5 Most Popular Colleges for Geology Majors

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  5 Most Popular Colleges for Geology Majors

Where future geologists earn their degrees, and the cost of attendance.

By | July 23, 2013


Geology is much more than the study of rocks. Much like agriculture students, geology majors learn about the lay of the land and how the earth’s systems work together.

Studying the earth can be a big task, especially for undergraduates. The following five schools do an excellent job of teaching students what they need to know – without digging to the Earth’s crust to do so. We’ve also included the cost of tuition, so you can be prepared for the bills ahead.

5. Columbia University: $22,514

Undergraduates can find one of the most popular geology programs at Columbia University. Internationally known, the Earth and Environmental Science Department immerses students in exploration of the earth. From structures to internal systems throughout the world, Columbia’s geology majors examine every aspect of the earth’s evolution. Students also conduct studies to examine how the earth is currently changing.

The geology major is designed to prepare students for graduate school. Students are encouraged to combine disciplines, such as environmental science and journalism, to discover additional interests. Research is also an important facet of geology at Columbia. Majors work at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory to understand how their research plays out on a global scale.

4. San Diego State University: $7,076 (non-residents add an additional $372 per unit)

San Diego State University’s department of geological sciences is all about getting students’ hands dirty: the program earned national recognition for its hands-on research experiments. Undergrads learn to apply basic geology skills to a variety of situations as they progress through the curriculum. With world population growth, diminishing resources, and manufacturing as focal points, SDSU teaches students to look to the future as they study the planet.

Both extensive field research and plentiful resources contribute to SDSU’s excellent geology program. Students conduct research in hydrogeology, earth systems history, geochemistry, and tectonics. Different concentrations are also available, offering students programs in paleontology, sedimentary geology, marine geology, and more.

3. Washington University in St Louis: $12,383 (residents), $29,938 (non-residents)

The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis takes an out-of-this-world approach to geology. Majors devote their studies to comparing the makeup of both earth and other planets. Much of the program is focused on space and planet studies. Students have access to resources such as the Geosciences Node of the NASA Planetary Data System and McDonnell Center for Space.

But space exploration isn’t the only focus within the geology department. Subprograms in geochemistry, geodynamics, and geobiology are available. With more than 130 labs, it’s no surprise that Washington University in St. Louis has a strong field research program. Upperclassmen must complete both a research seminar and a summer of fieldwork in order to graduate.

2. University of California, Berkeley: $35,000

If the physical makeup of the earth is what interests you most, Berkeley has a curriculum for you. The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences has geology majors focus on the earth’s composition and structures. With specific classes dedicated to oceans and volcanoes, students can get in-depth with any subject. Berkeley even allows students to become “experts” in the field of their choice.

Like every other major at Berkeley, the geology curriculum is challenging. It includes math and other complex sciences, so students will receive solid scientific background. The academic rigor is what makes Berkeley’s geology department the home of so many firsts. Potassium-argon dating was first developed there, and it’s where the first earthquake study was conducted. Researchers there were also the first to find evidence that a comet may have killed the dinosaurs.

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: $42,050

The impressively broad Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Studies at MIT accepted its first undergraduates in 1861. The program has been helping students develop an understanding of the earth ever since. Today, the geology program at MIT is interdisciplinary and combines elements from areas such as history and biology.

What makes MIT one of the most popular geology schools is its dedication to research. Students are given many opportunities to work in a lab environment as well as the field. Often, classes include both lectures and many hours of lab research and modeling. The undergraduate degree is flexible, allowing students to tailor it to their strengths. Most interestingly, MIT geology majors don’t look to the past for answers. Instead, they study the current state of the earth and make their own predictions for the future.

Quick Facts

  • Some colleges require students to complete summer field research before or after graduation. If this is the case, a school may award seniors their degrees on a conditional basis – the degree is only valid once the research has been turned in.
  • A degree in geology doesn’t limit you to the earth sciences industry. Graduates go on to other fields like city planning, engineering, and even law.
  • If you hope to work as a geologist in a research setting, chances are you’ll need to pursue a master’s in the field.

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