Geology is a science concerned with the Earth—its relationship to the solar system, its origin and developmental history, its structure and composition and its dynamic processes. Geology also relates to human endeavors and needs, including the use of natural resources, the preservation of the environment and the mitigation of natural hazards and global change.
At the junction of the high plains and the Rocky Mountains, CU Boulder is ideally suited for the study of the geological sciences as the surrounding area is a natural outdoor laboratory that allows for the study of a variety of geological features of all ages in a diversity of settings.
My PhD in geology/geography from CU was the best interdisciplinary background I could have gotten for my career with the USGS, studying geologic records of climate change. I just entered my 35th year with the USGS and my background from CU is something I tap into every day."
— Daniel R. Muhs (PhD 1980), research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey
The Department of Geological Sciences, through excellence in teaching and research, advances understanding and appreciation of the Earth and its resources, structure, processes and history. The department works to create an informed and scientifically literate public, capable of making the choices required for a sustainable future, and are dedicated to educating the next generation of leading Earth and planetary scientists. Through basic research into minerals, sediments, rocks, fossils, natural fluids and gases, and landforms, their faculty and students further understanding of the past, present, and future whole Earth system, including linkages between the solid Earth, and its enveloping hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere.
The University of Colorado Boulder is located in a region having the greatest concentration of geophysical researchers in the nation and perhaps the world, which has elevated the department to one of worldwide prominence. It has maintained a reputation of excellence and world-wide acclaim for more than 100 years with its graduate program ranked in the top 20 in the nation, “geosciences” more broadly ranked #2 in the world by the most recent U.S. News and World Reports rankings, and the “earth sciences” discipline at CU Boulder ranked #1 globally by the most recent Shanghai Rankings. As well, the department’s “remote sensing” research is ranked #21 in the world.
The undergraduate major in geological sciences offers two options, each leading to a bachelor of arts (B.A.) degree. Students who would like to acquire a basic knowledge of geology while majoring in some other field should consider the minor program in geology:
In addition, the department is home to a number of award-winning faculty, including, but not limited to, two distinguished professors, a distinguished research lecturer, two different highly cited researchers, a recipient of the Colorado Governor’s Award for High-Impact Research, and early career award winners from the National Science Foundation and NASA.
The Department of Geological Sciences considers the diverse opportunities for field studies in the high plains and central Rocky Mountains of Colorado a particular strength of its undergraduate programs, and is nationally recognized in several areas of research including:
Their diverse faculty also include several who have joint affiliations with or collaborate with scientists at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, Biofrontiers Institute, the CU Museum of Natural History, the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, NASA and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. These groups are involved in interdisciplinary research relevant to the region, global change issues, earthquakes, remote sensing, hydrology, planetary geology, and other geological and geophysical topics throughout the world.
For the undergraduate students pursuing a degree in geological sciences, there are a number of research opportunities beyond just class work:
The B.A. degree with a major in geology can lead to various entry-level positions in the energy and economic-minerals industry, environmental evaluation and regulation, industrial relations, reclamation, resource evaluation, research, surveying, and numerous other areas. The degree is also excellent preparation for later professional work in such fields as journalism, law, and economics.
If you are interested in professional work in the earth sciences, graduate school is generally necessary. You can then specialize in fields such as geochemistry, paleobiology, tectonics, remote sensing, paleoclimatology, geohydrology, petroleum geology, global change, paleoceanography, environmental geology, sedimentation, basin analysis, structural geology, mineralogy, ore deposits, petrology, geophysics, surficial and glacial geology, and soils.
Energy and mining companies, consulting firms, land development corporations, environmental analysis firms, research organizations, federal agencies, and academic institutions are among those organizations that commonly employ professional earth scientists.
Career Services offers free services for all CU Boulder degree-seeking students, and alumni up to one year after graduation, to help students discover who they are, what they want to do, and how to get there. They are the bridge between academics and the world of work by discussing major and career exploration, internship or job searching, and graduate school preparation.
According to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
At CU Boulder, Geological Sciences graduates earn more than the nationwide average of comparable majors as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. CU Boulder alumni in this discipline earn an estimated annual salary of $91,433, based on a pool of 325 alumni who graduated between 1989 and 2018. This amount is also the more than the average for all CU Boulder graduates with a bachelor's degree, according to a survey by Esmi Alumni Insight of 25,000 alumni who graduated during the same stretch.
Jobs in geoscience are expected to grow by 14 percent, faster than the average for all jobs, between 2016-2026.
The geological sciences department has an extensive list of alumni that are either working or have worked in a variety of industries across the globe. Some alumni of the program include: