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Structural Geology Master's Degree Programs

The aim of this article is to walk you through what coursework you might expect from a master's degree program in structural geology. There is also be a brief explanation as to what you need in order to apply for such a program.

What to Expect from a Master's Degree Program in Structural Geology

If you're interested in studying structural geology at the master's level, you may have to consider pursuing a broader master's degree in geology and then concentrating your coursework and research opportunities on structural geology. Some programs offer the option of writing a thesis or not. If you choose not to write a thesis, you will likely need to take more classes before completing the program. So, what are some general areas of study you can expect from this program?

Geophysics

The goal of this area of study is to give you an understanding of the magnetic, seismic, gravitational, and electromagnetic methods for exploring the Earth's subsurface and their various applications. These applications could include oil and mineral exploration as well as geotechnical engineering. Additional topics of study might also give you an idea of the potential environmental issues that may arise from this exploration.

Aqueous Geochemistry

Through this kind of course you are able to analyze the chemical reactions that occur in water, in part due to geologic processes. These reactions may be thermodynamic or kinetic in nature, allowing for modeling. Additional topics of study could include chemical speciation and mineral dissolution/precipitation. You could also examine problems introduced by pollutants.

Remote Sensing

Here, you can learn about the technologies available to conduct remote sensing. You may explore some of the fields in which this technology is actively used. The hope is that you will be able to have an idea of the uses, limitations, and potential problems you may have with this technology and the impact it can have in conducting your own research.

Structural Geology

Here you may be given training into the research methods surrounding structural geology by learning how to analyze and interpret data that has been collected from various sources. You can also learn how to present data in a cohesive manner. You may learn how to create maps, computer models and written reports as well.

Petrology

This area of study considers the characteristics and classifications of different types of rocks. Here you can learn about the various techniques needed to figure out the origin of a particular specimen. You could also explore topics like sedimentation mechanics, phase equilibria, and geochemical modeling. Graduate programs separate these courses based on type of rock being studied, whether that be sedimentary, igneous, or metamorphic, allowing you the option to take the one(s) most applicable to your interests.

Geohydrology

This course looks to study the impact of water and water movement on geological structures as well as the effect these geological structures can have on the water. You may consider the differing impacts of porous and non-porous materials on groundwater flow in addition to hydrostatics and hydrodynamics. You may also learn techniques for taking water samples and quantifying groundwater flow. Additional topics of study include how contaminants are transported and how to construct models to predict future changes.

Tectonics

Here you may analyze the structural deformation caused by tectonics. You can discuss tectonic theory and examine the processes that occur at plate boundaries and intraplate areas. You may compare regional examples of structural deformation and conduct case studies.

What You'll Need to Apply to a Structural Geology Master's Degree Program

When applying to these programs, you generally need to have an undergraduate degree or be near completion. You likely will need to have completed previous coursework in geology in addition to other sciences and have at least a 3.0 GPA. You may also have to write a statement of purpose, where you state your areas of interest and what your goals are for both during and after completion of the program. If applying to a general geology master's degree program, you may also want to outline your particular interest in structural geology. Finally, you may also need acceptable GRE scores and two or three references from whom you can request letters of recommendation.

To summarize, when considering a structural geology program you may want to make sure you write a statement of purpose that outlines your own experience and goals within the field to make sure the program is the right fit for you. When it comes to the material you may be learning, you can expect to study topics related to hydrology, tectonics, and geochemistry.