Why a Geoscience Degree?
Geoscience is the scientific study of the earth. The geosciences include geology, geography, and earth science. Colleges and universities are increasingly grouping these interrelated physical sciences together within a single geoscience department.
Graduates of geoscience programs find work as environmental geologists, hydrologists, geographic information systems (GIS) analysts, remote sensing specialists, petroleum geologists, and educators. Geoscientists identify safe places to dispose of waste, study factors that affect water quality, run computer-based analyses of landscapes and habitats, and discover new mineral resources.
This is an excellent time to explore a career in geoscience. Opportunities for geologists, geographers, and earth scientists are quickly expanding due to rising concerns about environmental degradation and energy supplies. Geographers who can integrate modern mapping technologies with websites and apps are also in high demand.
B.S. in Geosciences
While most geoscience positions require a bachelor's degree, an associate's degree and related experience may be sufficient for some technician jobs. Some geoscientists pursue master's degrees to advance their careers, or doctoral degrees to work in academia.
Undergraduate students take foundational courses in geology, as well as classes in structural geology, geochemistry, geophysics, hydrology, and environmental science. They also take classes in chemistry, biology, and math, and learn about GIS and other specialized computer analysis techniques.
Coursework outside of these core areas can vary considerably. Since geoscience programs are interdisciplinary, they may place a greater emphasis on one particular area. Available electives will align with the faculty's areas of specialty. For example, geoscience programs may specialize in hydrology, geography, economic geology, environmental geology, planetary geology, or related areas.
Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania offers a Bachelor of Science in Geoscience. Drexel is well-known for its programs in science and technology. Its robust undergraduate degree in geoscience ensures that students gain critical field experience through cooperative programs, required field trips, and a mandatory summer geological field camp.
Students take a minimum of 120 semester hours of classes on evolution, mineralogy, sedimentary geology, petrology, structural geology, geologic field methods, and geologic field analysis. Foundational courses in chemistry, physics, biology, computer science, languages, liberal arts, and calculus are also required. Students can choose from a wide range of electives in hydrogeology, geomorphology, watershed analysis, natural disasters, oceanography, and other areas.
Florida International University in Miami, Florida offers a Bachelor of Science in Geoscience. This program gives students a solid a foundation in earth science leading to licensure as a Professional Geologist in the State of Florida. Students can also choose to expand their areas of expertise with a concentration in atmospheric sciences. This track, which focuses on meteorology and climatology, meets undergraduate coursework requirements for professional certification by the American Meteorological Society.
Online Geoscience Degree Options
Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester offers an online Bachelor of Science in Geosciences. Students take 120 credits in geology, chemistry, physics, geohazards, geostatistics, natural resources, earth system science, computer programming, and other areas. They can choose to concentrate in geospatial technologies or natural resources and conservation. Students learn how to work with data, and participate in instructor-led labwork with custom lab kits. The program integrates the geographic skills needed to analyze field projects. Students also learn how to communicate their findings to supervisors and stakeholders.
BS in Geosciences - Geospatial Technology
Geospatial technology refers to computerized methods of recording, storing, processing, and analyzing spatial information. These technologies include geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing (recording information remotely through satellites, laser scans, and other methods), and photogrammetry (processing and interpreting aerial photos). Geospatial technologies are essential to research in the earth and environmental sciences.
Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in Harrisburg, PA offers a Bachelor of Science in Geospatial Technology. Students develop a solid foundation in basic geospatial concepts and techniques. The program also offers instruction in Web application development, which is growing by leaps and bounds; many major environmental organizations and government agencies deploy web maps. Students also learn database development and management skills. The program emphasizes hands-on, project-based learning. Students also gain practical experience through internship opportunities.
The University of Texas at Dallas administers a Bachelor of Science in Geospatial Information Sciences (GIS). The program requires a minimum of 120 semester credit hours, including 42 from the major and 32 credits of electives. Undergraduates take classes on GIS, remote sensing, spatial concepts, and global change. Introductory coursework covers how to integrate spatial data from multiple sources that use different geographic coordinates. Students learn to use spatially referenced information such as aerial photos and laser scans to manage and protect the environment. They also learn to create maps that help people navigate urban areas and design more livable cities. Undergraduates can choose to concentrate in geocomputation (computer programming and modeling) or geovisualization (cartography and 3D design).
Online Degree Options
Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester offers an online Bachelor of Science in Geosciences with a Concentration in Geospatial Technology. Students start out with required courses in geology, chemistry, geohazards, atmospheric science, geostatistics, and geoscientific research. Later, they move on to take courses in remote sensing and imagery analysis, spatial analysis, GIS, and geospatial programming. Students learn how to use specialized software packages, along with programming techniques that customize the software and automate processes.
BS in Geosciences - Natural Resources Conservation
Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester administers an online B.S. in Geosciences with a Concentration in Natural Resources and Conservation. Students begin with required courses in chemistry, physics, geology, geohazards, atmospheric science, data analysis, and geoscientific research. They later take courses within the concentration, including classes on climate change, environmental issues, energy and society, waste management, and environmental remediation. The program includes standard, instructor-led lab work. Students learn how to communicate scientific concepts to decision-makers, in addition to research techniques.
A license or certification may be required for some geoscience positions. For example, environmental agencies in several states will only accept proposals and reports submitted by a licensed Professional Geologist. Licensure requires a four to six years of work experience, and a passing score on the Professional Geologist (PG) exam.
Some states also require cartographers to be licensed as surveyors. Candidates must have earned at least a high school diploma, and must also pass a test.
Optional certifications that can enhance job prospects are also available.
For example, a Certified GIS Professional (GISP) credential is available through the GIS Certification Institute. Several states have recognized and endorsed the GISP. The GISP credential has also been endorsed by the National Association of Counties.
Certification renewal is required every five years. Esri Technical Certification is also available for Esri's ArcGIS software, a suite of popular GIS solutions. While the above certifications are optional, they set candidates apart, demonstrating their skill and dedication. Such certifications are increasingly important for promotions and advancement.
The American Institute of Hydrology (AIH) issues certifications to qualified professional hydrologists. Its certifications help ensure quality within the profession, and increase the marketability of certified individuals. Licensing may also be required for hydrologists in some states.
Job opportunities for geoscientists are expanding rapidly. Employment of geologists is expected to grow 15%-21%, which is faster than the average for all occupations. These professionals can expect high salaries; the median annual salary for geoscientists was $91,920 in 2013. Demand for geoscientists will be driven by new geospatial technologies and concerns about climate change, natural disasters, pollution, and energy supplies. Candidates with practical experience gained through internships and volunteer work will have the best opportunities.