For those interested in studying Earth’s far-distant past and the evolution of the planet, majoring in geology will provide students with the necessary knowledge, skills, and toolsets to describe the history of Earth and the forces that have shaped it.
Not limited to Earth, geologists are also involved in studying and describing the forces at play on other rocky planets within the solar system and beyond.
Whether to plan for future missions in space or contribute to the common understanding of the evolution of planets similar to our own, geologists provide valuable insight into the history and forces at play on both our home planet and those in outer space.
Along with furthering academic and scientific knowledge about the formation and history of planets, geologists are also in demand in areas such as petroleum and mineral extraction as well as in modeling climate change.
With such a wide range of applications for science, students interested in pursuing a career in geology will want to ensure they gain the best education possible before entering the field. With this in mind, we have compiled a list of 10 of the best schools for geology in the United States.
The schools on this list are selected from those ranked highly by U.S. News and World Report and by niche.com.
Princeton University (Princeton, New Jersey)
The Department of Geosciences at Princeton University provides aspiring geologists an excellent undergraduate program of study incorporating rigorous courses, fieldwork, and independent research as they learn and develop the fundamental knowledge and skills necessary for success in the field.
Graduate geology students at the university may pursue PhDs or, under certain circumstances, a Master of Arts degree.
Princeton’s partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration allows students to study in the Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences in conjunction with NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory to pursue PhDs in Atmospheric and Oceanic Science as they study the climate of today and model the climate of the future.
Princeton’s Department of Geosciences also operates a number of research programs covering environmental policy, materials science, oceanographic modeling, and computation, many of which are operated in conjunction with other departments in the university.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences offers students interested in geology the option to concentrate in geosciences for those interested in studying the forces at play on Earth.
Additionally, students can concentrate in planetary science and astronomy for those interested in studying the forces that shape terrestrial bodies like Earth and other rocky planets.
MIT’s graduate programs allow students to pursue PhDs and Master of Science degrees in geology and related fields.
The school’s Fifth-Year Master of Science Program allows students with solid performances in related undergraduate fields the opportunity to earn a master’s degree in just one additional year of study.
Among the many research programs and facilities available to geologists at MIT are the Earth Resources Laboratory, for those who are interested in the hydrocarbon industry and describing underground reservoir structures; EQSci, for those interested in studying earthquakes and tectonophysics; and the Experimental Petrology Laboratory, for those interested in rock formation on the Earth as well as Mars and the Moon.
Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
Aspiring geologists at Harvard are afforded many opportunities for experiential learning at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Faculty-led field trips to Hawaii and the Rocky Mountains allow undergraduate students to study the Earth at some of the most geologically interesting places on the globe, while graduate students can attend student-organized field trips that have gone to Mt. Rainier National Park, the Gaspe Peninsula, and many other exciting areas in recent years.
One of the particular areas of research at the university concerns describing the processes and mechanics governing earthquakes and fault zones, as well as using this knowledge to forecast earthquake occurrences.
In a related area, other researchers at Harvard work to describe and understand the surface and interior of the Earth, how the processes at play interact with each other over the evolution of the Earth, and what this information can tell us about other planets in and beyond the solar system.
Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut)
Whether pursuing a bachelor’s degree or PhD at Yale University, geology students at the school are afforded excellent opportunities for learning both in the classroom and through field trips and other experiential learning opportunities.
Recent years have seen Yale students travel to Japan, Patagonia, Barbados, and South Africa as part of courses like “Regional Perspectives on Global Geoscience” or through year-long field programs.
Areas of research in geology at the school are focused on the lithosphere and surface processes, geochemistry, and solid earth geophysics.
Ongoing research areas on the lithosphere and the Earth’s surface processes include the sedimentary record, the influence of mantle convection on plate tectonics, and the interaction between mountain formation and erosion and climate changes.
Research in the field of solid Earth geophysics at Yale includes the study of the Earth’s crust and mantle through seismic waves, modeling the fluid motion of the earth’s mantle, and the dynamics arising from high temperatures and pressures on rock deep in the Earth’s crust.
