Students at the site of a gas extraction well during a landfill field trip

Geological engineering integrates two disciplines—geology and engineering. Geologists study the Earth—its origins, its composition, and its evolution. Engineers apply scientific principles to practical ends, such as the sustainable design and construction of facilities and infrastructure, the environmentally responsible extraction of resources, and the use of geo-systems for the generation of alternative energy. Geological engineering is interdisciplinary, with faculty from the College of Engineering and the College of Letters & Science.

Geological engineers find responsible ways to use the Earth's resources to address engineering challenges while protecting the environment. They solve a variety of practical problems associated with rock and soils using principles of sustainable engineering. They design and construct structures, transportation facilities, dams, tunnels, and power plants. They mitigate naturally-occurring phenomena such as floods, landslides, and earthquakes, and develop safe and environmentally sound sources of energy and minerals. Geological engineers also manage groundwater and surface water resources to ensure the public has access to safe drinking water. They also design and construct subsurface repositories for waste disposal and remediate contaminated sites.

Students pursuing the B.S. degree in geological engineering are encouraged to obtain the dual major in Geological Engineering and Geology. The geological engineering curriculum allows students to obtain the dual major in a single 126-credit program. No extra course work is required. Students are encouraged to declare the intention to complete the dual major by contacting an advisor and completing the necessary paperwork. The B.S. degree in geological engineering is accredited by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET), which is required to obtain a professional engineering license.

Geological Engineering Program Educational Objectives

Graduates will be prepared to assume positions as geological engineers upon graduation. After proper training and exposure to a comprehensive education in our program, our graduates will be able to:

  1. apply geological engineering principles, analyses, and synthesis to design and implement projects in the natural and built environment;
  2. incorporate economic, environmental, political, ethical, social, safety, and global considerations to generate sustainable solutions in the natural and built environment;
  3. exhibit strong communication, leadership, and teamwork skills;
  4. serve others through professional responsibility and participation in professional and public activities and good citizenship; and
  5. demonstrate a continuing commitment to and interest in their own and others’ education.

Admission to the College as a Freshman

Students applying to UW–Madison need to indicate an engineering major as their first choice in order to be considered for direct admission to the College of Engineering. Direct admission to a major means students will start in the program of their choice in the College of Engineering and will need to meet progression requirements at the end of the first year to guarantee advancement in that program.

Cross-Campus Transfer to Engineering

UW–Madison students in other schools and colleges on campus must meet minimum admission requirements for admission consideration to engineering degree granting classifications. Cross-campus admission is competitive and selective, and the grade point average expectations may increase as demand trends change. The student’s overall academic record at UW–Madison is also considered. Students apply to their intended engineering program by submitting the online application by stated deadlines for spring and fall. The College of Engineering offers an online information tutorial and drop-in advising for students to learn about the cross-campus transfer process.

Off-Campus Transfer to Engineering

With careful planning, students at other accredited institutions can transfer coursework that will apply toward engineering degree requirements at UW–Madison. Off-campus transfer applicants are considered for direct admission to the College of Engineering by applying to the Office of Admissions with an engineering major listed as their first choice. Those who are admitted to their intended engineering program must meet progression requirements at the point of transfer or within their first two semesters at UW–Madison to guarantee advancement in that program. A minimum of 30 credits in residence in the College of Engineering is required after transferring, and all students must meet all requirements for their major in the college. Transfer admission to the College of Engineering is competitive and selective, and students who have exceeded the 80 credit limit at the time of application are not eligible to apply.

The College of Engineering has dual degree programs with select four-year UW System campuses. Eligible dual degree applicants are not subject to the 80 credit limit.

Off-campus transfer students are encouraged to discuss their interests, academic background, and admission options with the Transfer Coordinator in the College of Engineering: or 608-262-2473.

Second Bachelor's Degree

The College of Engineering does not accept second undergraduate degree applications. Second degree students might explore the Biological Systems Engineering program at UW–Madison, an undergraduate engineering degree elsewhere, or a graduate program in the College of Engineering.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

Students must complete the College of Engineering Liberal Studies Requirements.

Students are encouraged to download a GLE Undergraduate Handbook from the Current Students/Undergraduate page on the program website. The handbook has detailed curriculum information as well as other practical information for undergraduate students to supplement the information provided here.

