Last Updated on December 14, 2022
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Understand the Earth’s Past and Present with a Geology Degree
The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences offers B.A., B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Geology, which encompasses a variety of studies of our planet, including considerations of composition, structure, prehistoric life, internal and surficial processes, and history. These studies have applications in the discovery and use of energy, water and mineral resources; in protection of the environment; and in planning for the impact of natural hazards (earthquakes, landslides, etc.) on societal development. Students study geosciences in the classroom, laboratory and field. The Earth is our laboratory, so geologists have to take field trips to examine first-hand how the Earth works, and carry out field research to further our understanding. If you like the outdoors and travel, and have a broad science aptitude, then the Geology major is for you!
Very generally, the three levels of degrees which one could work toward (Bachelor of Science/Arts, B.S., B.A.; Master of Science, M.S.; Doctor of Philosophy, Ph.D.) allow successively more advanced levels of study, and to a certain extent, higher rungs up the career ladder. The B.S. or B.A. would permit you to find entry-level, often technician type of work in which you would work under the supervision of people with the M.S. degree. The M.S. is viewed as the “professional degree”, that is, one which would ultimately with supervisory responsibilities. The Ph.D. permits one to conduct research either within industry or at the University level. Keep in mind that career advancement opportunities vary, and that one’s personal goals, ambition, discipline, and conscientiousness may often take one further in a career than simply which degree you hold.
What skills does studying geology develop?
- problem solving, critical and analytical thinking
- utilize computer techniques to solve problems
- collaboration with other geologists and scholars
- construct and manage various numerical, oral, graphical or textual information
- present insights and information in writing and speaking
- synthesize the entire range of sciences (chemistry, physics, biology and mathematics) in creatively solving geoscience problems
Undergraduate education requirements B.A., B.S.
Graduate education requirements
Career Outlook for Geoscientists
American Geological Institute Geoscience Enrollment Trends
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Prospects for Geoscientists
The Bachelor of Science program is designed for students who plan a career as a professional geologist or who plan to pursue a post-graduate education. The Bachelor of Arts program is designed for students planning a career in government policy relating to earth science and environmental issues, earth-science education, business (environmental consulting), environmental law, or environmental medicine. You will find geology majors using their knowledge and skills in a wide variety of occupational opportunities such as:
- petroleum geologist
- engineering geologist
- environmental geologist
- economic geologist
- planetary geologist
- land-use technician
- consulting firms
The M.S. and Ph.D. are achieved by attending graduate school. However, unlike other professional schools (dentistry, law, medicine, pharmacy), graduate students in earth sciences get paid to go to graduate school! Graduate students are supported as teaching and research assistants (TAs and RAs). You graduate with an advanced degree, have essentially no debt, and even have multiple job offers. Our graduates work in the public (state government, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Kentucky Geological Survey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) and private sectors (coal, minerals, energy exploration, environmental and engineering consulting firms). In general, more advanced degrees have higher starting salaries. For example, students with an M.S. in the energy industry earn starting salaries of at least $65,000 per year, and Ph.D.s can start at $100,000 per year.
For more information about careers, go to the following: