About the Geology Major
The geology major offers content and skills relevant for today's issues -- and a lot of fun.
Geology is a dynamic, interdisciplinary field that studies the world around, under, and over us -- rivers, climate, and planets as well as rocks, mountains, earthquakes, and more -- and is highly relevant for providing answers for today's needs and challenges. The geology major at W&L is flexible enough that you can take courses in several different areas of geosciences, from geophysics and tectonics to oceanography and climate change, GIS and remote sensing to hydrogeology and geomorphology.
Through your requirements, you learn
- subject content
- field, lab, and computer skills
- scientific writing skills
- presentation skills
Through additional opportunities, you can experience
- research experiences, including a thesis
- attending scientific conferences (supported by the Geology Department)
- an intensive Spring Term regional course for majors with 2- to 4-weeks in the field at a location such as the Grand Canyon, Iceland, New Zealand, or Greece (these trips are highly subsidized by the Geology Department)
- learn about different career paths
Degree requirements for the Geology Major
Students interested in pursuing a science-based career in the geosciences or going to graduate school in the geosciences would be well served to get a BS degree as it includes the science courses such employers and graduate programs often want you to have taken. There is also a comprehensive exam requirement in your senior year which not only serves as a review of your coursework to date but also prepares you for such exams in a graduate program. Students who earn a BA are also competitive candidates for graduate school.
Both BA and BS students can complete a thesis or honors thesis. Read more about this great opportunity at the link in the heading. To receive your BS with honors, you need to have a certain GPA, receive High Pass on your oral and written comprehensive exams, and receive an Excellent on your thesis -- if you are doing a thesis. You can do it!
The Geology Department Community
The Geology Department is known both for the time and attention geology faculty give to their students, as teachers, advisors, and mentors, and for the close-knit community the department -- students, faculty, and staff -- become as a whole. Majors are an eclectic group of students who are curious about the world around them, problem-solvers, and love being outside. Geology majors often also major or minor in business administration, environmental studies, classics, studio arts, computer science, or other subjects. In an average year, about half the majors receive a BA degree and half receive a BS degree.
Geology majors spend a lot of time together not only in class and labs but also in the department computer lab and when travelling. This time together is one of our department's strengths; you will quickly realize this time together not only provides study partners and help with work, but that serious bonding happens. We expect students, faculty and staff to treat each other with respect, and to seek to understand and learn from one another. To help raise self-awareness of how we each can best do this, the Department has a Community Contract.
Research and summer experiences
Students have opportunities to expand their knowledge and apply their skills through research with a W&L geology professor, either as an independent study during a Fall or Winter term, as a paid summer researcher, or by completing a senior thesis or honors thesis (see above). There are also many opportunities for both research and internship experiences off-campus. Research at universities, organizations, or government agencies can expose students to other areas of geoscience and other labs, and internships provide insight into the real-world applications and job opportunities one can pursue. Each fall the department holds information sessions about summer research and internship opportunities and about doing a thesis. Read more about research opportunities. Read more about summer experiences.
The Department provides funding for Geology majors to attend one scientific meeting each year, even if you are not presenting research. The meetings are a terrific way to learn presentation skills, to realize the breadth of geological inquiry through a huge number of talks and presentations, network with potential employers and graduate school advisers, and talk with people representing geology graduate schools -- and have a great time with your peers. Read more about going to conferences.
Geoscience/Environmental science-related talks
Each year the department hosts speakers to expose students to research content and professionals in different fields. Students also usually have the opportunity to talk to these guests over lunch, to ask questions and to hear about their career paths. See the listing of talks here. In addition, we host a geoscience and environmental career panel each spring, with Environmental Studies and the Office of Career and Professional Development.
After graduation, students either move on to a graduate program in the geosciences or employment in the geosciences or other fields.
The majority of majors going the employment route are employed by the time they graduate. By hosting a Geoscience and Environmental Career Panel with the Environmental Studies Program and Career and Professional Development, and speaker visits, the department offers opportunities each year for students to learn about a variety of careers. Geology alumni work in a variety jobs including environmental geoscientists and consultants, petroleum geologists and geophysicists, renewable energy scientists, geotechnical engineers, environmental lawyers, college geology professors, earth science teachers, and geoscientists within government agencies. Many graduates who also have a Williams School degree have positions that use skill sets from both majors, as do alums who study both geology and engineering, computer science, and other disciplines. They are happy to talk to students about their careers and career paths, providing valuable insight into positions, companies, and the job market.
The department now offers a graduate school panel with recent alums in or just out of graduate programs, to help answer questions current students may have about how to choose a program, the application process, and what being a graduate student is like. Faculty are able to offer advice about graduate programs, and several alums who now have labs of their owns at several institutions are happy to talk to you about graduate school.
Come talk to us!
Feel free to talk to any of the geology professors if you have any questions about the major, they'd love to talk to you! You can find their contact information in the Department Directory link.