Students completing the geological engineering degree are also eligible to earn an additional major in geology and geophysics with no additional coursework. Students must contact an advisor to complete the necessary paperwork to declare the additional geology and geophysics major.

Summary of Requirements

Engineering Principles and Professional Issues11-14
Physical Science, Engineering Science, and Geoscience44
Required Geological Engineering Courses19
Technical Electives15
Geological Engineering Design
Communication Skills8-9
Liberal Studies Electives16
Fundamentals of Engineering Exam
Total Credits126-130


MATH 221 Calculus and Analytic Geometry 15
or MATH 217 Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry II
or MATH 275 Topics in Calculus I
MATH 222 Calculus and Analytic Geometry 24
or MATH 276 Topics in Calculus II
MATH 234 Calculus--Functions of Several Variables4
Total Credits13

Engineering Principles and Professional Issues

STAT 324 Introductory Applied Statistics for Engineers3
or STAT 311 Introduction to Theory and Methods of Mathematical Statistics I
or I SY E 210 Introduction to Industrial Statistics
CIV ENGR/​G L E  291 Problem Solving Using Computer Tools4
I SY E 313 Engineering Economic Analysis3
Select one:1-4
Special Topics in Engineering Professional Development (Topic: Core Competence in Sustainability)
Introduction to Sustainability Science
Environmental Conservation
Environmental Ethics
Special Topics in Geological Engineering (Topic: Ethics & Professionalism - GLE)
Applied Leadership Competencies in Engineering
Total Credits11-14

Physical Science, Engineering Science and Geoscience 

Select one of the following:5-9
Advanced General Chemistry
General Chemistry I
and General Chemistry II
PHYSICS 202 General Physics5
or PHYSICS 208 General Physics
E M A 201 Statics3
E M A 202 Dynamics3
or M E 240 Dynamics
E M A 303 Mechanics of Materials3
or M E 306 Mechanics of Materials
CIV ENGR 310 Fluid Mechanics3
GEOSCI 100 Introductory Geology: How the Earth Works3
or GEOSCI/​ENVIR ST  106 Environmental Geology
GEOSCI 202 Introduction to Geologic Structures4
GEOSCI 204 Geologic Evolution of the Earth4
GEOSCI/​G L E  360 Principles of Mineralogy3
GEOSCI/​G L E  370 Elementary Petrology3
GEOSCI/​G L E  431 Sedimentary & Stratigraphy Lab1
GEOSCI/​G L E  455 Structural Geology4
Total Credits44-48

Required Geological Engineering Courses

G L E 171 Introduction to Geological Engineering1
G L E/​CIV ENGR  330 Soil Mechanics3
G L E/​CIV ENGR/​GEOSCI/​M S & E  474 Rock Mechanics3
G L E 479 Geological Engineering Design4
G L E/​GEOSCI  594 Introduction to Applied Geophysics3
G L E/​GEOSCI  595 Field Methods in Applied and Engineering Geophysics1
G L E/​GEOSCI  627 Hydrogeology4
Total Credits19

Technical Electives (15 credits)

Students must take at least 15 credits in the Technical Electives category, of which 5-6 credits must be design-focused (noted as ‘D’ in the tracks below), including at least one design-focused course taken prior to G L E 479 Geological Engineering Design. If students take G L E/​CIV ENGR  430 Introduction to Slope Stability and Earth Retention, G L E/​CIV ENGR  432 Introduction to Shallow and Deep Foundation Systems and G L E/​CIV ENGR  434 Introduction to Underground Openings Engineering, these combine to count as one design course. Additionally, if students take G L E/​CIV ENGR  530 Seepage and Slopes, they can use G L E/​CIV ENGR  432 and G L E/​CIV ENGR  434 to count as one design credit; or, if students take G L E/​CIV ENGR  532 Foundations, they can use G L E/​CIV ENGR  430 and G L E/​CIV ENGR  434 to count as one design credit. Students may take up to 6 credits of directed research credits as technical electives.

The technical electives are organized into five tracks, described below. Students may select courses within these tracks to focus coursework in a particular area. However, students may complete the technical electives requirement using courses listed in multiple tracks. Suggested technical electives and associated design-focused credits (noted as ‘D’ in the tracks below) for each track are included below. One credit of G L E 1 Cooperative Education Program can be used as a technical elective.

