A student sits against a tree on Bascom Hill, studying a book.

Undergraduate Program

The Geology & Geophysics Degree

Our undergraduate program offers unique opportunities to interweave knowledge from many disciplines in the study of Earth and its history. A natural capacity for historical and sequential thought, inductive reasoning, and three-dimensional perception is helpful, and these skills will be further developed as a geoscience student. Geological investigations are becoming increasingly quantitative, integrative and experimental, and thus require some computer experience and a strong foundation in chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Most geoscience students also spend a great deal of time studying the Earth outside, in the field, and there are many opportunities to get involved.

Geophysics students are 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.

Honors in the major

Students interested in earning Honors in the major should consult with and receive permission from the honors adviser. Students should declare their intention to graduate with honors by the end of their sophomore year or the start of their junior year. Honors students are expected to complete a Senior Honors Thesis.  Appropriate background courses for the thesis should be chosen in consultation with the student’s thesis adviser. To graduate with Honors, a student must maintain a GPA of 3.4 in all geology and geophysics courses.

Geology & Geophysics Degree Information

BA degree requirements »

BS degree requirements »

Sample four-year plan »

Undergraduate Advisor

Sabrina Manero
230 Weeks Hall

Undergraduate Degree Requirements

All undergraduate students are required to fulfill a minimum set of General Education Requirements. Additionally, background courses include calculus, chemistry and physics. Work with an advisor to ensure that you choose courses appropriate to your interests and career plan. Consult the Guide for specific degree requirements.

To declare a major

To declare a major in geology or geophysics, students must meet with the undergraduate advisor, Sabrina Manero. Email her to schedule an appointment – smanero@wisc.edu


More than half of all professional geologists and geophysicists work in hydrogeology or the petroleum and mining industries. Such jobs involve an unusual breadth of training and personal adaptability, and the MS degree is generally required. About one fifth of all geoscientists work in state and federal geological surveys, and in government research activities such as oceanographic programs. These positions largely involve problems in geologic mapping, mineral resources, groundwater, and engineering. Geophysics offers opportunities in earthquake studies, seismic verification of nuclear test bans, and crustal rock characterization techniques for waste disposal and groundwater modeling. Many geology students continue on to obtain a PhD degree and become faculty members at a college or university. A geology and geophysics major is also appropriate for those interested in careers in elementary or secondary education, environmental policy, or environmental law. Faculty advisors can provide additional information on career opportunities.