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Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Geology

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Explore a Master’s Degree in Geology

Geology is the study of the Earth, its rocks and natural resources, and the ways in which it has changed and will change over time. An online master’s degree in geology can open the door to rewarding careers in numerous occupations within the field of geology. A geology master’s degree program with a thesis option typically requires the successful completion of at least 30 credit hours, while a non-thesis option may take as many as 40 credit hours to complete. However, the length of the program may change by institution and the time of completion may change based on the student’s academic history prior to enrolling in the program.

Class Curriculum

A master’s degree program in geology is designed to provide students a solid base of knowledge that will allow them to advance their careers. Although the courses may differ by institution, students of a geology program may take courses such as geomorphology, hydrogeology, groundwater geochemistry, basin analysis, geophysics, principles of Earth science, and more. Some colleges or universities offer degree plans with or without a thesis requirement, which typically takes four to six credit hours to complete. Read on for a closer look at three geology courses:

  • Geophysics. A geophysics course covers the physics of the Earth, the major features of the planet’s surface, deformation of rocks, and types of seismic waves. The class will also investigate geomagnetism, radioactivity, geochronology, geotectonic models, and heat flow.
  • Remote Sensing. This course covers the principles of remote sensing and its applications to the study of the Earth. This may include the study of current remote sensing systems used around the world, aerial photography, photogrammetry, multispectral imaging, and the use of data for research and policy.
  • Hydrogeology. A hydrogeology course focuses on groundwater, groundwater-surface water interactions, water chemistry, geologic controls, and environmental problems. The course also covers the qualitative and quantitative principles of hydrogeology, the basic problems in field hydrogeology, and how hydrogeology relates to other environmental science disciplines.

Geology graduate students are typically required to complete lab reports, homework and reading assignments from scientific textbooks or journals, and research projects. A significant percentage of their semester grade may also be determined by their performance on quizzes and exams, which typically consist of essays, short answer questions, and quantitative problems.

Building a Career

A master’s degree in geology may qualify an individual for employment as a geoscientist, or someone who studies the physical characteristics of the Earth. Geoscientists plan and conduct field studies, analyze aerial photograph and other data to locate natural resources, create geologic maps, and present their findings to their clients or employers. Geoscientists work in a broad range of industries and occupations. For example, an engineering geologist applies their knowledge of geologic principles to civil and environmental engineering, while a petroleum geologist is responsible for locating oil and gas deposits under the Earth’s surface. Geoscientists may also work as oceanographers, geophysicists, seismologists, paleontologists, geochemists, and geologists.

The median annual pay for a geoscientist in 2010 was $82,500, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employment of geoscientists is expected to increase 21%, or faster than average for all occupations, between 2010 and 2020. The BLS states demand for geoscientists will increase because of the need for environmental protection, energy, and responsible land and resource management. Job opportunities for geoscientists with a master’s degree should be excellent, according to the BLS. However, keep in mind that these job projections and salaries are not guaranteed, as these things vary from individual to individual, depending on his or her level of experience, employer, and the area of employment.

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