Geoscience graduate students and the Computed Tomography Scanner

The interdisciplinary department of Geoscience offers an undergraduate degree in geology and geophysics, with graduate degrees offered in both disciplines.

The Geology and Geophysics major offers unusual opportunities to integrate knowledge and technology from chemistry, biology, physics, engineering, space science, and other disciplines to understand processes that have shaped the Earth, its environments, and the life that it has sustained over billions of years. Geoscientists provide insight on surface and groundwater resources and how to protect and preserve them. They probe the causes and potential risks associated with natural hazards including earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, hurricanes, landslides, climate change, and sea level rise. Sustainable exploration and extraction of key mineral resources needed to build and power a resilient and green society depends on well-trained geoscientists. To explore Earth history, develop materials and energy resources, and take the pulse of a dynamic planet, geoscientists use an extraordinary array of tools, including satellites to measure changes of Earth’s surface, sensitive instruments to detect seismic waves for exploring resources underground, cutting-edge instrumentation to measure the composition of minerals and rocks at microscopic scales, and computational approaches to assemble and interrogate enormous sets of data acquired from rocks and fossils across the globe.

Geology students have a strong interest in the natural environment as it is today and as it has developed over the past 4.5 billion years. The Department of Geoscience challenges students to develop skills in sequential thought, inductive reasoning, and three-dimensional perception. Moreover, students who concentrate in geophysics learn basic physical laws and processes involving gravity, magnetism, heat flow, and seismic wave propagation within Earth. Opportunities also include learning how satellite-based measurements, and computational approaches, are used to measure and monitor geothermal resources, volcanic activity, earthquakes, and groundwater movement. 

Geology and Geophysics students prepare for careers in hydrogeology, energy, mining, engineering, and education.  Students are exceptionally well-prepared for graduate studies in a broad array of geoscience fields.

How to Get in

There are no admissions requirements for the major. Students wishing to declare the Geology & Geophysics major should meet with the Undergraduate Academic Advising Manager listed in the Contact Box on the right sidebar of this page.

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.

College of Letters & Science Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Science (BS)

Students pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either the Bachelor of Arts or the Bachelor of Science degree requirements.

Bachelor of Science Degree Requirements

Mathematics Complete two courses of 3+ credits at the Intermediate or Advanced level in MATH, COMP SCI, or STAT subjects. A maximum of one course in each of COMP SCI and STAT subjects counts toward this requirement.
Language Complete the third unit of a language other than English.
LS Breadth Complete:
• 12 credits of Humanities, which must include at least 6 credits of Literature; and
• 12 credits of Social Science; and
• 12 credits of Natural Science, which must include 6 credits of Biological Science and 6 credits of Physical Science.
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework Complete at least 108 credits.
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced Coursework Complete at least 60 credits at the Intermediate or Advanced level.
Major Declare and complete at least one major.
Total Credits Complete at least 120 credits.
UW-Madison Experience Complete both:
• 30 credits in residence, overall, and
• 30 credits in residence after the 86th credit.
Quality of Work • 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
• 2.000 in Intermediate/Advanced level coursework at UW–Madison

Non–L&S students pursuing an L&S major

Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements. They do not need to complete the L&S Degree Requirements above.

Requirements for the Major

Prospective majors are strongly encouraged to seek assistance from a faculty advisor in order to choose courses appropriate to their interests and career plans. Advisors can also assist students in choosing a pathway that is appropriate for their interests and career goals.

Background Requirements

Calculus (complete one sequence):9-14
Calculus and Analytic Geometry 1
and Calculus and Analytic Geometry 2
Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry I
and Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry II
and Calculus and Analytic Geometry 2
Chemistry (complete one sequence)5-10
Advanced General Chemistry
General Chemistry I
and General Chemistry II
Chemical Principles I
and Chemical Principles II
Physics (complete one course from each group):10-11
General Physics
General Physics
A Modern Introduction to Physics
General Physics
General Physics
A Modern Introduction to Physics
Geophysics and Engineering Geology Pathway option (compete all):
and Dynamics
General Physics
General Physics
A Modern Introduction to Physics
Total Credits24-35

Geology & Geophysics Core Coursework

Complete all of the following:
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
Total Credits17

Geology & Geophysics Pathways

Complete one of the following:

Geology Pathway

GEOSCI/G L E 350 Introduction to Geophysics: The Dynamic Earth3
GEOSCI 375 Principles of Geochemistry3
GEOSCI 430 Sedimentology and Stratigraphy3
GEOSCI/G L E 455 Structural Geology4
4 credits of GEOSCI 300-699 14
Total Credits17

Except GEOSCI 331.

Geophysics and Engineering Geology Pathway

GEOSCI/G L E 431 Sedimentary & Stratigraphy Lab1
GEOSCI/G L E 455 Structural Geology4
GEOSCI/G L E 474 Rock Mechanics3
or GEOSCI/​G L E  350 Introduction to Geophysics: The Dynamic Earth
GEOSCI/G L E 594 Introduction to Applied Geophysics3
GEOSCI/G L E 595 Field Methods in Applied and Engineering Geophysics1
GEOSCI/G L E 627 Hydrogeology3-4
or GEOSCI/​G L E  350 Introduction to Geophysics: The Dynamic Earth
E M A 303 Mechanics of Materials3
or M E 306 Mechanics of Materials
or PHYSICS 311 Mechanics
or PHYSICS 322 Electromagnetic Fields
MATH 234 Calculus--Functions of Several Variables3-4
or MATH 319 Techniques in Ordinary Differential Equations
or MATH 320 Linear Algebra and Differential Equations
or MATH 340 Elementary Matrix and Linear Algebra
Total Credits21-23

