Simply put, geology is one of the most exciting fields to enter. Geologists study the earth and its structures, materials and formation from the formation of the earth and forward. Geology tells the story of the earth’s history. It unveils the mysteries of the earth, revealing the long hidden truth about our the place we inhabit. Students of geology learn how volcanoes, rivers, canyons and mountain ranges form; what the ocean tides reveal, and the story rock layers tell. Geology explains the past and provides the tools and knowledge needed to predict our future. Studying geology will cause you to look at the earth in a new light.
A career in geology requires a solid education with hands on experience. In that light, we’ve taken a close look at some of the top departments in geology around the country to help you choose a good school. Here is our list of the top 10 geology programs for 2009.
1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers a broad, in-depth program in geology which was originally instituted in 1861. The interdisciplinary program examines the fundamental principles of the various sciences to develop a comprehensive understanding of the earth and its complex systems. Areas of focus include the origin and evolutionary path of the solid earth and the current state of the earth as well as an examination of the earth’s core, oceans and land surfaces. The curriculum examines historical interactions of the systems in order to make accurate predictions of the outcomes of future events. MIT provides a unique opportunity for scientific exploration accomplished through laboratory research, modeling and intensive research.
The degree programs at MIT include both undergraduate and graduate options. The undergraduate program centers on developing a fundamental understanding of the core elements of geology. Students study the geophysical earth sciences which allow them to develop the analytical skills necessary for success in the field. The curriculum is designed to be flexible so that students can develop a program tailored to their interests and areas of particular strength. Undergraduate students must complete an independent research project or thesis. Students are offered the option of completing a five year BS/MS program and can participate in the Freshman Learning Community Terrascope program. The graduate degree programs include both the Master of Science and a doctoral program.
2. University of California at Berkeley
The Department of Earth and Planetary Science at the University of California Berkeley is driven by an inherent quest for answers to rudimentary questions concerning the earth. Utilizing the tools of scientific study, students explore the composition of the earth and the earth’s varied structures including volcanoes and oceans. The University of California, Berkeley has a history as a pioneer in the field of geology, laying claim to many firsts. The geologists at the university developed potassium-argon dating, completed the first comprehensive earthquake study and claim to have discovered the evidence proving the theory that a comet impact killed the dinosaurs. Through continued discovery and exploration, the department strives to provide the knowledge necessary to understand the history and future of the planet.
The University of California at Berkeley offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the field of geology. The undergraduate major in geology provides a broad understanding of the natural science based on a quantitative approach to the discipline. Students adhere to a challenging curriculum which includes coursework in many areas of math and science. Specialized programs are offered providing the opportunity to develop an expertise in certain areas of the field. The challenging curriculum includes laboratory and academic coursework, both field and library research and computer training. Students who complete the program at UCB will be qualified to register as geologists in the state of California. The graduate programs include a masters of science or art and a doctoral program. Specializations are offered in many areas of the field.
3. University of Wisconsin at Madison
The Department of Geoscience at the University of Wisconsin is an interdisciplinary department offering a program which encompasses the wide breadth of the field. The areas of study at the university include, among others, structural geology, tectonics, quaternary geology, economic geology, stratigraphy, sedimentology, geomicrobiology and geophysics. The 20 award winning faculty members offer expertise in many of the sub-disciplines of the field. The department is involved in research on the continents and in the oceans. The universities state of the art laboratories, equipment and extensive library provide substantial academic support. Guest lectures and seminars foster an environment of collaboration and academic exchange.
Geology majors at the University of Wisconsin can pursue both undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The undergraduate curriculum combines coursework from various earth sciences. The program is intended to develop the students’ analytical and reasoning skills and to advance their quantitative understanding of the structures of the earth. More than one hundred courses are offered. Students have the option of specializing in geophysics, but it is recommended only if they intend to pursue a graduate degree in the field. Students are offered the option of pursuing double major. An honors program is available for dedicated students who demonstrate academic excellence. The graduate program requires students to complete a summer field mapping course and one year each of college chemistry, physics and calculus. Both masters and doctoral programs are offered.
