Let’s do some word association. Geology. “Rocks.” Damn straight, geology rocks, but this major is about so much more than stones, boulders and pebbles. Geology is about what Earth can tell us about history and life. It’s about the past and future of energy and conservation… the sub-disciplines literally never end. Geology is the perfect major for people who love being outside, have an interest in history and possess a genuine curiosity about the world we live in.
WHAT YOU’LL BE DOING
The geology major is extremely hands on at most universities. Professors expect students to write proposals, gather and analyze data for complex projects, perform research projects and learn more about the subject by going on field trips. Because courses range in topic, from history to hard science, to labwork, to engineering and even to politics, geology is the major for people who have TOO many interests.
1. “A great thing about the major is that so much learning happens outside of the classroom. No other major gets you outside and (literally) in the field like geology does.” –Allison Greaney, University of Illinois 2014, current PhD Student at University of Maryland
2. “A positive to a geology major is the opportunity to study science in an interdisciplinary setting. In pursuit of my degree, I learned about the environment, biology, physics, chemistry, and math.” –Alex Lopatka, DePauw University 2012, current PhD Candidate at University of Maryland
3. “By studying geology, you will have many chances to travel around, do field trips and camping. You won’t spend all your life in the lab.” –Ming Tang, Nanjing University, China 2011, current grad student working on PhD projects
1. “In undergrad, I often felt like I was cornering myself in a very specialized field with few career options. But now that I’m graduated I don’t think that’s true at all. There’s so many sub-disciplines in geology– just find what you like, work hard and you shouldn’t have a problem finding post-grad work.” –Allison Greaney, University of Illinois 2014, current PhD Student at University of Maryland
2. “A negative to a geology major is the lack of time or focus on writing—a skill that is, arguably, useful for any career path. You can improve writing through the UMD geology senior thesis and other classes, but I think in general, writing is often overlooked in the sciences.” –Alex Lopatka, DePauw University 2012, current PhD Candidate at University of Maryland
3. “If you want to make a million dollars a year, geology is probably not for you. Also, field work is not for everyone.” –Ming Tang, Nanjing University, China 2011, current grad student working on PhD projects
Geology is a great major because the career opportunities are extremely diverse. If you want to work in a lab, there’s an area of geology for you. If you’d rather work in the field–that’s right– there’s an area for you. You could also blend your scientific interests with engineering, education, history, business, or even law and politics. There are no limits when it comes to what you can do with a geology major.
1. Consulting Firm
Geology can be a great thing to major in if you have an interest in business but want to mix that with knowledge of science. As a consultant, you might help corporations drill wells by reporting on the condition of the ground, detecting gas, and supervising drilling. This is just one element of consulting, however. “I manage the business of the company, from sales to operations to quality assessment. To do my job, you need a degree in geology for the scientific background, but you also need organizational skills, time management, the ability to work with teams toward a deadline, which you’ll get majoring in geology.” –Jim Suydam, President of Sunburst Consulting
2. Museum Curator/Staff
If you’re more interested in the education and research aspects of geology, you might find your niche working for a museum. “I do research on volcanoes. In this capacity, sometimes I do field work– going to active volcanoes or the sites of ancient eruptions. I also run experiements in labs where I make small batches of magma and study them to understand natural systems.” –Benjamin Andrews, Research Geologist and Acting Curator of the National Rock and Ore Collection at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History Department of Mineral Sciences
3. Conservation Scientist/Government Work
If you’re interested in job security and serving your country, you might be interested in working for the government. “I spend most of my time behind a desk because I’ve been doing this for 36 years. In the early parts of my career I spent more time doing fieldwork. Most of what I do is reviewing ground work to make sure they got it right in the field, but I also review alleged mining fraud. We also mentor younger people coming up in the industry.” –Matthew Shumaker, Chief Mineral Examiner at The Bureau of Land Management
Geo-engineering ranges from lab-based work to field-based work, and the kinds of jobs you can do in this field are extremely variable. “I do a lot of drafting in Geographic Information Systems, and then we do trenching. What you want to do is find something you’re interested in while you’re taking classes and pursue that.” –Maria Herzberg, Senior Staff Consultant at Earth Consulting International
Teaching geology is highly rewarding work, and is great for people who want to nurture the ideas and research of new geologists. As a teacher or professor of geology, not only would you get to educate students about a field you love, but you would also get insight into what particularly interests them through reading theses and projects. Mentoring others can be very satisfying and (bonus) a good way to complement your own independent research.