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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.

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.

Research by students is a hallmark of the BS program, and a thesis is required of all BS majors. Earth science students may and do pursue research as early as the first year in the program.

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.

Most students graduating with a bachelor's degree in Earth sciences work in the environmental services industry and in the oil and gas industry. Other industries employing BS and BA graduates include mining, research institutes, and federal, state and local governments.

Starting salaries for students receiving bachelor's degrees in 2015 ranged between $30,000 and $60,000 annually. Median salaries for all Earth sciences are highest in the energy industry and the geoscience field. Starting salaries for MS graduates average $99,000 and PhD graduates’ starting salaries average $108,000 (2015 American Association of Petroleum Geologists survey). Civic employers typically pay the least; corporate employers typically pay the most. State and federal governments tend to fall in between. Graduates with a BA in Earth sciences usually start employment at the low end of the BS salary range.

Dr. Anne Carey, Undergraduate Academic Coordinator
School of Earth Sciences
275 Mendenhall Laboratory
125 S. Oval Mall
Columbus, OH 43210

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.