4. University of Washington
The Department of Earth and Planetary sciences at Washington University embraces a unique approach to the discipline; examining the planetary elements of the earth in comparison to other planets in the solar system. The department explores the areas of geochemistry, geodynamics, geobiology and planetary sciences. The department offers extensive resources which include the Geosciences Node of the NASA Planetary Data System, more than one hundred and thirty labs and the McDonnell Center for Space sciences as well as state of the art lab equipment and computer facilities. Emphasis is placed on data analysis, field work and theory. Students are also offered the opportunity to participate in fellowships and assistantships to gain valuable experience and develop expertise in various areas of the discipline.
Both undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered in the geology field. Participation in research projects extends the opportunity to engage in meaningful collaborative work with faculty members and other students. The undergraduate students are required to complete written and oral presentations as upper classmen. Students are required to complete a research seminar or the Ideas and Controversies in the Geosciences course, a summer field camp and requisite courses in a variety of earth science courses. Courses in physics, mathematics and chemistry are also required. Graduate degree programs are intensive research curriculums where students engage in fieldwork at locations around the world. The students are trained in data analysis, theoretical approaches and laboratory measurements.
5. Columbia University
The internationally renowned earth and environmental science program at Columbia University encompasses the breadth and depth of the discipline. Working in close proximity with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the university examines the earth’s structures and systems from the innermost areas to the entire global scale including continents, oceans, and even the earth’s core. By exploring the earth through this comprehensive perspective, students are able to achieve a thorough understanding of the discipline. The study includes a historical exploration of the earth continuing into the present to ensure scientists are able to predict future events.
The undergraduate and graduate programs offer a range of degree options in geology. The undergraduate major in Earth and Environmental Sciences prepares students for graduate studies or a career with a specialization in geoscience. The earth science program covers the areas of geological, tectonic and hydrologic processes over the course of the earth’s history. Students examine the formation of fossil fuels and mineral deposits as well as the triggers and causes of natural hazards such as earthquakes and volcanoes. The motivated students also have the option of participating in the honors program. The graduate programs include both master and doctorate degree options. Students can pursue a dual masters degree program; obtaining a degree in earth and environmental science and journalism. A Ph.D. program in Earth and Environmental Science is offered.
6. Stanford University
The Department of Geological & Environmental Sciences at Stanford University offers a diverse comprehensive, in-depth program which encompasses a wide range of areas within the field. The program examines the processes which shape the landscape of the earth, the history of the earth and its evolution and the development of natural hazards. Students develop an extensive understanding of the field through research opportunities, field experience and academic training. The location of the university near the nations most active fault systems and mountain ranges provides a unique opportunity to experience and investigate the areas being studied. A specialized curriculum in engineering geology and hydrogeology provides a unique opportunity to study the characterizations and risk of geological hazards and the application of both geological and engineering principals.
The degree programs at the university provide students with the training required to pursue a career in the field or to develop a specialization in the area to help in other career tracts. The undergraduate curriculum provides a foundation in the fundamentals of the discipline, knowledge of the quantitative and analytical methods used and the essential research skills necessary to explore the field. Students are required to complete a series of courses in earth sciences, mathematics and physics, and a six week field based project to learn field techniques, mapping and written report skills. The graduate curriculum includes both coursework and independent research projects. The program is tailored to the student’s interests and is monitored by a faculty member assigned as an advisor. Students have the option of completing a coterminal BS/MS program. A doctorate program is also offered.
7. Pennsylvania State University
The Department of Geosciences in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at Pennsylvania State University examines the wide range of subdisciplines studying the earth’s structure, from its earliest beginnings and throughout its evolution. The university focuses on the processes which have shaped the earth during its development and the theory that claims all of the earth’s geological processes were the result of the motion of the interlocking plates in the lithosphere, plate tectonic theory. The department studies the distribution and features of the rocks on the earth’s surface and their capacity as a natural resource, the formation and location of energy resources such as gas, coal and uranium and the importance of geology in relation to engineering.
