Undergraduate majors in Earth Sciences

The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences currently offers three undergraduate degree programs: Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degrees in Geology, Earth Sciences, and Geophysics. In addition, we offer Minor options in Geology, Geophysics and Global Climate Change.

Earth Science degrees cover all scientific studies related to the planet Earth, including the study of Earth composition, structure, processes, and history. The degree programs include the study of the organisms that inhabit our planet, how natural hazards affect society, and the past, present and future of climate change. Our B.S. programs in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences place substantial emphasis on preparing students for graduate study and a wide range of rewarding careers. The B.A. degree, on the other hand, is designed for students who wish to teach general science or earth science at a secondary school level, and combines training in general science and pedagogy with concentrated study in general geology.


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  • Geology Major

    The B.S. in Geology is our professional degree program, designed to meet the curriculum requirements of California state accreditation in Geology, which is required to practice as a professional geologist in California. It also provides a strong foundation in the subject for students interested in academic, research or teaching careers. At this time, the institution has not made a determination if completion of our program is sufficient to meet licensure or certificate requirements for states outside of California.

    The core curriculum of the Geology Major trains students in the fundamentals of geology, with a strong emphasis on learning in the field, making full use of southern California’s ‘natural laboratory’. Elective classes, from a diverse array of topics reflecting the expertise of our faculty, allow majors to develop their interests. The degree culminates in a summer field class in which students can apply the knowledge and skills gained.

    What can I do with a Geology degree?

    • Economic Geologist
    • Engineering Geologist
    • Environmental Geologist
    • Environmental Impact Report Writer
    • Exploration Geologist
    • Geothermal Energy Specialist
    • Groundwater Geologist
    • Hydrologist/Hydrogeologist
    • Instructor/Lecturer/Professor
    • Marine Geologist
    • Mining Geologist
    • Naturalist
    • Paleontologist
    • Park Ranger
    • Petroleum Geologist
    • Teacher
    • Technical Writer/Editor
    • Volcanologist
  • Earth Sciences Major

    The B.S. in Earth Sciences, our most general degree, allows students to follow their interests with concentrations in Climate Change, Geobiology, Geophysics and Geosystems.

    The Climate Change concentration caters to students who wish to study and interpret the record of climate change, and understand the dynamics of the modern climate system, the chemistry of the oceans and the physics of the atmosphere.

    Our concentration in Geobiology offers a special emphasis on paleontology and interactions between organisms and environment over geological time.

    The Geophysics option is for Earth Science students who wish to learn more about geophysical theories and techniques, and how they can be used to solve geological problems. (Students who are interested in a career in geophysics are recommended to pursue the Geophysics Major.)

    Our concentration in Geosystems combines aspects of geology with elective classes covering the full range of our upper division offerings in climate change, geophysics, geochemistry and/or paleontology. (Students who are interested in a career as a professional geologist are recommended to pursue the Geology Major.)

    What can I do with a degree in Earth Sciences?

    • Environmental Impact Report Writer
    • Instructor/Lecturer/Professor
    • Museum Curator
    • Naturalist
    • Paleontologist
    • Park Ranger
    • Teacher
    • Technical Writer/Editor
    • Volcanologist
  • Geophysics Major

    The B.S. in Geophysics applies the principles of physics to the study of the Earth, its structure, processes and earthquakes. It is designed to give a strong foundation in the discipline for students intending a career in geophysics. The techniques used by geophysicists—measuring and modeling variations in gravity, the magnetic field and in the speeds of seismic waves—can be applied on the local scale to explore for water, mineral or petroleum resources underground, or on the large scale to understand global tectonics and the structure of the crust and mantle.

    The curriculum combines classes in the fundamentals of geophysics, with electives in topics such as tectonics and seismology, augmented by additional classes in classical physics, math and statistics.

    What can I do with a Degree in Geophysics?

    • Seismologist
    • OIl/Gas Exploration Geophysicist
    • Mineral Exploration Geophysicist
    • Environmental Geophysicist
    • Earth Observation/Remote Sensing Specialist
    • Hydrologist/Hydrogeologist
    • Instructor/Lecturer/Professor
    • Marine Geophysicist
    • Geotechnical  Engineer
    • Geophysical Surveyor
    • Land Planner
    • Hazard Assessor
    • Computer Software Developer
    • Marine Geophysicist
    • Technical Writer/Editor
    • Planetologist
    • Volcanologist
  • Geology Minor Options

    Students who wish to Minor in Geology, Geophysics, or Global Climate Change must complete 20-28 units of organized upper division courses in Earth Sciences.  A minimum of 16 of these units must be unique to the minor and cannot be used to satisfy major requirements.  Due to course prerequisites, additional preparatory coursework in Earth Sciences and other sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics) may be required.

Undergraduate Advising

  • Faculty Mentoring

    Undergraduate advising in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences is designed to allow you close professional contact with our faculty and staff. Each student is assigned a mentor who is a faculty member with a Ph.D. This mentor has several functions:

    1. Provide advice regarding career goals
    2. Explain the different class and curriculum choices available in the department, and their implications
    3. Approve special studies and senior thesis projects, and one-off curriculum substitutions
    4. Help students become more integrated into the community of researchers that is our department


    Some examples of the sorts of questions that you could ask a faculty mentor:

    • What are the different career options for the Geology and Earth Sciences majors?
    • How can I find research experiences within the department?
    • What elective classes are recommended for licensure as a professional geologist?
    • Which classes are likely to be offered next academic year?
    • Would this class or that class better advance my career goals?
    • Who should I approach about doing a senior thesis on this topic?
    • I am potentially interested in applying to graduate school – how do I go about that? 


