Careers in Earth Science

What is Earth Science and What Do Earth Scientists Do?

Earth Science (also known as Geology, Geoscience, and Earth System) includes the study of the solid earth, the hydrosphere, and the atmosphere. Geology is a field- and laboratory-based, multi-disciplinary science that integrates the principles of chemistry, physics, biology and mathematics in the study of Earth processes and its history. Earth Science deals with vast distances, deep time and nanoscale features and processes.

Earth Scientists are scientific detectives who uncover the past, investigate the present and predict the future of Earth. For example, geologists determine where it is safe to live, where to find essential resources, how to deal with pollution and environmental changes, and how to remediate the damage to Earth.

Why Major in Geology or Earth System?

Because of the importance of geology to the human condition, a famous historian named Durant wrote, "Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice." What do you know about planet Earth? Are you interested in global climate change, not only recently, but over the whole lifetime of Earth? Are you fascinated by earthquakes, climate change, dinosaurs, minerals and volcanoes? Do you wonder how our natural resources can be managed to provide a sustainable standard of living for our growing population?

Students who enjoy working and recreating outdoors, have a good scientific background, and are curious about how the world around them works will find this field a rewarding area of study!

Dr. Rick Behl talks about what drew him into the study of geology:

VIDEO: The Spark - Dr. Rick Behl

Career Possibilities

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, "The need for energy, environmental protection, and responsible land and resource management is projected to spur demand for geoscientists in the future."

Well-paid career possibilities include:

  • Geologist
  • Geophysicist
  • Geochemist
  • Hydrologist
  • Hydrogeologist
  • Mineralogist
  • Paleontologist
  • Seismologist
  • Soils Engineer
  • Stratigrapher
  • Environmental Consultant/Geologist
  • Engineering Geologist
  • Petroleum Geologist
  • Mineral Explorationist
  • Oceanographer
  • Teacher
  • Science Writer
  • Park Interpreter/Ranger.

Field and Laboratory Experience

Learning geology is an amazingly hands-on experience for students. Most required earth science classes have integrated laboratory activities, using computers, microscopes, rock and mineral samples and geographical information software (GIS) programs. In addition to three courses expressly focused on developing field skills, nearly every course in the geology curriculum has 1 to 4 days of field trips in which students see, learn and do what they cannot in the classroom. This progression of field training culminates in Summer Field Camp, a 4-week integrative capstone experience for students that is usually based in the Sierra Nevada, White-Inyos or the ranges of Nevada.

Your Future in Earth Science

Our department is relatively small and every student has a personal relationship with their instructors and with each other. This is strengthened by time together in the field and lab. Our staff works closely with each student to ensure that they meet the training standards for industry or continuing education.

A graduate of our program will be prepared to join a workforce of public agencies, private enterprise or nonprofit institutions. Graduates will not only have gained a thorough understanding of geological fundamentals, but will also have learned how to communicate well and contribute as a collaborative team member.

Our emphasis on field work and internships with local companies provides "hands-on" knowledge only gained by active involvement in professional development and research.