Geological Sciences Major, B.A.–Earth Science Concentration

Department of Earth, Marine, and Environmental Sciences

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Murray and Mitchell Halls

Eric Kirby, Chair

Brent McKee, Associate Chair

Kevin Stewart, Director of Undergraduate Studies (GEOL)

Marc Alperin, Director of Undergradaute Studies (MASC)

Violet Anderson, Student Services Manager

The study of earth’s dynamic systems is a field that has seen major advances over the last few decades. Geologists investigate diverse systems that play a large role in controlling the environment at the earth’s surface.

Department Programs



Graduate Programs 

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the geological sciences program (B.A.), students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate broad knowledge of core geological concepts
  • Produce written synthesis of professional journal articles dealing with topics covered in advanced courses
  • Make a clear and effective oral presentation
  • Apply knowledge and skills from coursework in a significant field experience in an area of geological sciences

In addition to the program requirements, students must

  • earn a minimum final cumulative GPA of 2.000
  • complete a minimum of 45 academic credit hours earned from UNC–Chapel Hill courses
  • take at least half of their major core requirements (courses and credit hours) at UNC–Chapel Hill
  • earn a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.000 in the major core requirements. Some programs may require higher standards for major or specific courses.

For more information, please consult the degree requirements section of the catalog.

Core Requirements
GEOL 200The Solid Earth3
GEOL 201Earth's Surface: Processes, Landforms, and History3
A minimum of 11 credits from the following GEOL courses:11
Earth Systems History
Geology of North America
Earth Materials: Minerals
Structural Geology
Sedimentology and Stratigraphy
Petrology and Plate Tectonics
Energy Resources
Water in Our World: Introduction to Hydrologic Science and Environmental Problems
and Water in Our World Laboratory
Capstone requirement: 6
Summer Field Course in Geology
and Summer Field Course in Geology
and Honors
Undergraduate Research in Geology 1
Science-oriented Experiential Education (EE) courses (6 credits total). 2
Additional Requirements
CHEM 101
General Descriptive Chemistry I
and Quantitative Chemistry Laboratory I
MATH 130Precalculus Mathematics3
At least three geology and/or allied science electives not otherwise required for the major (see below chart)9
Total Hours39

Geology and/or Allied Science Electives Not Otherwise Required for the Major

ANTH 143Human Evolution and Adaptation3
ANTH 220Principles of Archaeology3
ANTH 315Human Genetics and Evolution3
ANTH 412Paleoanthropology3
ANTH 414Laboratory Methods: Human Osteology3
ASTR ---any Astronomy course
BIOC ---any Biochemistry course except BIOC 107 and BIOC 108
BIOL 101
Principles of Biology
and Introductory Biology Laboratory H
BIOL ---any Biology course above BIOL 113
CHEM ---any Chemistry course above CHEM 101
COMP ---any Computer Science course except COMP 50, COMP 70, and COMP 380
ECON 101Introduction to Economics H4
ECON 454Economics of Population3
ENEC 489Ecological Processes in Environmental Systems4
ENEC 490Special Topics in Environmental Science and Studies H1-12
ENVR ---any Environmental Health Sciences course except ENVR 600
GEOG 370Introduction to Geographic Information3
GEOG 410Modeling of Environmental Systems3
GEOG 412Synoptic Meteorology3
GEOG 414Climate Change3
GEOG 416Applied Climatology: The Impacts of Climate and Weather on Environmental and Social Systems3
GEOG 440Earth Surface Processes3
GEOG 441Introduction to Watershed Systems3
GEOG 444Landscape Biogeography3
GEOG ---any Geography course above GEOG 477
GEOL ---any Geological Sciences course
MASC ---any Marine Sciences course above MASC 101
MATH ---any Mathematics course above MATH 130
PHYS ---any Physics course except PHYS 101, PHYS 132, and PHYS 313
STOR ---any Statistics and Operations Research course STOR 155 or above

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Students also must satisfy all General Education requirements.

Course descriptions for:

Special Opportunities in Geological Sciences

Honors in Geological Sciences

The honors program is open to undergraduates with an overall grade point average of 3.3 or better as of the beginning of the fall semester of the senior year. To participate in this program, the student chooses a research topic in consultation with his or her chosen faculty sponsor and conducts the research during the last two semesters in residence. The research project should represent the equivalent time expenditure of six hours of course credit and is taken as GEOL 691H (fall semester) and GEOL 692H (spring semester).

Upon recommendation of the faculty, students may be awarded the degree with honors or highest honors. Highest honors is reserved for students who have distinguished themselves in both coursework and independent research. In order to obtain this distinction the student must maintain a grade point average of 3.60 or higher and complete a research project that is worthy of peer-reviewed publication.

Departmental Involvement

The department encourages the active participation of undergraduates in department research, teaching, and social life. In addition to opportunities for experiential education and teaching internships described below, the department has an active Geology Honor Fraternity and Geology Club and regularly sponsors field excursions, career information sessions, and social events. Dates, times, and locations for all events are posted on the website and in the main lobby on the first floor of Mitchell Hall.

Experiential Education

Many geology courses emphasize experiential learning through field and laboratory work. Most degree tracks include a field geology course (GEOL 485 and GEOL 486 or a similar course in another department) that fulfills the experiential education General Education requirement. Additionally, all students are encouraged to contact faculty members about conducting independent research, either as an honors thesis or a senior thesis project.


The UNC Baccalaureate Education in Science and Teaching (UNC–BEST) Program is a collaboration between the School of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences and is designed to allow undergraduate science majors interested in teaching high school science the opportunity to earn their science degree and obtain licensure as a North Carolina high school science teacher in four years.

Core education courses
EDUC 516Introduction to the Education of Exceptional Learners3
or EDUC 689 Foundations of Special Education
EDUC 532Human Development and Learning3
EDUC 615Schools and Community Collaboration3
EDUC 593Internship/Student Teaching1-12
EDUC 601Education Workshops1-3
Teaching methods course
GEOL 412Principles and Methods of Teaching Earth Science4

 For more details on admission requirements, application deadlines, and submitting an online application, visit the School of Education Web site.

Study Abroad

Although the department has no formalized study abroad program, many students participate in a study abroad program, and some receive credit for geology coursework completed abroad. Students interested in a study abroad program should contact the director of undergraduate studies. Students must receive approval from the director of undergraduate studies prior to taking courses abroad for geology credit.

Undergraduate Awards

The Op White Prize in Geology, established in 1966, consists of a cash prize and an engraved bronze plaque displayed in the geology office. The award is given annually to the outstanding senior in geology.

Field Camp Scholarships

Several scholarships for geology field camp are awarded each year from the Grover Murray and Anadarko funds.

Undergraduate Research

The department encourages qualified undergraduate students to conduct independent research on an interesting geologic topic under the direction of a geological sciences faculty member. This research can be conducted as a one- to four-credit hour project (GEOL 395) or in conjunction with the geology honors program.