What Is Geology?

Geology is the study of the rocks, minerals, the structures of the Earth and the processes that created those structures. If you decide to study geology, you could specialize in one of the many sub-fields. Read on to learn more about the field of geology and the education needed to work as a geologist. Schools offering Environmental Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Geology Defined

Geology is the study of the history and composition of the Earth's crust. If you become a scientist who specializes in the study of geology, you'd be called a geologist. As a geologist, you may study rocks and mineral formations to determine the development of structures on the Earth. You'll likely spend a large amount of your time performing research in the field. You may also spend time analyzing materials in a laboratory and writing reports of your findings.

By studying rocks and their features, you may determine the movements of the continents, the formation and disappearance of water sources or other historical forces of land-shaping. Geology is a broad area of study, and you may choose to focus on one of many sub-specialties, including the following:

  • Climatology
  • Paleontology
  • Glaciology
  • Petrology
  • Seismology

Important Facts About Geology

Education Options Undergraduate programs, graduate degrees and doctorate programs available
Key Skills Critical thinking, communication, interpersonal skills, physical stamina, outdoor skills
Job Outlook (2012-2022) 16% (for geoscientists)
Work Environment Offices, laboratories, outdoors, international locations

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Options

In order to pursue a career in geology, you may wish to pursue a bachelor's degree or graduate degree. You may expect to complete a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Geology in four years. A B.S. program will focus more on mathematics and practical skills in preparation for an entry-level career in geology or graduate study, while a B.A. program will likely prepare you for a career in science writing or teaching.

Once you complete your bachelor's degree, you can pursue an entry-level position in the field, such as environmental geologist, hydrogeologist or petroleum geologist. If you desire a higher-paying job or want to focus on a sub-field of geology, you might choose to complete a master's or doctoral degree program. Some states also require you to become licensed.

Topics of Study

While enrolled in a bachelor's degree program in geology, you may study mineralogy, analyzing hardness, color, fracture or other properties of minerals to determine the conditions of their formation and provide clues about the history of Earth. You will study rocks, solid mixtures of these minerals, which are divided into three separate classes: igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic. You may learn how to use seismographs to determine size and scope of earth shaking during earthquakes. You'll use seismic measuring to determine the composition of subsurface material for exploratory mining or construction. You might also learn of taxonomy and paleontology to determine the movement and evolution of life on this planet, or study how to map areas of mineral density and natural structures to determine tectonic movements.

Career Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts faster than average job growth in the geosciences field. Opportunities in the petroleum geology field are expected to be strong, and demand for geological consultants is also predicted. Research and academia jobs should be more difficult to achieve, however. Salary prospects for geoscientists are also good. As of 2014, the middle half of geoscientists earned between $61,800 and $129,270.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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