Energy, Minerals & Mining

Geological engineers possess knowledge and a skill set that serve society's need to manage extraction of traditional energy and mineral resources in more sustainable and efficient ways, develop renewable energy systems such as solar and wind energy sites, and to lead in new technologies to limit carbon emissions through geological sequestration or to develop geothermal exchange fields and reservoirs.

Within this track, the 16 credits of liberal studies can be framed to match those of the Energy Institute certificate in Energy Sustainability.

BSE/​ENVIR ST  367 Renewable Energy Systems3
CBE 562 Special Topics in Chemical Engineering (Topic: Energy & Sustainability)1-3
CIV ENGR/​ENVIR ST/​GEOG  377 An Introduction to Geographic Information Systems4
E M A 405 Practicum in Finite Elements3
GEOSCI/​ENVIR ST  411 Energy Resources3
GEOSCI 457 Conducted Field Trip2
GEOSCI 459 Field Geology6
GEOSCI 515 Principles of Economic Geology4
G L E 401 Special Topics in Geological Engineering (D) 11-3
G L E/​CIV ENGR  430 Introduction to Slope Stability and Earth Retention (D)1
G L E/​CIV ENGR  434 Introduction to Underground Openings Engineering (D)1
G L E/​CIV ENGR  530 Seepage and Slopes (D)3
G L E/​CIV ENGR  535 Wind Energy Balance-of-Plant Design (D)3
G L E 801 Special Topics in Geological Engineering (Topic: Geomechanics)1-3

 Only certain G L E 401 topics count as design courses.

Sustainability & Environment

Methods for quantifying the long-term effects of development, natural resource extraction, and environmental damage are often neglected or misapplied in cost-benefit life cycle analysis. This track intends to produce professionals capable of leading the field in sustainable design and construction. The Sustainability & Environment track focuses on quantification, design, and optimization in relation to the use of natural resources and construction materials/methods as well as minimizing the long-term impacts of these activities.

BSE/​DS/​LAND ARC  356 Sustainable Residential Construction3
BSE/​ENVIR ST  367 Renewable Energy Systems3
CBE 562 Special Topics in Chemical Engineering (Topic: Energy & Sustainability)1-3
CIV ENGR 320 Environmental Engineering3
CIV ENGR/​G L E  421 Environmental Sustainability Engineering3
CIV ENGR 427 Solid and Hazardous Wastes Engineering (D)3
CIV ENGR 619 Special Topics in Hydrology1-3
CIV ENGR 649 Special Topics in Structural Engineering (Topic: Sustainable Construction)1-3
GEOSCI/​ENVIR ST  411 Energy Resources3
GEOSCI/​G L E  629 Contaminant Hydrogeology (D)3
G L E 401 Special Topics in Geological Engineering (D) 11-3
G L E/​CIV ENGR  635 Remediation Geotechnics (D)3
G L E/​CIV ENGR  732 Unsaturated Soil Geoengineering3
SOIL SCI 321 Soils and Environmental Chemistry3
SOIL SCI/​ENVIR ST  324 Soils and Environmental Quality3

 Only certain G L E 401 Special Topics in Geological Engineering topics count as design courses.


The number of fatalities and amount of economic loss due to geohazards increase every year. These losses may result from various geohazards, such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides, flooding and tsunamis. The Geohazards track aims to provide students with the necessary skills to perform analyses that minimize loss of life and economic costs associated with geohazards.

CIV ENGR/​ENVIR ST/​GEOG  377 An Introduction to Geographic Information Systems4
CIV ENGR 514 Coastal Engineering (D)2-3
E M A 405 Practicum in Finite Elements3
GEOSCI/​GEOG  320 Geomorphology3
GEOSCI/​GEOG  326 Landforms-Topics and Regions3
GEOSCI/​G L E  350 Introduction to Geophysics: The Dynamic Earth3
GEOSCI 459 Field Geology6
G L E/​CIV ENGR  430 Introduction to Slope Stability and Earth Retention (D)1
G L E/​CIV ENGR/​ENVIR ST/​GEOSCI  444 Practical Applications of GPS Surveying2
G L E/​CIV ENGR  530 Seepage and Slopes (D)3
G L E/​CIV ENGR  735 Soil Dynamics (D)3


Water is an essential resource for humans and ecosystems. Water is also linked to mineral and energy resource production, waste management, and land reclamation. Population growth and climate change are creating increasing challenges to this resource. Development and sustainable management of groundwater and surface water, including prevention and mitigation of water quality problems, require combined expertise in geoscience, hydrology, and water resources engineering offered through the Water track.

