Programs of Study

 What Programs of Study does GES offer?

The Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences offers nine undergraduate programs of study. We do not have a graduate program, which allows our faculty to concentrate on teaching and research with undergraduates. If you are interested in becoming a major, contact our Office Manager Lauri Miller (RSW 033), who will assign you a departmental academic advisor.

Before you declare, please read through a description of our degree tracks (below) and go over our What should I major in? page with your University College pre-major advisor and your secondary science advisor in GES to make sure that you find an academic program that is right for you. 

Our degree offerings:

  • Geology (BS) 244A*
    • This is the GES department's most flexible program of study (you can tailor it to your interests), and is designed to facilitate entry to either graduate school or industry, depending on the student's career plans.
  • Geology (BA) 119A*
    • Students pursuing this degree option take all the same classes the the BS in Geology (above) but must also declare a minor field of study as well as satisfy a foreign language requirement.  
    • Students who are double majoring in a BA-granting major (arts, humanities) typically use this program of study.*
  • Geology (BS) - Concentration in Environmental Geology 259C  
    • This concentration provides graduates with the hands-on skill set needed to go straight into the environmental industry upon graduation.
    • A summer field course is  not required for this concentration. 
  • Geology (BS) - Concentration in Paleontology 259D* 
    • This program builds off the BS in Geology and targets the dedicated undergraduate interested in pursuing a career in paleontology or museum studies by providing a strong interdisciplinary background rooted in geology and biology. 
    • This program contains numerous opportunities for student research and fieldwork in paleontology and museum studies, and students receive biology minor.
    • This program of study is designed to facilitate entry to graduate school.* 
  • Geology (BS) - Concentration in Quantitative Geoscience 259E* 
    • This concentration is for students who are interested in the mathematical and computational side of geology, and is designed to facilitate entry to graduate school.*
    • This track provides graduates with the technical skills that they need to succeed at the graduate level, especially for those interested in the fields of hydrology, hydrogeology, structural geology, engineering geology, environmental geology and geophysics. 
    • Students may elect to receive math minor.
  • Geology (BS) - Concentration in Earth/Environmental Science Secondary Education 259G 
    • Earth Science is taught in all North Carolina public schools at the secondary level, and this program of study prepares students to teach in the NC public school system (all physical sciences, not just earth sciences) immediately upon graduation.
    • Graduates are Highly Qualified as defined by the regulations set forth by the federal government. 
    • Upon graduation, students with this degree qualify for double licensure in Earth Science and Comprehensive Science in the state of NC.
  • Environmental Science (BS) 121C - Concentration in Earth System Science
    • the Earth System Science program of study is a flexible, interdisciplinary earth sciences track that concentrates on the intersection of the geosciences, the physical sciences, and the life sciences.  
    • students must pick an area of focus from the following: surface procesess, hydrosphere, atmosphere, earth materials, or biosphere
  • Environmental Science (BS) 121E - Concentration in Quantitative Environmental Science
    • This is for students who wish to pursue graduate study or highly technical fields in climate/geophysical/hydrological modeling, which require significantly more math, physics, and computer programming coursework than the other Environmental Science programs of study. 
    • Students may elect to receive math minor.
  • Environmental Science (BS) 121F - Concentration in Natural Resources 
    • The Natural Resources program of study spans the intersection of the earth sciences, life sciences, conservation, and policy. 
    • This is designed for students who are interested in going into conservation and policy upon graduation rather than highly technical fields.
  • Environmental Science (BS) 121B - concentration Life Science
    • the Life Science concentration has been discontinued for students entering in Fall 2024. Only students who have catalog years prior to 2024-2025 are eligible for this program of study. We encourage students who were considering this concentration to look at the Environmental Science - Natural Resources concentration, the Environmental Science - Earth Systems Science concentration with biosphere electives, or the Biology (BS) - Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology programs of study.

* requires six credits of field courses in geology or related geoscience fields, typically during summer. These may be taken all during the same summer, or across multiple summers.

What's the difference between environmental science, environmental studies, and environmental geology?

  • Environmental Science is an interdisciplinary field that investigates environmental problems by asking questions that science can answer. It involves coursework from multiple physical and life science disciplines, where courses in geology, biology, chemistry, physics, statistics, and calculus are required.
  • Geology is the study of the Earth - from deep time to the present, from surface processes down to the Earth's core. 
    • Most students (and parents) don't know this, but a degree in geology is extremely versatile; it allows you to get jobs in the environmental cleanup industry, in the green tech industry, in water resources, in coastal preservation, in climate change mitigation, in the materials science industry, in civil engineering firms, in risk assessment/management, and in geothermal energy... in addition to the traditional boom/bust geoscience fields like mining and oil/gas. 
    • Environmental Geology is a concentration within the geology major which allows students to gain hands-on skills needed for immediate employment in the environmental industry.
  • Environmental Studies (taught in the Sustainable Development Department) investigates how humans interact with their environment, and how policies can impact the environment. It involves coursework from discplines outside of the physical and life sciences, such as sustainable development, anthropology, political science, humanities, and technology. Environmental studies is not a science degree, and does not provide the training required to work in the environmental science fields.

Professional Licensure Opportunities

  • Professional licensure (Professional Geologist or Professional Engineer)is vital in some fields of the environmental industry (particularly hydrogeology). Without a PG, you would stay in entry level positions, but with a PG, you can move up the career ladder to higher pay and more opportunities.
    • Students who complete specific coursework within the BS/BA Geology programs of study and the BS Environmental Science - Earth System Science program of study (depending on the elective group chosen) will have completed a majority of the requirements necessary to become a Geologist in Training, which is the first step in gaining  Professional Geologist (PG) licensure in North Carolina.
    • In 21 states, you can only get PG licensure with a Geology degree. Therefore, if you are planning to go into the environmental industry and work in a job that deals with groundwater or soil contamination, we recommend that you major in Geology rather than in Environmental Science so you can get licensure that is valid in all 50 states.
  • Upon graduation, students with a BS in Geology - Earth/Environmental Science Secondary Education degree qualify for double licensure in Earth Science and Comprehensive Science in the state of NC.

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