Medical Geology Graduate Programs

Students who wish to pursue the field of medical geology, researching how natural or man-made environmental concerns contribute to health, may consider earning a Master of Public Health or a PhD in Environmental and Earth Sciences.

Medical geology is a discipline that closely examines the interrelationships between the environment and human health. Medical geologists may study water or air quality, natural health hazards, or epidemiology. Those who wish to pursue this area of study will require extensive knowledge both of environmental and health-related concepts. Read on to learn more about degree options in the field of medical geology, as well as some common courses that those undertaking these programs may encounter.

Graduate Study in Medical Geology

Individuals wishing to work in this field may consider earning a graduate degree at the master's or doctoral level. Two potential options for graduate study are presented here.

Master of Public Health

One degree option for those wishing to pursue the field of medical geology is to pursue the Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) degree with a focus upon environmental health. To apply for an M.P.H. program, students typically must provide transcripts, a personal statement, a resume, recommendations, and GRE score reports. Some programs require that applications be made through the Schools of Public Health Application Services (SOPHAS), which offers a centralized admissions process. Undergraduate prerequisites may include biology, chemistry, and calculus. To complete the degree, students must often complete coursework, a field experience, and a capstone project.

Ph.D. in Environmental and Earth Sciences

A degree option for students wishing to engage in research and teaching in medical geology may earn the Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Environmental and Earth Sciences. This interdisciplinary graduate degree typically allows students to identify individual areas for independent research, so it is important to identify a faculty member who is engaged in research in the area of medical geology, and to ensure that proper facilities to carry out research are available. To apply for a Ph.D. program, students typically must provide transcripts, GRE scores, a personal statement, and recommendations. Some undergraduate coursework in physical science, natural science, and mathematics may be expected. Ph.D. completion requirements include coursework, written and oral qualifying or comprehensive examinations, and a dissertation of individual research.

Core Courses

Those who are studying the interactions between human health and the environment can expect to engage in many courses related to these scientific processes. Read on to learn more about some specific coursework that students in this field might take.

Exposure Science and Assessment

Measuring exposure to stressors is a tool used to reduce occupational health risks. This course will introduce methods for measuring exposure to environmental and occupational hazards. Tools for measurement within the categories of chemical, physical, biological, and ergonomic areas may be considered.


Biomarkers help scientists assess exposure to toxic chemicals, and predict the human health outcomes of such exposure. This course will introduce students to research surrounding biomarkers, such as chemical exposures and genetic toxicity. Exposomics, or exposure across the lifespan, may also be a topic of study. The practical usage of biomarkers in clinical settings may be considered.

GIS Application to Disease

Geographic Information Systems, or GIS, can be an important tool for scientists studying patterns of health. This course may introduce students to the programming of GIS systems to analyze health concerns, such as disease clusters and geographic epidemiology. Students may also come to understand database management within GIS systems.


This course may provide an introduction to how principles of toxicology apply to the environment. Specific topics may include dose-response, cellular penetration, and chemical mutagenesis. To promote understanding, case studies may be considered.

Soil, Water, and Health

This course may consider the overlap between soil and water science and that of public health. Students may consider the ways in which humans are exposed to various environmental hazards. They may also consider how the health concerns and environmental threats can be remediated.

Hazardous Waste Management

Developing solutions to manage hazardous waste is a significant concern for those involved in the integration of human health with environmental issues. This course may look at how to investigate and remediate locations that have been contaminated with hazardous waste. Best practices in the transportation of such waste may also be considered. The course may also examine the political, legal, and regulatory implications of waste management issues.


As a discipline, biogeochemistry considers how the biosphere, geosphere, and atmosphere interact. The course may focus upon the process of chemical reactions within the natural cycle of the Earth, both on land and at sea. How these reactions apply to environmental questions may be a component of the course as well.

Medical geologists play an important role in public health, for example, in considering the effect of soil and water on disease patterns. Earning a MPH or PhD can allow students to enter this research-based discipline.

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