geoscience

The complementary fields of geology and geophysics are combined in one interdisciplinary department, with graduate degrees offered in both disciplines. The undergraduate degree is in geology and geophysics.

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.

To declare a major, students should meet with the undergraduate advisor. 

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 Breadth and Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

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 a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science curriculum. View a comparison of the degree requirements here.

Bachelor of Science DEGREE REQUIREMENTS

Mathematics Two (2) 3+ credits of intermediate/advanced level MATH, COMP SCI, STAT
Limit one each: COMP SCI, STAT
Foreign Language Complete the third unit of a foreign language
Note: A unit is one year of high school work or one semester/term of college work.
L&S Breadth
  • Humanities, 12 credits: 6 of the 12 credits must be in literature
  • Social Sciences, 12 credits
  • Natural Sciences, 12 credits: must include 6 credits in biological science; and must include 6 credits in physical science
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework 108 credits
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work 60 intermediate or advanced credits
Major Declare and complete at least one (1) major
Total Credits 120 credits
UW-Madison Experience 30 credits in residence, overall
30 credits in residence after the 90th credit
Minimum GPAs 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
2.000 in intermediate/advanced 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 and do not need to complete the L&S breadth and degree requirements above.  Please note that the following special degree programs are not considered majors so are not available to non-L&S-degree-seeking candidates:  

  • Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics (Bachelor of Science–Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics)
  • Journalism (Bachelor of Arts–Journalism; Bachelor of Science–Journalism)
  • Music (Bachelor of Music)
  • Social Work (Bachelor of Social Work)

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 track 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 (recommended)
Calculus
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 sequence):10-11
General Physics
and General Physics (recommended)
General Physics
and General Physics
A Modern Introduction to Physics
and A Modern Introduction to Physics
Geophysics and Engineering Geology Track option (compete all):
Statics
and Dynamics
General Physics
General Physics
A Modern Introduction to Physics
Total Credits24-35

geology & geophysics core course work

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 TRACKS

Complete one of the following:

Geology Track

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

Geophysics and Engineering Geology Track

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 Track

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  410 Minerals as a Public Problem3-4
or GEOSCI/​ENVIR ST  411 Energy Resources
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

General Geology Track

Any GEOSCI 300-699 117
Total Credits17

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

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 IN 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.
  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.
First Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits
MATH 221 (Quantitative Reasoning B)5MATH 2224
GEOSCI 100 or 1063PHYSICS 207 or 2015
L&S Breadth3Ethnic Studies (take within first 60 credits)3
Foreign Language4Comm A (take during first year)3
 15 15
Second Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits
PHYSICS 208 or 2025GEOSCI/​G L E  3703
GEOSCI 2024GEOSCI 2044
GEOSCI/​G L E  3603L&S Breadth3
Comm B3CHEM 1034
 Elective 2
 15 16
Third Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits
CHEM 1045L&S Breadth3
L&S Breadth 3GEOSCI Elective 300 level and above3
L&S Breadth3L&S Breadth3
GEOSCI Elective 300 level and above4Elective 3
 GEOSCI Elective 300 level and above3
 15 15
Fourth Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits
GEOSCI elective 300 level and above4GEOSCI elective 300 level and above4
GEOSCI elective 300 level and above3L&S Breadth3
Elective5Elective4
L&S Breadth3L&S Breadth3
 15 14
Total Credits 120

Advising

Contact the Department of Geoscience for general information about advising.  

Philip Brown, undergraduate advisor in the major: economic geology, mineralogy, geochemistry
pbrown@geology.wisc.edu
608-262-5954
365 Weeks Hall

Kurt Feigl, undergraduate advisor in the major:  tectonic applications of geodesy
feigl@geology.wisc.edu
608-262-0176
A248 Weeks Hall

Clay Kelly, undergraduate advisor in the major: micropaleontology and paleoceanography
ckelly@geology.wisc.edu
608-262-1698
463 Weeks Hall

Basil Tikoff, Undergraduate advisor in the major: structural geology
basil@geology.wisc.edu
608-262-4678
176 Weeks Hall

Huifang Xu, Undergraduate advisor in the major: mineral science, nanogeoscience, and electron microscopy
hfxu@geology.wisc.edu
608-265-5887
A352 Weeks Hall

Lucas Zoet, Undergraduate advisor in the major: glaciology and glacial geomorphology
lzoet@wisc.edu
608-262-1921
256B Weeks Hall

Eric Schueffner, Undergraduate advisor
elschueffner@wisc.edu
608-890-3231
230 Weeks Hall

CAREERS

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 M.S. 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 Ph.D. 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.

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

SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students leverage the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and liberal arts degree; explore and try out different career paths; participate in internships; prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications; and network with professionals in the field (alumni and employers). In short, SuccessWorks helps students in the College of Letters & Science discover themselves, find opportunities, and develop the skills they need for success after graduation.

SuccessWorks can also assist students in career advising, résumé and cover letter writing, networking opportunities, and interview skills, as well as course offerings for undergraduates to begin their career exploration early in their undergraduate career. 

Students should set up their profiles in Handshake to take care of everything they need to explore career events, manage their campus interviews, and apply to jobs and internships from 200,000+ employers around the country.

Professors Bahr, Brown, Carroll, DeMets, Feigl, Goodwin, Johnson, Kelly, Peters, Roden, Singer, Thurber, Tikoff, Tobin, Valley, Wang, Xu 

Associate Professor Meyers

Assistant Professors Cardiff, Marcott, Zoet