Students pursuing a degree in geosciences at the University of Pennsylvania are offered a comprehensive program. The undergraduate program includes coursework in mathematics, chemistry, physics, biology and geology. Specializations in the field are an option. Students can pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Geoscience, a general Bachelor of Science in Geoscience or with a hydrogeology option, and a bachelor of science in earth sciences. Minor programs include astrobiology, earth systems, watersheds, and marine sciences. The graduate programs at the university are interdisciplinary programs taught by 37 professors. Students have the option of completing coursework in the areas of materials science and engineering, energy and mineral engineering, geography and meteorology to ensure a broad foundational understanding of the field. The programs are customized to each students are of interest and includes extensive research opportunities.
8. Harvard University
The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University endeavors to be both a pioneer and a leader in the area of earth sciences. The department continues to advance existing knowledge, encourage discovery and integrate academics, research and applied science for the benefit of students, the field of science and the future of humanity. By exploring the breadth of the discipline through research, technology, field work and academics, students gain an understanding of the processes which affect earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions and other natural occurrences threatening human life and the reciprocal consequences of human activity on the earth and its resources. The university provides a rigorous and broad, wide ranging program which includes study in biology, chemistry, engineering, physics, mathematics and earth sciences.
The department offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs in geology. The undergraduate program is a cross-disciplinary program incorporates foundational courses in many disciplines. Students are able to develop a concentration through upper level courses after completing the requisite courses within the major. Joint concentrations are also offered. The intensive research projects offer undergraduate students the opportunity to participate in and contribute to major efforts with significant impact. The resources available to students include the laboratory of experimental geology, the geological museum and access to the Hoffman lab. International departmental field trips provide opportunities to gain valuable field experience. The curriculum for the graduate programs include collaborative academic work, field research and the opportunity for specialization.
9. San Diego State University
The Department of Geological Sciences at SDSU has earned recognition for their hands on educational practices. Students engage in practical application of the skills learned through the academic curriculum. The acquired knowledge gained through research in the areas of hydrogeology, earth systems history, earth quake science and geochemistry and tectonics have led to a comprehensive understanding of the discipline which is offered to the students. The department examines the effects of world population growth, diminishing non-renewable energy and manufacturing resources and the implications of these and other societal factors on the future of the earth.
The undergraduate and graduate degree programs within the department at the university cover the breadth of the discipline. The undergraduate major offers a range of specialized areas including hydrology, paleontology, sedimentary geology, geochemistry, geophysics and marine geology. Students have the opportunity to participate in a summer internship program or a research training program in a spectrum of settings which offer the opportunity for practical experience. The masters program offered in geosciences at the university offers a flexible curriculum devised by the students with the assistance of an advisor. The program has earned its ranking among the top in the nation in part due to the extensive field research and resources offered at the school and the collaborative environment offered which fosters intellectual growth.
10. University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
The Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor is located in one of the richest areas for geological study. The innovative program offered at the university offers a unique learning opportunity. The students have the opportunity to explore the geological structures of the earth first hand. The mountains offer exposed rocks, deep erosions and a variety of ecosystems, weather and hydrology to explore and examine. The school offers students the option of incorporating real world exploration (camping, hiking) into their learning curriculum.
Both undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered at the University of Michigan. The undergraduate program includes concentrations in earth systems science, environmental geosciences and oceanography. Minors are also offered in the areas of environmental geology, geochemistry, oceanography and paleontology. A teacher’s certificate program can also be pursued. Students who meet certain requirements have the option of participating in the honors program. Both masters and doctorate programs are offered in geological sciences; a Master of Science or doctor of philosophy. Areas of study include biogeochemistry and biomineralogy, carbonate sedimentology & Stable isotope geochem as well as geochronology and geodynamics. Students must complete a thesis project or a publishable scientific paper to be judge by the faculty.