CIV ENGR 311 Hydroscience3
CIV ENGR 412 Groundwater Hydraulics3
CIV ENGR 414 Hydrologic Design (D)3
CIV ENGR 415 Hydrology3
CIV ENGR 500 Water Chemistry3
CIV ENGR 618 Special Topics in Hydraulics and Fluid Mechanics (D) 11-3
CIV ENGR 619 Special Topics in Hydrology1-3
GEOSCI/​GEOG  320 Geomorphology3
GEOSCI/​GEOG  326 Landforms-Topics and Regions3
GEOSCI/​GEOG  420 Glacial and Pleistocene Geology3
GEOSCI 430 Sedimentology and Stratigraphy3
GEOSCI/​G L E  629 Contaminant Hydrogeology (D)3
G L E/​CIV ENGR  430 Introduction to Slope Stability and Earth Retention (D)1
G L E/​CIV ENGR  530 Seepage and Slopes (D)3
G L E/​CIV ENGR  732 Unsaturated Soil Geoengineering3

 Must take one of these topics: "Waterfront & Coastal Planning" or "Lake & River Rehabilitation."


There are many challenges that need to be overcome to address the aging infrastructure of this country as well as to develop cost effective solutions for new infrastructure in developing nations. The Infrastructure track is developed to provide students a background that enables them to perform engineering calculations to design, construct, assess the current condition (level of safety), and develop repair and retrofit solutions for civil engineering structures resting on, or constructed in, soil or rock.

CIV ENGR 649 Special Topics in Structural Engineering (Topic: Sustainable Construction)1-3
E M A 405 Practicum in Finite Elements3
GEOSCI/​GEOG  320 Geomorphology3
GEOSCI/​GEOG  420 Glacial and Pleistocene Geology3
GEOSCI 430 Sedimentology and Stratigraphy3
G L E 401 Special Topics in Geological Engineering (D) 11-3
G L E/​CIV ENGR  430 Introduction to Slope Stability and Earth Retention (D)1
G L E/​CIV ENGR  432 Introduction to Shallow and Deep Foundation Systems (D)1
G L E/​CIV ENGR  434 Introduction to Underground Openings Engineering (D)1
G L E/​CIV ENGR/​ENVIR ST/​GEOSCI  444 Practical Applications of GPS Surveying2
G L E/​CIV ENGR  530 Seepage and Slopes (D)3
G L E/​CIV ENGR  532 Foundations (D)3
G L E/​CIV ENGR  535 Wind Energy Balance-of-Plant Design (D)3
G L E/​CIV ENGR  730 Engineering Properties of Soils3
G L E/​CIV ENGR  735 Soil Dynamics (D)3

 Only certain G L E 401 topics count as design courses.

Communication Skills

ENGL 100 Introduction to College Composition3
or COM ARTS 100 Introduction to Speech Composition
or LSC 100 Science and Storytelling
or ESL 118 Academic Writing II
E P D 275 Technical Presentations2-3
or COM ARTS 105 Public Speaking
or COM ARTS 181 Elements of Speech-Honors Course
or COM ARTS 262 Theory and Practice of Argumentation and Debate
or COM ARTS 266 Theory and Practice of Group Discussion
INTEREGR 397 Engineering Communication (was EPD 397 before Fall 2020)3
Total Credits8-9

Liberal Studies (16 credits)

Students must complete the 16 credits of College of Engineering Liberal Studies Requirements.

Fundamentals of Engineering Exam

All students must take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. 

Honors in Research

Students in geological engineering that have completed at least two semesters on the Madison campus with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 may apply to participate in the Honors in Research program. Students may register for 1 to 3 credits per semester. A grade of P (Progress) will be assigned each semester until the student completes the honors in research program or drops out of the program, at which time a final grade is assigned (based on research progress and the written thesis, if completed). This becomes the grade for all credits taken in G L E 489 Honors in Research.