University of Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)
Offering undergraduates both BA and BS programs in geophysical sciences and graduate students a PhD program with the option to earn a Master of Science degree along the way, the University of Chicago meets the educational needs of its students at any level they may wish to pursue the study of geology.
The university’s Journal of Geology, dating back to 1893, is one of the oldest publications of its kind in the country and publishes original research in a wide range of fields of geology.
The university’s partnership with Argonne National Laboratory enables researchers to make use of advanced tools and facilities such as the Advanced Photon Source and the GSECARS beamline for research on high-pressure mineral physics.
Geological researchers at the university also use Fermilab’s facilities in their studies of mineral physics and petrology.
Rice University (Houston, Texas)
The Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences program at Rice University provides the choice of a BA or BS degree in geosciences for students at the undergraduate level, and graduate students at the school may choose from its PhD, Master of Science, or Professional Master’s Program in Subsurface Geoscience programs.
The school’s Professional Science Master’s Program is tailored to students who wish to pursue a career in industry and incorporates elements of business, communication, policy, and ethics education into its program.
Research efforts in the field of geology at Rice target areas such as earthquake physics, volcanism, continental formation and evolution, mineral resources, and many other fields.
The school also works to connect the processes at play deep in the Earth to those of the ocean and atmosphere to better understand the future of the climate and humanity.
Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland)
Those interested in studying geology at Johns Hopkins University choose to pursue either a Bachelor of Arts or PhD in Earth and Planetary Studies.
The program in Earth and Planetary Science provides undergraduate seniors the option to undertake independent research in the form of a senior thesis project as part of the path toward graduating from the program with honors and in preparation for future research at the graduate level.
Johns Hopkins supports undergraduate research efforts with its Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, Dean’s ASPIRE Grant, Albstein Research Scholarship, and many other funding opportunities.
Students pursuing PhDs in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences are considered members of its academic family and find support in the form of fellowships, assistantships, and special scholarships.
California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, California)
The California Institute of Technology offers undergraduate students in its Geological and Planetary Sciences Program the option to follow a dedicated track in geology as they complete their program of study.
Graduate students at the school can choose to pursue a master’s degree in the field or complete their studies with a PhD.
Many of the courses in the school’s geology incorporate field trips to areas such as Death Valley, Hawaii, the San Gabriel Mountains, and Asia in order to provide a critical experiential learning component to complement the course and lab work performed on its campus.
Research areas in geology at the school are divided into petrologic, surface, climatic, and tectonic processes.
Among the facilities available to researchers at Caltech are the Diamond-Anvil Cell Laboratory, the Caltech Earth Surface Dynamics Laboratory, and the Caltech GPS Microanalysis Center.
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania interested in geology major in Earth science and choose to concentrate in geology. Graduate students at the university can study geology in its doctoral program or enroll in its Master of Science in Applied Geosciences program.
The university’s Penn Geology Society formed in 2016 to organize field trips to geologic sites and promote Earth science education among the campus community.
Research into the dynamics and structure of Earth materials at the University focuses on areas of geology such as Quaternary geology, cryosphere studies, hydrology, geochemical proxies, and earthquake mechanics, among other fields.
Research facilities within the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences include instrumentation such as multiple electron microscopes, spectrometers, chromatographs, and spectrometers.
Dedicated facilities within the department include its sediment dynamics laboratory, a high-pressure geophysics laboratory, and a cosmogenic trace element analysis laboratory.
Duke University (Durham, North Carolina)
Undergraduate students in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University interested in geology choose from its Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts programs in Earth and Climate Sciences.
Students interested in the field at the graduate level can choose from doctoral programs focused on Earth-surface science, Earth resources, or the history of Earth and life.
Undergraduate students are encouraged to perform independent research in a specific area of geoscience under the guidance of an advisor as part of the school’s Graduation with Distinction option.
Ongoing research efforts in geological fields at Duke University are studying the effects of shale gas and fracking on local water resources and making use of facilities such as the Laboratory for Environmental Analysis of RadioNuclides, the Duke Environmental Stable Isotope Laboratory, and the school’s thermal ionization mass spectrometer.