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Earth Sciences

Degree: BS, BA

Campus: Columbus

College: Arts and Sciences

Earth sciences concern the Earth’s entire physical makeup and the history of the physical and biological events that occurred within and upon it over the past four and a half billion years. Earth scientists are curious about the whole Earth, from its ancient past to its present and future, and they use the tools of chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics and other sciences to study Earth.

At Ohio State, students choose from four specializations for the bachelor of science degree: 

The geological sciences specialization focuses on the traditional areas of geology, including mineralogy and petrology, sedimentation and stratigraphy, paleontology, and geochemistry. Students pursuing this specialization will be well-prepared for employment in a variety of industries and for graduate school in geological sciences. 

The Earth system science specialization focuses on areas beyond traditional geological sciences, including hydrogeology, glaciology, oceanography and geomorphology. Students pursuing this specialization explore relationships between Earth sciences and other disciplines, including geography, atmospheric sciences, the biological sciences, economics, natural resources and engineering.

The geophysics specialization focuses on quantitative aspects of geophysics and geodynamics and provides students preparation for admission to competitive graduate programs in geophysics, and for geophysics positions within the energy industry.

The petroleum geology and geophysics specialization combines aspects of the geological sciences and geophysics programs and trains students interested in graduate study in petroleum geology and geophysics, internships at major oil companies, and for immediate employment at small- and mid-sized petroleum companies.

Upon admission to the university, students can declare a major in earth sciences within the College of Arts and Sciences. Students should then contact a the Earth Sciences advisor, Dr. Karen Royce, to map out an appropriate program of courses.

The School of Earth Sciences offers two major programs, a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science. Both programs involve course work in preparation for the major and the major program itself.

BA program preparation for the major consists of the following courses in basic science and mathematics: five credit hours
 of general chemistry, five credit hours in calculus and analytic geometry, eight credit hours of biological sciences, and four credit hours each of physical and historical geology. The BA major consists of at least 30 credit hours of course work in upper level geological science courses or other approved upper level courses in natural sciences. Most students who have pursued the BA major pursue careers other than in the Earth sciences, such as secondary education or law. 

BS program preparation for the major consists of the following courses in basic science and mathematics: 5–10 credit hours
 of general chemistry, 10 credit hours of calculus and analytic geometry, four credit hours of data analysis, 5–10 credit hours of introductory physics, four credit hours of biological science, four credit hours each of physical geology and historical geology, and two additional courses in other sciences or mathematics. 

Each specialization has a set of core courses and may consist of classes in mineralogy, petrology, structural geology, paleontology, sedimentation and stratigraphy, geophysics, petroleum geology, geochemistry, oceanography, geomorphology, hydrology, hydrogeology, field geology, and additional credit hours in upper-level Earth sciences courses.

As part of the BS program, students work with a faculty member to design and conduct a research project and write a thesis. Research begins as early as the first year. A thesis course is available for students to learn about conducting a thesis, technical writing, and finding a project and a faculty member.

Student organizations of interest to students in Earth sciences include Geo Club, the Earth sciences national honorary society, Sigma Gamma Epsilon, and some student chapters of national professional organizations.

Students interested in pursuing careers in water resources, oceanography, natural hazards, or the oil and gas industry should consider a Bachelor of Science degree in Earth Sciences. Since 2012, about one-third of our graduates have gone to work at companies associated with energy production, including Schlumberger, Baker-Hughes, and Core Laboratories, and at environmental consulting companies, including Eagon and Associates, DHDC Engineering Consulting, EMSL Analytical, and Battelle Memorial Institute. Each year a few graduates seek and find employment with government agencies including Ohio EPA, Ohio Seismology, and county soil and water conservation districts. 

About half of the program's graduates go directly to graduate school with full support and stipend at universities that include Stanford, University of Texas, Penn State, and University of Southern California.

The median salary for geoscientists in 2018 was $91,000, and entry level salaries for students with a bachelors degree range from $40,000-$54,000.

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Students will participate in the school's six-week summer geology Field Camp, which has been in operation for over 70 years. This is a capstone experience for our geology majors, as it provides a unique environment for field-based research experiences for students and faculty. Students typically take this in their junior or senior year. Scholarships are available to offset costs.

Interested in a career in the STEM fields?

Check out the STEM Pathway to discover the many majors Ohio State offers that can lead to a career in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.