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Department of Earth
and Space Sciences

BS Earth and Space Sciences Degree - Geology Concentration

Several students standing in front of a rock face

Geology is the study of the non-living part of our planet. As a professional science, it encompasses the study of rocks and minerals, groundwater and surface water, energy resources, ancient life and Earth history, volcanoes and earthquakes, and soil and water contaminants.

Geology also focuses on matters of social and economic importance such as the identification of mineral and energy resources, but also the study of geological hazards such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides, flooding, and environmental pollution. Geologists and environmental scientists work collectively to protect our drinking water, soil, and other parts of the natural environment. Geologists are broadly trained Earth scientists who get the opportunity to work both indoors and outdoors as part of their academic and professional careers.

Career Opportunities

The first question students and their parents often ask is "can you make a living as a geologist?". The answer is a resounding "Yes!". Geologists work in industry, government agencies, as private business owners, and in teaching and research. In governmental work, geologists are often employed at federal and state geological surveys, environmental protection agencies, mining bureaus, and water resource divisions.

Geologists employed in industry commonly work assessing, monitoring, and cleaning up groundwater, surface water, and soil pollution – but may also be employed in fields such as mineral and energy exploration. It’s important to remember that virtually all of the materials we use in society are made up of minerals – from the houses we live in, to the cars we drive, to the electronics we use, and even the food we eat!

Geologists also work as educators and scientific researchers. Geologists in colleges and universities train the next generation of Earth scientists and often work at the leading edge of scientific discovery. Geologists in elementary and secondary schools often teach Earth Science - the broad study of the physical Earth and its systems - but typically have the academic training to become certified to teach in many of the Physical Sciences.

Individuals who may not wish to pursue geology as a profession may still profit from a geology major. A bachelor's degree in geology is an excellent beginning for a career in science education, paleontology, archaeology, environmental law, and even business.

Geologists, like most physical scientists, are in high demand and work in fields with opportunity for growth and advancement. In 2019, median income for Geoscientists was >$90,000 per year - much higher than the U.S. national average.

Bar chart showing the median annual wages in May 2019 for Geoscientists from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, described in detail below.

The median annual wage in May 2019 for geoscientists, except hydrologists and geographers was $92,040.

The median annual wage in May 2019 for physical scientists was $81,270.

The total median annual wage in May 2019 for all occupations was $39,810.

US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook. Geoscientists.