University of Wisconsin–Madison

Geoscience Degrees

Undergraduate Degree in Geology and Geophysics (B.S. or B.A.) 

The complementary fields of geology and geophysics are combined in one interdisciplinary department.  

Geology offers unusual opportunities to interweave knowledge from many disciplines in the study of natural Earth phenomena. Those who enjoy the challenge of integrating different kinds of information into a unified interpretation will find geology particularly satisfying. Most geology students enjoy travel and have a strong interest in the natural environment as it is today and as it has developed through the past 4.5 billion years. A natural capacity for historical and sequential thought, inductive reasoning, and three-dimensional perception is helpful, and these skills will be developed. Geological investigations are becoming increasingly quantitative and experimental, and thus require some computer experience and a strong foundation in chemistry, physics, and mathematics.

The student of geophysics is interested in developing a quantitative understanding of the structure and dynamics of the Earth’s interior from the shallow crust to deep core. Courses in geophysics apply basic physical laws and processes, such as those governing gravity, magnetism, heat flow, and seismic wave propagation, to the study of the Earth. An undergraduate may choose to concentrate in geophysics, but professional employment in the field often requires an advanced degree. Most students who pursue advanced study and careers in geophysics major in geology, physics, mathematics, or engineering as undergraduates.

Geological Engineering:  In addition to the single undergraduate major in Geology and Geophysics, a student can opt for a dual-degree in Geological Engineering (GLE) without significant additions to their course load. As its name implies, this major integrates the two different disciplines, geology and engineering, and thus attracts students with an interest in the applied side of geology. Geological engineers help find the best way to use the Earth’s resources to solve technical problems, while protecting the environment. Graduates from the UW GLE Program go on to work for geotechnical and environmental consulting firms, oil and mining companies, and government, and have found the dual nature of their degree very useful in pursuing and developing their careers. They also can pursue licensure as a “Professional Engineer”.

Geological Engineering also has a graduate program for masters and PhD level studies. This program attracts students from geology and other earth science undergraduate backgrounds, as well as from civil engineering, who are interested in applying earth science and engineering to solving problems related to mankind’s impact on earth materials.

Information about undergraduate degree requirements and declaring a major can be found here.

If you would like more information about the Geological Engineering program please visit their website:

Master’s and Ph.D. Degree in Geoscience

The Department of Geoscience provides opportunity for advanced study leading to the master of science and the doctor of philosophy degrees in geoscience. Broad research interests and numerous fields of specialization among the members of the faculty provide research opportunities in all major fields of earth science including astrobiology, geochemistry, geophysics, hydrogeology, microbial geoscience, mineralogy, nano-geoscience, paleontology, petrology, quaternary geology, sedimentology, structural geology, and tectonics.

Students may also obtain a joint master’s degree in geoscience and water resources management. The graduate student is expected to acquire a broad foundation in geoscience and in the supporting sciences before specializing. Courses are selected by the student in consultation with a three-member Guidance and Evaluation Committee. Field experience is emphasized as an integral part of the training. Individual research is required in all graduate work. It is expected that the candidate for an advanced degree will make original contributions, develop new ideas, and complete a dissertation suitable for publication.

The normal Master’s degree program takes no longer than two years; candidates working toward a single M.S. degree should obtain their degrees at the latest by the end of five full semesters of credit (summers excluded). The normal doctoral program does not take longer than three years beyond the Master’s degree, or 5 years if there was no Master’s degree. Information about applying to the Master’s Degree and/or Ph.D. Degree can be found here.