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School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment


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 B.S. 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 science, physics, engineering, environmental health and social sciences, which can be combined into an individually tailored curriculum. One cannot truly understand the organisms that 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 B.S. 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 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 B.A. in Environmental Studies degree incorporates critical social, economic, policy, communications and/or humanities components that are not within the B.S. 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 understanding.

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.

Undergraduate Program Handbooks

For more information, contact the undergraduate director:

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