Read on for career and salary information for a degree in this field.

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Overview of Geophysical Engineering Bachelor's Degree Programs

Undergraduate programs in geophysical engineering are rare, but several programs in geological engineering and geophysics exist as well. Geophysical engineering programs aim to prepare students for careers addressing global energy and resource needs, and studying dynamic processes of Earth and space. Coursework depends on a strong foundation in math, physics and computer science to teach specific geophysical methodologies. Read on for more details about courses, admission requirements and career information for geophysical engineering programs.

Admission Requirements for Geophysical Engineering Programs

While applicants to geophysical engineering programs are likely judged in a holistic manner by the admission committee, it is a good idea to have a strong foundation in math and sciences, with a good grade point average in these areas. You will need to submit transcripts from high school or a GED program, in addition to standardized test scores. An essay or letters of recommendation may be required as well, depending on the application procedure of the university overall. Geophysical engineering programs don't usually have any other special admission requirements, though keep in mind that these programs tend to be small and competitive.

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Geophysical Engineering Program Coursework

Geophysical engineering starts with comprehensive coverage of basic sciences, computer science and math. Overlaid on top of this foundation is a set of more advanced courses on the theory and practice of geophysical methods. Some of the coursework you might see in a geophysical engineering program is described below.

Introduction to Geophysics

This course is a first look at how to apply mathematical and physical inferences to observations made about Earth. These observations include data on natural disasters, data recorded by satellites or other measuring devices, and records of atmospheric levels. Analyzing these various observations helps to understand key factors of Earth such as its origin and structure.

Theory of Fields

This course covers static and time-varying fields. It emphasizes the mathematical and physical basis of the theories of gravitational, magnetic and electrical fields. Topics include the systems of equation of these fields, how they're influenced by different media, and the physical laws governing their behavior.

Geophysical Data Analysis

Geophysical engineering is an applied science as well as a theoretical one, and this course emphasizes hands-on use of computer tools to solve engineering problems. It is also likely to be set up to mimic a real-world work environment, focusing on team work and open-ended projects. Within these projects, students learn to process, model and visualize data, as well as analyze error and interpret results.

Seismic Exploration and Data Processing

This course teaches seismic methods for subsurface imaging of Earth. Topics include the Fourier Transform Theory, filter theory and wave equation, as well as interpretation of analyzed data. Emphasis is placed on demonstrating the similarities between these equations and the math that underpins all geophysical methods. The methods covered in this course are used in a number of engineering fields, particularly resource exploration like metals, minerals, geothermal and hydrocarbons.

Structural Geology

This geology course is a survey of the structure and origin of different features of Earth. It focuses on tectonic associations using plate tectonic theory, and the impact on natural resource entrapment. This course is likely to include both a laboratory component and one or more field trips, in which students practice mapping, cross section construction and analytical techniques.

How to Choose a Geophysical Engineering Program

When choosing a geophysical engineering program you should assess the facilities available to undergraduate students. Access to state-of-the-art computer facilities is important to properly prepare for the job market after graduation. In addition, the types of outdoor facilities within close proximity to the campus might govern the program's focus areas within geophysical engineering: the types of mining and imaging you learn, as examples. If you already have specific career goals in mind, you should also determine each program's general focus area. They might emphasize work in the petroleum industry, outer space, earthquake science, or something else.

Career Options for a Degree in Geophysical Engineering

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for all mining and geological engineers was $93,720 in 2016. Job growth in this field from 2016 to 2026 is expected to be 7%, which is as fast as the average for all occupations. In addition to engineering services, someone with a degree in geophysical engineering could consider these alternative careers:

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