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Geosciences Curriculum


13 courses

All majors will take the following courses:
GEOS 141 (Earth's Hazards) or GEOS 142 (Earth's Changing Climate)
GEOS 151 (Foundations of Earth Sciences)
Four of the following core courses:

  • GEOS 302 (Structural Geology)
  • GEOS 305 (Earth Materials)
  • GEOS 309 (Sedimentology and Stratigraphy)
  • GEOS 331 (Geochemistry)
  • A 300-level geophysics course (GEOS 333: Environmental Geophysics or GEOS 335: Global Geophysics and Tectonics)

CHEM 131 or 141 (General Chemistry)

To complete the major a student may choose from three options.

Environmental Geoscience
GEOS 218 (GIS)
MATH 170 (Single Variable Calculus) or MATH 121 (Elementary Statistics)

Three GEOS courses above the 100-level (core courses cannot double count as electives)
    OR two GEOS courses above the 100-level and one non-GEOS DIV III course above the 100-level

Capstone - one from the following:
GEOS 491 (Field Camp)
GEOS 500 (Internship for Credit)
GEOS 550 (Independent Research)
GEOS 560 (Student/Faculty Collaborative Research)

MATH 121 (Elementary Statistics)
MATH 170 (Single Variable Calculus) 
PHYS 131 or PHYS 141

Two GEOS courses above the 100-level; core courses cannot double count as electives

Capstone - one from the following:
GEOS 491 (Field Camp)
GEOS 550 (Independent Research)
GEOS 560 (Student/Faculty Collaborative Research)

Students must propose a coherent group of at least four upper-level electives within the semester they declare a Geosciences major.

MATH 170 (Single Variable Calculus) or MATH 121 (Elementary Statistics)

Capstone - one from the following:
GEOS 491 (Field Camp)
GEOS 500 (Internship for Credit)
GEOS 550 (Independent Research)
GEOS 560 (Student/Faculty Collaborative Research)

Geosciences Capstone:
Majors who complete the capstone with research must complete either GEOS 550 (Independent Research) or GEOS 560 (Student/Faculty Collaborative Research).  Students will earn 0.5 credit in the spring semester of the junior year as they conduct background research, formulate a testable hypothesis and draft a project proposal. Should a student be abroad for the first 0.5 credit, the student will meet regularly via Skype (or other appropriate real-time media) with the faculty member on campus who is advising the capstone project.  The second 0.5 credit will be completed in the fall semester of the senior year with data collection, analysis and writing.  If students wish to continue into the spring semester of the senior year, they will be permitted to register for an additional 0.5 or 1.0 credit of research.


Six courses including 141 or 142, and 151.

Suggested curricular flow through the major

The GEOS major was designed with the requisite flexibility to enable our students to study abroad for either a semester or a full academic year if desired. Aside from introductory courses and the capstone credits, the courses required for the geoscience major may be taken in any order.

For incoming students planning to pursue geosciences as a major, we suggest the following courses during the first year:

  • GEOS 151
  • GEOS 141 or 142
  • One ancillary course (e.g.,CHEM 131, MATH 121, MATH 170, or PHYS 131)*
  • One 200-level GEOS elective

For students beginning the major as sophomores we suggest taking the following courses during their second year: 

  • GEOS 151
  • GEOS 141 or 142
  • 1-2 ancillary courses (e.g.,CHEM 131, MATH 121, MATH 170, or PHYS 131)*
  • 1-2 GEOS courses above the 100-level (may be electives or core courses)

*There are two primary tracks within the major: the Environmental Geoscience track and the Geoscience track. These two tracks differ primarily in the ancillary courses they require in CHEM, MATH, and/or PHYS. See here for the specific ancillary requirements of each track.

All GEOS majors must complete:

  • 2 introductory courses (GEOS 151 and GEOS 141 or 142)
  • 4 courses from the Geosciences core (GEOS 302, 305, 309, 331, or 333/335). Typically every core course is offered once every 2 years. One to two core courses are offered every semester (usually 3 per academic year)
  • 3 GEOS electives
  • CHEM 131 or 141
  • A capstone experience: Research, Internship, Field Camp**
  • the appropriate ancillary courses for the track selected:
    • Geoscience track: MATH 121, MATH 170, and PHYS 131/141
    • Environmental Geoscience track: MATH 121 or MATH 170, GISP/GEOS/ARCH 218

**Capstone Experiences: In recognition of our students' diverse interests and aspirations, we offer students the ability to fulfill their capstone experience through one of three experiential options between their junior spring and senior spring: completing an independent or student-faculty research project (including writing a thesis), doing an approved internship, or enrolling in an approved off-campus field camp.

Students pursing research as a capstone will need to complete:

  • 1/2 credit of GEOS 550 or 560 during their junior spring semester
  • 1/2 credit of GEOS 550 or 560 during their senior fall semester

Students pursing an internship as a capstone will need to complete:

  • 1 credit of GEOS 500 in senior fall or spring. Credit is accrued in the fall for internships completed in the summer between junior and senior year and in the spring for internships taking place in the fall of senior year.

Students pursing field camp a capstone will need to complete:

  • an approved off-campus field camp course during the summer between their junior and senior year. 

Independent study and independent research

Many of our students pursue independent or student-faculty research projects during the course of their GEOS major. Although the majority of research projects are completed as capstone experiences, there are often opportunities and funding for students to engage in research activities as early as their sophomore year. Interested students should contact departmental faculty to find out what kind of research opportunities are available. Students involved in research often present their work at local, national, and international conferences.


Students pursuing independent or student-faculty research projects as their capstone may be considered for departmental honors if their resulting thesis demonstrates superior quality of work. Your advisor can nominate your thesis for Honors consideration at the end of the fall semester of your senior year based on your capstone research project. To be considered for Honors, you must have a cumulative GPA across the College of 3.5. Only students doing independent or student faculty research for the capstone can be considered for Honors (i.e., either GEOS 550 or 560). Honors will be awarded by vote of department faculty after a thesis defense.


Internships are a popular way for GEOS majors to fulfill their capstone requirement and are highly encouraged by the department. GEOS majors have interned at state and federal agencies, environmental consulting companies, and more. Students interested in pursuing internships at any stage of their degree can reach out to departmental faculty for assistance in finding appropriate internships. Students wishing to use an internship for fulfill their capstone requirement must have the internship approved by the department and follow the department guidelines for receiving credit.

Opportunities for off-campus study

To be an effective Geoscientist, it benefits you to have seen as much of the planet as possible. This helps you appreciate the atmospheric, hydrospheric, biospheric, and geospheric diversity of our planet.  With proper advance planning and declaring your major early, you can take some interesting courses abroad and see more of the world

Co-curricular activities/programs

Each year the department sponsors a variety of field trips for majors and those taking certain geosciences courses.

These trips include excursions sponsored through the Arctic and Alpine Climate Change Research Program (AACCRE) and by the The David and Cary Cassa Fund. Recent trips through AACCRE include Hoodo Mountain, British Columbia, Ellesmere Island, and Iceland. Recent trips through the Cassa fund include Costa Rica and Arizona and New Mexico

There is also a Geology Club, a student-run group that organizes field trips and arranges for speakers during the year. Any Dickinson student may join the group, and it is common for some non-majors to belong.