    Many of the above topics are covered in our weekly undergraduate seminar class 'Your Future in Earth and Planetary Sciences' (GEO 150) in which we explore different career possibilities (including meeting with working professionals), discuss how to gain research experiences as an undergrad, demystify the graduate school application process, and provide practical assistance with preparing CVs and application materials. Students can take this class for repeat credit, with a different syllabus each quarter, and we also provide food!

    Need more information? Feel free to email our Lead Faculty Advisor with questions, or to set up an appointment:


  • Curriculum Advising

    In addition, the department has a course curriculum advisor who can answer any questions regarding University policies and procedures. To ensure uniform interpretation of these rules, the curriculum advisor keeps your records, checks your registration each quarter, and advises you on your schedule of classes.

    Types of questions that you should ask a curriculum advisor:

    • Will these courses be OK next quarter?
    • Did my history class transfer?
    • Must I take English next quarter?
    • Can I graduate next spring?
    • May I go part time?
    • What does "subject to dismissal" mean?
    • How do I change my major to geophysics?
    • Can I take this class S/NC?
    • May I take a summer course at Berkeley?
    • What summer field camps are open this year?
    • May I repeat that class?

    For more information, contact our Undergraduate Curriculum Advisor:

    Johanna Navarrete
    Professional Academic Advisor 
    1223 Pierce Hall 
    Riverside, CA 92521 
    (951) 827-3581 (Voice) (Email)


Undergraduate Activities

Undergraduates in our department enjoy all the benefits of a small department and the resources of a large university. For example, we have a department-wide BBQ every Friday in our courtyard where undergraduates can mingle with their peers, graduate students, staff, and faculty alike. Some activities our students participate in include:

Geology Student Organization (GSO), a student-led geology club that holds biweekly meetings and organizes field trips. Connect with them on Facebook:

Follow GSO

Geoscience Education Outreach Program (GEOP), our department's efforts to reach out to the general public and our local community through tours of our museum or labs, by showcasing hands-on earth science at community events, or through visits to local schools.

UC Education Abroad Program (UCEAP), where students can spend a semester or a year at one of over 30 different universities globally, paying their normal UC tuition while earning credit for classes that count towards their UCR graduation.


Field Trips

Faculty and students in the Earth and Planetary Sciences department take many field trips all over southern California and beyond for courses in all sub-disciplines throughout the year.

  • Geo 11 Global Climate Change

    Geo 011 Global Climate Change Students visited the White Mountain Research Station in the Eastern Sierra & Bristle Cone Pines & Owens Lake .

  • Reflections of Field Studies of Geo 101

    For six days we will be in the Calico Mountains mapping folded sedimentary strata of Miocene age. For four days in the San Bernardino Mountains, near Landers, we practice mapping intrusive and extrusive igneous rocks.

  • Trips to Marble Mountains

    Undergraduate classes, Geo majors and non Geo majors have the chance to go on  field trips to the Mojave Desert.  Students get the opportunity to collect trilobite fossils at the Marble Mountains, visit an extinct volcanic crater at Amboy and walk on the salt flats at Bristol Dry Lake.

  • Graduate Volcanology Field Trip to Hawaii

    In October 2009 we took a group of students to the Big Island, Hawaii as part of the graduate volcanology course.

  • White Mountain Research Station and Mono Lake

    A high altitude and alpine research complex, composed of four facilities, located at different elevations on the peaks of White Mountain.

  • Weekend trips to local sites

    During the spring quarter the spring field class will be going most weekends to Mule Canyon in the Calico Hills or Ruby Mountain in the Eastern San Bernardino Mountains.


Undergraduate Courses

The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences offers a variety of classes in geology, climate science, geophysics, geochemistry and paleontology. A full and up-to-date list can be obtained from the UCR Catalog.

  • Spring Quarter Courses

    Undergraduate courses

    GEO 002 Earth's Climate Through Time

    GEO 003 Headlines in the History of Life

    GEO 004V Natural Hazards and Disasters 

    GEO 008 Earthquake Country 

    GEO 011 Climate Change and Sustainability 

    GEO 101 Field Geology 

    GEO 111 Numerical Skills in Geoscience 

    GEO 118 Sedimentology and Stratigraphy 

    GEO 136 Introduction to Molecular and Petroleum Geochemistry 

    GEO 145 Applied and Exploration Geophysics

    GEO 147 Active Tectonics and Remote Sensing

    GEO 162 Geomorphology

    Graduate courses

    GEO 240 Seminar in Earthquake Processes and Geophysics

    GEO 250 Graduate Seminar in Geological Sciences

    GEO 251I Advanced Topics in Paleontology

    GEO 254 Topics in Paleobiology

    GEO 264 Biochemical Cycles Through Time

    Please visit the Course Catalog for more information including course descriptions, times, and registration status of these classes.

How to Apply

Visit the Undergraduate Admissions website:

Undergraduate Application

For more information, please visit CNAS Undergraduate Academic Advising Center.


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