Volcanologists predict the eruptions of volcanoes, the environmental impact of volcanic eruptions, or how volcanic gasses will affect a city. Those who wish to purse this study as a profession may consider earning a master's degree or a PhD. Typically, the degree which you can pursue will be in geology, however, you may also consider specialized programs in geophysics and geochemistry depending on your specific interests.
Potential Graduate Programs
If you are interested in studying volcanoes, then you may pursue graduate-level education in geology, at a program with a specialization in volcanology. Students should consider whether they wish to pursue the graduate degree at the master's or PhD level. Whether you choose to pursue a master's degree or a PhD, one essential element is to evaluate the type of research that is being conducted by the faculty members of the graduate program. Volcanological research is being conducted on a huge range of topics, including open vents, remote sensing, ash and aerosol studies, and tephrochronology (using volcanic ash to create an archeological record). It is important that as a candidate you can make a connection with a faculty member that is conducting research in the area you are highly interested in.
Master's in Geology
One option for those wishing to pursue the study of volcanology is to pursue a master's degree in Geology. To gain admission to a master's degree program in geology, candidates must typically provide undergraduate transcripts and recommendations. Significant undergraduate coursework within geology or closely related fields will be generally required. Field research is an important component of the Master's in Geology program, and candidates will typically be required to complete an oral examination and a thesis. With a master's degree, one desirable career option would be to work for the state or federal government as a volcanologist, monitoring and studying volcanoes. Other options may be working as an emergency management director or as an environmental scientist.
Ph.D. in Geology
Students who wish to further conduct independent research in their studies of volcanoes might consider a PhD in Geology. Depending on the nature of the candidate's independent research, a PhD in Geology can be typically completed in four to eight years. Applicants for PhD in Geology programs should typically present undergraduate transcripts, the results of GRE examinations, personal statements, and letters of recommendation. Undergraduate courses in geology, physics, and mathematics are also expected. Coursework, oral examinations, and the completion of an independent dissertation will be an important component of a PhD program. Many students who complete PhD programs in geology will go on to a role as a university professor, instructing students and conducting research with regard to volcanoes and other issues in geology.
While specific courses will vary by university and by concentration, the following courses may be a part of a master's or PhD program in Geology.
In this course, students will understand the physical components of magma, including how it is transported and deposited within the volcano. They will also have an opportunity to identify the causes of eruptions. Consequences to human society, and disaster relief efforts will be part of the course as well.
Students enrolled in a course that focus on submarine volcanoes will explore explosive and effusive volcanoes found under water. Hydrothermal considerations and ecosystems that form near volcanoes will also be studied.
The tools used by volcanologists will be covered within this course. Students learn about different types of remote sensing equipment, including spectroscopic, radar, and thermal systems. They may be able to evaluate the designs of remote sensing equipments. Students also consider the use of data derived from remote sensing equipment.
Chemistry and Physics of Magma
After taking this course, students will understand how igneous rocks are formed. They will study mass and heat transfer between such rocks. The scientific processes of thermodynamics, kinetics, and fluid dynamics will be an important component of their understanding of these rocks.
Upon completion of this course, students will be prepared to interpret signals, both seismic and acoustic, from volcanoes. Earthquake sequences, volcanic tremor characteristics, and seismicity will be components of their study. The monitoring techniques used in volcanic seismology should also be covered.
In this course, students will cover quantitative analysis of geologic data. The display of the data will also be discussed. Students will be introduced to a range of statistical programs including R/Matlab.
The combination of coursework, field study, and dissertation will provide a thorough post-graduate study for students interested in this field. For those seeking a scientific career combining field study and lab work, volcanology may be a compelling option.