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Geological Sciences: What to Expect

The Geological Sciences major at the University of South Carolina offers a comprehensive education of all elements of earth sciences. As a Geological Sciences major, you will benefit from quality classroom education, laboratory experience, and field based activities. You will also learn from dynamic and productive faculty members who are committed to providing excellence in teaching and research along with a vibrant and friendly academic environment. As a Geological Sciences major, you will focus on the study of the earth’s dynamics and history, as well as its composition and the chemical, physical and biological changes that it undergoes. You can also choose to pursue a concentration in environmental geosciences or marine geology. The department offers a broad range of specialties within geosciences giving you the opportunity to develop a diverse skill set. You will also have the unique opportunity to complete a six-week field course in Colorado to get valuable hands-on experience. This opportunity synergizes your education in geology to understanding the earth’s formation in an observational setting.

The following courses fulfill some of the course requirements for a Bachelor of Science with a major in Geological Sciences:

  • Stratigraphy and Sedimentary Basins
  • Internal Earth
  • Mountain Building: Structure and Tectonics
  • Earth Systems Through Time
  • Surface and Near Surface Processes
  • Processes of Global Environmental Change

As a Geological Sciences major, you can choose to pursue an intensive major in Geological Sciences by taking an additional 13 hours. You will also take additional courses depending on the concentration you choose to pursue. A detailed list of degree requirements can be found in the Undergraduate Bulletin.

Enhancing your Experience

Study Abroad allows you to earn academic credits toward your USC degree while seeing the world! Overseas study can complement any academic program or major. Geological Sciences majors have the opportunity to study throughout the world. You will learn key skills while abroad including how to interact with diverse cultures and conduct science under a range of conditions. You will also have the opportunity to learn from internationally renowned scientists from across the world. You are encouraged to visit the Study Abroad Web site for more information on opportunities to broaden and extend your knowledge and perspectives.
Student Organizations can be instrumental in helping you adjust to life on campus and network within your field. The University of South Carolina has a family of nearly 300 student organizations. As a Geological Sciences major, you are encouraged to get involved in the Geology Club, which is run entirely by undergraduate students. You will have the opportunity to go on occasional field trips and get involved in a field trip course over Spring Break which in the last several years has gone to such exciting places as  Hawaii National Park, the Grand Canyon and the Azores Islands . You may also be interested in joining the USC Geophysical Society, which serves as a venue for undergraduate and graduate students to interact. This association has been involved in the last few years in geophysical research at the Holly Hill limestone quarry, the Santee State Park, the Ashley River Fault, and more! You may also participate in competitions. In 2010, the USC Geophysical Society students participated in the international petroleum imperial Barrel Award competition and won the regional first place, qualifying in the finals; this year they placed second.. You can also seek out volunteer opportunities that relate to your major. Find a student organization on campus that interests you!
Graduate School is one of many possibilities following graduation. Graduates often attend graduate programs in Geology and in Geophysics spanning from Seismology to Volcanology, Geochemistry, Sedimentology, Petroleum Geology, and Hydrogeology.  
Distinguished Faculty can help enhance your overall academic experience while at the University. The Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences has countless distinguished faculty. Dr. Michael Bizimis is known for his excellent interaction with students. He works on the hard rock geology and origin of volcanoes and has published several works and presented at countless meetings and conferences. Dr. Camelia Knapp uses near surface geophysics to study a whole host of earth science questions. She interacts with students on a daily basis and has received several awards (including being named a USC Rising Star this year), fellowships, and grants in addition to having numerous pieces published. Dr. David Barbeau studies the Antarctic geological processes. Dr. Barbeau is passionate about his research, creating “Team Barbeau” which is made up of students, collaborators, consiglieri, and others!
Departmental Scholarships may be awarded to outstanding entering freshmen or current students. Each year, the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences offers scholarships. These are awarded to current or incoming Geological Sciences or Geophysics majors.

Internship and Research Opportunities

Internships can be an important asset to your overall educational experience. Internship experiences often help you confirm your career interests, give you hands-on experience in a professional setting, help build your resume, reinforce what you’ve learned in class and can often lead to full-time employment. Likewise, pursuing professional research opportunities as an undergraduate student can also help enrich your academic experience while at the University. As an undergraduate student, you can work closely with faculty research mentors and explore a discipline that interests you. Both internship and research opportunities help you build a competitive edge in the job market.

As a USC student you will have numerous resources at your disposal to assist you with locating internship and research opportunities. The USC Career Center is the central location at USC for assisting students with internship preparation and finding an internship. In addition, be sure to visit your academic department as many programs offer supplemental internship guidance specific to your major. The Office of Undergraduate Research assists all USC undergraduates by providing research and scholarly experiences in their chosen fields.

Geological Sciences majors have had a variety of internship and research opportunities in the past. Due to the broad exposure of Geological Sciences students, our students have interned with a number of state, federal, and private agencies including the SC Department of Natural Resources, the SC Office of the US Geological, Santee Cooper Electrical Cooperative, Savannah River National Laboratory, and Amerada Hess Petroleum Company.

Career Opportunities

Geological Sciences graduates are employed in a wide range of careers from environment to energy industries. Graduates wishing to remain in the state have pursued careers at the Department of Natural Resources, the SC Geological Survey, and the Department of Health and Environmental Control. Many have also secured employment in environmental consulting and the petroleum industry. Salaries within the first five years after graduation range from $25,000 to $75,000 for Geological Sciences majors.

You can find more information about career options in the US Department of Laborís Occupational Outlook Handbook.

The USC Career Center offers numerous resources which provide more information about career opportunities for students in this major. Once admitted, a Career Development Coach is available to help you assess your interest areas, make decisions about your career path, and identify the experiences and skills that will help you accomplish your goals. Spur Connections will help you locate mentors from among USC alumni, employers and community members who can provide insights based on their careers and experiences. Early planning and preparation are keys to success.

About the Earth and Ocean Sciences Department

The Earth and Ocean Sciences Department is one of only two institutions in the southeast that offers a Geophysics undergraduate major degree. The department boasts a large and diverse faculty with broad scientific expertise. The department offers a broad range of specialties within geosciences such as sedimentology, stratigraphy, and basin evolution; tectonics and structural geology; environmental geology and hydrogeology; igneous and metamorphic petrology; geophysics and seismology; oceanography, coastal, and estuarine processes; paleoecology and paleontology; and paleoceanography and paleoclimatology. The department offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Geological Sciences or Geophysics, a Masters of Science degree program in Geological Sciences, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree program in Geological Sciences. The Earth and Ocean Sciences Department is in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Points of Pride

  • Students in the department have been nominated for and winners of the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. One student recently won a National Science Foundation graduate fellowship.
  • Students, through the Magellan Scholars Program, have participated in field programs in Russia, Romania, China, Kyrgyzstan, Puerto Rico, and Antarctica.
  • Students have gone on to graduate programs at prestigious institutions including Stanford, Cornell, Yale, the University of Arizona, University of Texas, and UCLA.

Additional Resources.
Earth and Ocean Sciences Department Website
College of Arts and Sciences Website
University Career Center
Undergraduate Bulletin