All University of South Carolina system institutions will be closed through the end of the spring semester. Columbia campus virtual instruction will continue through the conclusion of final exams in May. Details can be found on the coronavirus landing page.
We seek to educate students on the importance of the ever changing earth and how,
when we engage the science and social policies behind the mysteries of the earth and
the environment, we discover through exploration and research the impacts of those
changes on our lives and the world around us.
Through our undergraduate majors in Environmental Science, Environmental Studies,
Marine Science, Geological Sciences and Geophysics, we can help you understand and
adapt to these changes.
We offer Bachelor of Science degrees in Geological Sciences (the study of the dynamics
and physical history of the Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and its physical,
chemical, and biological changes) and Geophysics (the branch of geology that deals
with the physics of the earth, including oceanography, seismology, volcanology, and
geomagnetism). We are one of only two institutions in the southeastern U.S. that offers
a Geophysics undergraduate major degree.
Both majors can be completed within four years. We have a large and diverse faculty
with broad scientific expertise, so whether you want to focus on earthquakes, volcanoes,
groundwater, climate change, or the coastal oceans, you will find someone in our department
who shares your interests. If you are interested in fulfilling your pre-med, pre-health,
or pre-law requirements and get a degree that can also offer you employment choices
down the road, then consider Earth Sciences.
Unlike many other disciplines, Bachelor of Science Degrees are sufficient for many
entry level positions in the geology and geophysics and Master of Science and Doctoral
Degrees are typically fully supported by industry, state and federally funded research
grants or teaching assistantships.
The BS in Marine Science (as opposed to Marine Biology) offers a holistic approach
to the study of the oceans. Interdisciplinary in nature, the degree draws upon subject
matter in many different fields of scientific endeavor, including Geology, Biology,
Chemistry, Mathematics, Environmental, Physics, Engineering, Environmental Health
and Social Sciences be combined into an individually-tailored curriculum. One cannot
truly understand the organisms which live in the ocean without fully understanding
their unique ocean environment.
Marine Science majors take a series of core courses covering the geological, biological,
chemical and physical areas of oceanography, and then choose upper-level major courses
to tailor the degree to their specific interests. Students may choose to specialize
in biological, chemical, geological or physical oceanography or coastal resource management/marine
affairs and have specific Areas of Emphasis listed on their transcripts upon graduation.
The Environmental Studies degree emphasizes the Social Sciences and Humanities, compared
to the greater science and technology focus of the Environmental Science degree. Like
two sides of the same coin, these interdisciplinary degree programs complement each
other and examine similar environmental concerns through different approaches.
The BS in Environmental Science curriculum is designed to give students a strong scientific
background while allowing them the flexibility to choose courses that address their
specific interests. This interdisciplinary curriculum can include courses from the
Environment, Geology, Biology, Chemistry, Marine Science, Mathematics, Economics,
Political Science, Physics, Engineering, and Environmental Health Science to create
an individually-tailored curriculum.
Environmental Science majors may choose to specialize in climate systems, energy and
infrastructure, natural systems, health and environment, water resources, or other
specialties according to their individual interests.
The BA in Environmental Studies degree incorporates critical social, economic, policy,
communications, and/or humanities components that are not within the BS degree. The
curriculum prepares students to address complex environmental problems requiring knowledge
and understanding from multiple social and science disciplines that are framed in
an environmental context. Students learn to make sound analyses and judgments about
interdisciplinary environmental challenges, and to seek and develop sustainable solutions
that productively integrate social and economic needs with scientific and technical
Environmental Studies majors may combine coursework in Sustainability, Anthropology,
Political Science, Geography, History, Economics, Business, Media Arts, and Journalism
to create an individually-tailored curriculum relative to their career goals.
Impending environmental challenges include climate change, increasing drought and
other extreme weather events and their impacts on infrastructure and food, energy
and water supply, loss of biodiversity, increases in infectious disease, and invasive
species. Environmental scientists may find themselves conducting field research to
quantify such issues, while Environmental Studies majors may use their skills to incorporate
that data into policy, advocacy, and sustainable business practices.
Why Geoscience, Marine or Environmental Degrees?
The majors in the School of Earth, Ocean and Environment include environmental science,
environmental studies, geological science, geophysics and marine science. These majors
address critical issues such as energy, meteorology, water and mineral resources,
stewardship of the environment, oceanography, reducing natural hazards for society,
planetary science, and more!
You’ll be joining a field that will likely have a workforce shortage of almost 150,000
geoscientists over the next decade. That leads to job security and puts geoscience
graduates in high demand. Underlying reasons for these trends are two-fold—a rapidly
growing oil and gas industry that requires a suite of environmental impact analyses
and a geoscience workforce that is within 10-15 years of retirement age. To put this
in perspective, of the 143,000 geoscientists expected to retire in 2022 (Bureau of
Labor Statistics), only 51,000 students are expected to have earned geology and geophysics
degrees within that same time frame. For reference, there were around 380,000 geoscientists
employed in the United States in 2014.
It’s also a lucrative field. In 2014, the average median salary for geoscience-related
occupations was $85,000.