The Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences offers a BS and BA in Geology, as well as a BS in Environmental Science, and many specialty concentrations. 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.
What's the difference between environmental science, environmental studies, and environmental geology?
- Geology is the study of the Earth - from deep time to the present, from surface processes down to the Earth's core. Many students 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, as well as in the traditional geoscience fields like geothermal energy, 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 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, including geology, biology, chemistry, physics, and math.
- Environmental Studies (taught in the Sustainable Development Department, not in AGES) 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.
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 to make sure that you find an academic program that is right for you.
Our degree offerings:
- Geology (BS) 244A: This standard geology degree produces a well-rounded graduate and is the department's most flexible option for students (you can tailor it to your interests), but still requires considerable external coursework in calculus, chemistry, and calculus-based physics. This program of study is designed to facilitate entry to 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 degree track typically use this degree track.*
Geology with Concentrations
- Geology (BS) - Environmental Geology 259C: This concentration provides graduates with the ability to apply geological principles to the solution of environmental problems. Graduates with this degree track will study modern earth processes and use analytical techniques that are applicable to measuring active systems, and learn the hands-on skill set needed to go straight into the environmental industry upon graduation. A summer field course is not required for this track. Note: this is not the same as the Environmental Science (BS) with a concentration in Earth Systems Science, which contains more math and computational courses and fewer geology courses.
- Geology (BS) - 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) - Quantitative Geoscience 259E: This concentration is for students who are interested in the mathematical and computational side of geology. 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. This program of study is designed to facilitate entry to graduate school.*
- Geology (BS) - Earth/Environmental Science Secondary Education 259G: Earth Science is taught in all North Carolina public schools at the secondary level. A concentration in secondary education prepares graduates for public school teaching. 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; essentially, this program of study prepares students to teach in the NC public school system (all physical sciences, not just earth sciences) immediately upon graduation.
* requires six credits of a summer field course (or multiple courses) in geology or related geoscience fields
- Environmental Science (BS) 121B - Life Science: the Life Science program of study is a flexible, interdisciplinary track that spans the intersection of the earth sciences and life sciences. Will be discontinued in Fall 2024. Note: this is not the same as the Biology (BS) with a concentration in Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, which is taught in the Biology department and does not require geology or physics classes.
- Environmental Science (BS) 121C - 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 and physical sciences with the life sciences. Note: this is not the same as the Geology (BS) with a concentration in Environmental Geology, which contains more geology courses and fewer math and computational courses. The curriculum for this will be radically updated for Fall 2024. Get a sneak preview here!
- Environmental Science (BS) 121E - Quantitative Environmental Science: coming in Fall 2024... 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. This program of study is designed to facilitate entry to graduate school. Get a sneak preview here!
- Environmental Science (BS) 121F - Natural Resources: coming in Fall 2024... the Natural Resources program of study is an interdisciplinary track that spans the intersection of the earth sciences, life sciences, conservation, and policy. Get a sneak preview here!
Professional Licensure Opportunities
- Professional licensure (Professional Geologist or Professional Engineer) is necessary to move up the career ladder in the environmental industry. Students who complete specific coursework within the BS/BA Geology (all concentrations except for the Secondary Education Track) and the BS Environmental Science - Earth System Science degree tracks 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. Note that in 21 states, you can only get PG licensure with a Geology degree. This list (open only to those logged in with an @appstate.edu account) provides the requirements for PG licensure in each state. Therefore, if you are planning to go into the environmental industry and to possibly get PG licensure, we recommend that you major in Geology rather than in Environmental Science.
- Students who complete the BS Environmental Science - Life Science degree track (note - will be discontinued for students incoming in Fall 2024) will have completed a majority of the requirements necessary to become a Wetland Professional in Training (WPIT), which is the first step in gaining PWS (Professional Wetland Scientist) certification.
- 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.
Other useful information
- Independent Research - One of the benefits of majoring in Geology at Appalachian is the opportunity to conduct independent research with one or more faculty members in the department. Independent study forms can be found here.
- Scholarships and Funding Opportunities
- Internships and Summer Employment
- Honors Program Requirements