Earth & Planetary Sciences

Earth & Planetary Sciences investigates processes controlling the evolution of the Earth, its environment, and life through time. The need to understand both history and process makes Earth & Planetary Sciences inherently interdisciplinary and our department is closely tied to Marine and Coastal Sciences (SEBS and SAS) and Environmental Sciences (SEBS). The major In Geological Sciences covers the core areas of geology and still allows ample opportunity for students to specialize through additional courses in math and allied sciences. The major can be completed in three semesters once basic Calculus, Chemistry, and Physics courses are completed. Our majors enjoy employment opportunities in environmental and energy industries, as well as excellent placement in the top graduate programs in the country.

Learning Goals

Majors and Minors. Our majors and minors need to evaluate processes controlling the evolution of Earth, its environment, and life through time.  They should think in terms of interdisciplinary interactions of inquiry with scientific and societal relevance: global changes to the solid Earth and its environment, oceans, climate, and life; natural hazards (earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, floods, and landslides); natural resource exploration and management (hydrocarbons, ore minerals, groundwater); and planetary geology. 

Other Students. Students taking Geological Sciences classes for the general science requirement should develop an appreciation of critical thinking and the scientific method, including hypothesis testing. Students should appreciate the importance of earth sciences in understanding of the physical, social, and economic resources and history of our planet. One example: we would expect that any student successfully completing our courses should be able to critically evaluate scientific issues in earth systems discussed in the popular press.

Declaring a Major or Minor in Geological Sciences

To delcare a Major or Minor in Geological Sciences, an appointment with the Undergraduate Program Director, Dr. Roy Schlische (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.should be scheduled to discuss your intended program and potential course schedule. A Rutgers, School of Arts and Sciences Major and Minor Declaration/Change Form ( be filled out, signed and approved by Dr. Schlische.

             Declaring the Major in Geological Sciences

  • Enroll in Introductory Geology 01:460:101 (offered Fall Semester only)
  • Contact the Undergraduate Program Director for an appointment by clicking This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Fill out an online major declaration form at myMajor by clicking here

             Requirements of the Major in Geological Sciences

  • Acceptance into the Major in Geological Sciences requires a grade of C or higher in Introductory Geology 01:460:101, or its equivalent
  • Maintaining placement within the Major requires at least an average grade of C in all required core courses in Geological Sciences (01:460).
  • Course schedules for each semester must be approved by the UGPD prior to registration
  • In addition to the core courses listed below, students are encouraged to take additional courses in geology, mathematics, chemistry, computer science, statistics, physical and biological sciences. Students planning professional careers in geology-including graduate study-should take at least two additional courses in mathematics beyond the requirements listed below and would benefit from a minor in mathematics, physics, chemistry, or biology. The Undergraduate Program Director will recommend elective courses that best suit the student's career options.

Foundation Courses

  • 01:160:161-162 General Chemistry (4,4)
  • 01:640:CALC1 (4) and 01:640:CALC2 (4)
  • 01:750:203-204 General Physics (3,3)
  • 01:960:379 Basic Probability Theory (3) or 01:960:401. Basic Statistics for Research (3) can serve as alternates for CALC2

Geology Core Courses
(NOTE: course numbers have changed in the Spring of 2016. These changes are reflected in the Degree navigator, but are not yet reflected in the course catalogs)

  • 01:460:101 Introductory Geology (4)
  • 01:460:301 Mineralogy (4)
  • 01:460:302 Petrology (4)
  • 01:460:303 Paleontology (4)
  • 01:460:304 Introduction to Geochemistry (4)
  • 01:460:306 Introduction to Geophysics (4)
  • 01:460:330 Sedimentary Geology (4)
  • 01:460:407 Structural Geology and Geologic Maps (4)
  • 01:460:410 Field Geology (3) or equivalent (see Field Requirement below)
  • 01:460:480 Major Events in Earth History (3)
  • Elective of 460:XXX (3) 300 level or higher

Plus one elective (3) such as:

  • 01:460:305 (3) Evolution and Geologic Time
  • 01:460:414 (3) Hydrologic Processes
  • 01:460:417 (3) Environmental Geochemistry
  • 01:460:428 (3) Hydrogeology
  • 01:460:429 (3) Tectonics & Regional Structure
  • 01:460:494 (3) Geological Context
  • 01:460:451 (3) Marine Geology
  • 01:460:476 (3) History of the Earth System

Geology graduate courses with permission of instructor

  • 16:460:515 (3) Advanced Tectonics
  • 16:460:528 (3) Groundwater Modeling
  • 16:460:509 (3) Planetary Sciences
  • 16:460:630 (3) Seminar in Planetary Sciences

Introductory Geology is a prerequisite for all upper-level geology courses. Completion of this course with a grade of C or better is required prior to the declaration of the major.
Chemistry is a prerequisite for Mineralogy, which is a prerequisite for Petrology and Sedimentary Geology.
Physics is a prerequisite for Geophysics.
Sedimentary Geology and Calculus are prerequisites for Structural Geology and Geologic Maps.

Some of the core courses are "sequential", and must be taken in the prescribed order. As most advanced courses are offered only once a year, it is essential for Majors to discuss scheduling and course selection with the Undergraduate Director as early as possible.

             Idealized Course Schedule

  • Freshman Year:  Basic Sciences, Introductory Geology
  • Sophomore Year: Basic Sciences, Mineralogy (Fall), Paleontology (Fall), Sedimentary Geology (Fall), Petrology (Spring), Intro to Geophysics (Spring)
  • Junior Year: Intro to Geochemistry (Fall), Structural Geology and Maps (Spring).
  • Junior - Senior summer - FIELD CAMP
  • Senior Year: Major Events in Earth History

             Field Requirement
All geology majors must take a minimum of 3 credits in field geology. Most students satisfy this requirement by taking an external field camp. Many geology departments offer external field camps, ask This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for guidance. An ideal time to do the field training is during the summer between the Junior and Senior years.

             Departmental Honors Program
Students may be admitted to candidacy for honors in geology if they make a written application to the department chairperson before May 1 of their junior year. To qualify, a student must have a minimum overall cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 and a minimum grade-point average in major courses of 3.4. In addition, the student must have completed all geology core courses except 01:460:410 and 01:460:476/480.

  • 01:460:495 (3) Honors in Geology - Fall
  • 01:460:496 (3) Honors in Geology - Spring

Honors students must successfully complete at least two additional 3-credit courses in geology (at the 400 level) and/or in the allied sciences as well as 01:460:495,496 Honors in Geology.
In consultation with a faculty adviser, students choose an honors research project which they document in a paper or a formal presentation to the department.

             Independent Study
During Junior and Senior years, students are encouraged to undertake independent study projects supervised by the faculty of the Earth and Planetary Sciences department.
Project titles from recent years

  • 01:460:493 (3) Independent Studies in Geology - Fall
  • 01:460:494 (3) Independent Studies in Geology - Spring

          Minor Requirements
The minor in geological sciences requires completion of 01:460:101 Introductory Geology plus five additional geology courses of 3 credits or more, of which at least two must be at the 300 level or higher. Potential minors who take 01:460:100 may still complete a minor by requesting permission to take 01:460:103.