A senior thesis worth 3 credits of G L E 489 Honors in Research is required. The senior thesis is a written document reporting on a substantial piece of work that is prepared in the style of a graduate thesis. The thesis advisor determines the grade which the student receives for the thesis. A bound copy of the thesis must be submitted to the geological engineering office to complete the program.

The designation "Honors in Research" will be recorded on the student's transcript if the following criteria are met:

  1. Satisfaction of requirements for an undergraduate degree in Geological Engineering.
  2. A cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.3.
  3. Completion of a total of at least 8 credits in G L E 489 Honors in Research.
  4. Completion of a senior honors thesis with a final grade of B or better.

Students interested in the Honors in Research program should contact their advisor or the G L E chair for more information. Applications to the program are to be submitted to the G L E chair with a supporting letter from the student’s academic and thesis advisors. Decisions regarding acceptance are made by the G L E chair.

University Degree Requirements

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.
  1. an ability to identify, formulate, and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science, and mathematics
  2. an ability to apply engineering design to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration of public health, safety, and welfare, as well as global, cultural, social, environmental, and economic factors
  3. an ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences
  4. an ability to recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts
  5. an ability to function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks, and meet objectives
  6. an ability to develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions
  7. an ability to acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate learning strategies.


First Year
MATH 2215MATH 2224
CHEM 1095E M A 2013
GEOSCI 100 or 1063GEOSCI 2044
Communication A3G L E 1711
 Liberal Studies Elective4
 16 16
Second Year
MATH 2344CIV ENGR 3103
E M A 2023E M A 3033
GEOSCI/​G L E  3603PHYSICS 202 or 2085
GEOSCI 2024GEOSCI/​G L E  3703
CIV ENGR/​G L E  2914Liberal Studies Elective3
 18 17
Third Year
STAT 324 or 3113Technical Elective3
Technical Elective3Professional Issues1-4
CIV ENGR/​G L E  3303G L E/​CIV ENGR/​GEOSCI/​M S & E  4743
G L E/​GEOSCI  4311GEOSCI/​G L E  4554
Liberal Studies Elective3INTEREGR 397 (was EPD 397)3
E P D 275, COM ARTS 105, COM ARTS 181, COM ARTS 262, or COM ARTS 2662-3 
 15-16 14-17
Fourth Year
Ethnic Studies3G L E 4794
G L E/​GEOSCI  5943Liberal Studies Elective3
G L E/​GEOSCI  5951I SY E 3133
G L E/​GEOSCI  6274Technical Elective3
Technical Elective (design)3Technical Elective (design)3
 14 16
Total Credits 126-130


Each College of Engineering program has academic advisors dedicated to serving its students. Program advisors can help current College of Engineering students with questions about accessing courses, navigating degree requirements, resolving academic issues and more. Students can find their assigned advisor on the homepage of their student center. 

Engineering Career Services

Engineering Career Services (ECS) assists students in identifying pre-professional work-based learning experiences such as co-ops and summer internships, considering and applying to graduate or professional school, and finding full-time professional employment during their graduation year.

ECS offers two major career fairs per year, assists with resume writing and interviewing skills, hosts workshops on the job search, and meets one-on-one with students to discuss offer negotiations.

Students are encouraged to utilize the ECS office early in their academic careers. For comprehensive information on ECS programs and workshops, see the ECS website or call 608-262-3471.


Kurt L. Feigl
Laurel B. Goodwin
Tracey Holloway
William J. Likos
Steven P. Loheide II
Clifford H. Thurber
Basil Tikoff
Chin H. Wu

Associate Professors

Michael Cardiff
Ken Ferrier
Dante Fratta
Matthew Ginder-Vogel
Andrea Hicks
James Tinjum (Director)
Lucas Zoet

Assistant Professors

Jesse Hampton
Hiroki Sone
Christopher Zahasky

See also Geological Engineering Faculty Directory.


The geological engineering program utilizes laboratories that are shared with other departments. They include:

Land Information and Surveying Laboratories
Fluid Mechanics Laboratory
Materials Testing Laboratory
Geology and Hydrogeology Laboratories
Rock Mechanics Laboratory
Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Laboratories
The Halliburton Geoscience Visualization Center


Accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET,

Note: Undergraduate Program Educational Objectives and Student Outcomes are made publicly available at the Departmental website. (In this Guide, the program's Student Outcomes are designated by our campus as "Learning Outcomes.")