Geology master's degree programs are classified as part of the geosciences. Geology is the study of the history, composition and processes of Earth. Geology has applications in a number of industries including environmental protection and conservation, energy and natural resource exploration and extraction and development and infrastructure projects.
Earning a master's degree in geology prepares students to enter the field of geology with the most up-to-date research tools, methods and technology as well as current geological principles.
Geology Master's Degree Program Curriculum
Master's degree programs in geology require particular undergraduate coursework. Some schools look for previous coursework in physics, chemistry, higher level mathematics and courses specific to geology such as mineralogy, petrology, stratigraphy and various topics in geology.
While most graduate programs have a specific focus within the field of geology, typical courses of a master's in geology program include:
- Structural geology
- Advanced, focused courses in petrology
Field work is an important part of the graduate program and is often undertaken during summers. Each school offers different field areas.
Master’s programs in geology generally last two to three years, while Ph.D. programs range from three to six years. Master’s candidates are typically expected to produce a final research project, but it does not need to contain original research. In contrast, a Ph.D. candidate must typically complete a dissertation consisting of original and groundbreaking scientific research, and must pass qualifying exams.
Geologist Career Paths
Geologists find work in a variety of capacities including research positions, working with architectural and engineering firms and assisting with environmentally conscious oil and gas extraction efforts. Others find environmental conservation positions and assist with building, infrastructure and waste remediation projects. Many geologists land positions with state and federal agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of the Interior.
Geologists Job Outlook
Jobs for geoscientists are expected to grow 16 percent between 2012 and 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). New positions will largely be based in environmental protection and energy exploration and extraction, and positions supporting sustainability and responsible use of natural resources will be created. A large number of geologists might also find work as consultants especially with building and construction projects. Graduates with a master’s degree in geology are projected to have the best job prospects in the field.
According the BLS, the median annual salary for geologists in 2012 was $90,890. However, this figure ranges with industry of employment. The graph below provides 2012 median salary information for geologist employed in select industries.