Environmental Geoscience Pathway

GEOSCI/​GEOG  320 Geomorphology3-4
or GEOSCI/​GEOG  420 Glacial and Pleistocene Geology
or GEOSCI 430 Sedimentology and Stratigraphy
or GEOSCI/​G L E  627 Hydrogeology
GEOSCI 375 Principles of Geochemistry3
or GEOSCI 610 Geochronology, Timescales, and Rates of Geologic Processes
or GEOSCI/​G L E  629 Contaminant Hydrogeology
GEOSCI 304 Geobiology3
or GEOSCI/​ZOOLOGY  541 Paleobiology
or GEOSCI/​ZOOLOGY  542 Invertebrate Paleontology
GEOSCI/​ENVIR ST  411 Energy Resources3-4
or GEOSCI/​G L E  455 Structural Geology
or GEOSCI 515 Principles of Economic Geology
or GEOSCI/​G L E  594 Introduction to Applied Geophysics
Electives 3-5
Total Credits17-19

Except GEOSCI 331.

General Geology Pathway

Any GEOSCI 300-699 117
Total Credits17

Except GEOSCI 331.

Residence and Quality of Work

  • 2.000 GPA in all GEOSCI and major courses
  • 2.000 on 15 upper-level major credits, taken in residence 1
  • 15 credits in GEOSCI, taken on campus

 GEOSCI 300-699, excluding GEOSCI 331, are considered Upper Level in the Major

Honors in the Major

Students may declare Honors in the Geology and Geophysics Major in consultation with the departmental undergraduate advisor.

Honors in the Major: Geology and Geophysics: Requirements

To earn Honors in the Geology and Geophysics Major, students must satisfy both the requirements for the major (above) and the following additional requirements:

  • Earn a 3.300 University GPA
  • Earn a 3.400 GPA in all GEOSCI and major courses
  • Complete GEOSCI 681 and GEOSCI 682, for a total of 6 credits, with a grade of B or better.

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.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Acquire quantitative and spatial reasoning skills and the ability to apply those skills to problems in geoscience.
  2. Be able to explicate key biological, chemical and physical Earth structures, processes, the interactions between them, and the roles that they play in determining the state of the Earth system.
  3. Utilize geological observations and measurements to solve problems involving the timing of geological events in Earth history.
  4. Combine data and lab/field-based observations into a novel synthesis and/or description/model of how Earth systems operate.
  5. Be able to critique published scientific data, results, and interpretations thereof, as well as identify and assess related work in the scientific literature.
  6. Be able to effectively communicate scientific concepts, methods, and results.

Sample Four-Year Plan

This Sample Four-Year Plan is a tool to assist students and their advisor(s). Students should use it—along with their DARS report, the Degree Planner, and Course Search & Enroll tools—to make their own four-year plan based on their placement scores, credit for transferred courses and approved examinations, and individual interests. As students become involved in athletics, honors, research, student organizations, study abroad, volunteer experiences, and/or work, they might adjust the order of their courses to accommodate these experiences. Students will likely revise their own four-year plan several times during college.

First Year
MATH 221 (Quantitative Reasoning B)5MATH 2224
CHEM 1034CHEM 1045
GEOSCI 100 or 1063Ethnic Studies (take within first 60 credits)3
Foreign Language4Comm A (take during first year)3
 16 15
Second Year
GEOSCI 2024GEOSCI/​G L E  3703
GEOSCI/​G L E  3603GEOSCI 2044
L&S Breadth3L&S Breadth3
 15 15
Third Year
GEOSCI Elective 300 level and above4GEOSCI Elective 300 level and above3
GEOSCI Elective 300 level and above4GEOSCI Elective 300 level and above3
L&S Breadth3L&S Breadth3
Comm B 4L&S Breadth3
 Elective 3
 15 15
Fourth Year
GEOSCI elective 300 level and above4GEOSCI elective 300 level and above4
GEOSCI elective 300 level and above3L&S Breadth3
L&S Breadth3L&S Breadth3
 15 14
Total Credits 120

Advising and Careers


Any student interested in the Geology & Geophysics major should meet with the Undergraduate Academic Advising Manager listed in the Contact Box on the right sidebar of this page to discuss steps to complete the necessary coursework for the major.


More than half of all professional geologists and geophysicists work in hydrogeology, engineering geology, technical consulting, mining, or energy resource industries. The need for energy, environmental protection, and responsible land and resource management is expected to spur future demand for geoscientists. Geoscientists will be involved in discovering and developing next-generation energy and mineral resources*.  Such careers 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 or research activities. 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 rock characterization techniques for waste disposal and groundwater modeling. Many geology students continue on to obtain a PhD degree and become faculty members at colleges or universities. 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.

*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, November, 2022

The College of Letters & Science encourages majors to begin working on their career exploration and preparation soon after arriving on campus. Our department partners with SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science. L&S graduates are in high demand by employers and graduate programs. It is important that students are career ready at the time of graduation, and we are committed to their success.

L&S Career Resources

Every L&S major opens a world of possibilities.  SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students turn the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and other coursework into fulfilling lives after graduation, whether that means jobs, public service, graduate school or other career pursuits.

In addition to providing basic support like resume reviews and interview practice, SuccessWorks offers ways to explore interests and build career skills from their very first semester/term at UW all the way through graduation and beyond.

Students can explore careers in one-on-one advising, try out different career paths, complete internships, prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications, and connect with supportive alumni and even employers in the fields that inspire them.


Professors Dutton, Feigl, Goodwin, Kelly, Meyers, Peters, Roden, Singer, Tikoff, Xu

Associate Professors Cardiff, Ferrier, Marcott, Zoet

Assistant Professors Bauer, Bonamici, Golos, Haseloff, Marroquin, Nghiem, Zahasky