Degree Programs: Major Requirements

Three students standing on hillside, looking at wall of rock.

"The more I learn about the earth, the more I stand in awe of the natural processes that have shaped it. When I look at a rock now, I don't just see a rock - I see the end result of a long series of quiet miracles. Unless it's in my shoe or under my sleeping bag. Then it's just a darn rock." - Jesse DeCarlo

Bachelor of Science Degree Program

Most geology majors are interested in obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree. With this degree, students have successfully entered careers in industry and consulting and have continued their education to obtain a Master's degree, which requires two to three years of graduate study, or a PhD, which generally takes four to six years. The emphasis in our BS program on the conceptual framework of geology and on practical field skills prepares students for entry-level positions in industry and also provides students with the background necessary to compete successfully for admission to any graduate program in the country.

Students majoring in geology will take lower division courses that present introductory and preparatory subject matter, core upper division major courses, and 16 units of upper division elective courses.

  • Lower division preparatory courses are designed to give the students a broad basis for the more advanced study of specific areas in geology. These courses include basic math (calculus and statistics), chemistry, and physics as well as introductory courses in physical geology, paleontology, and mineralogy that provide the groundwork of knowledge on which the upper division courses are based.
  • Upper division major courses are the core of the upper division major in geology. They include two quarters in Earth Materials which focus on the high temperature and pressure chemical evolution of molten and solid rock; a year in Earth Dynamics with related field techniques and field work, which focuses on plate tectonics and its consequences for both the large scale deformation of the earth's crust and on the small scale rock deformation and how to decipher and interpret this deformation from field studies; and a year in Earth History which focuses on the development of life, climates, and sedimentary environments through time.
  • The sixteen units of upper division electives provide students an opportunity to direct their undergraduate major towards a particular field of interest and to acquire greater depth and expertise in an area that serves to advance the student's specific goals, whether that be for employment or continuing graduate education. The Department itself offers a wide range of upper division courses that complement and extend the basic core curriculum, including courses in paleontology, environmental geology, geophysics, tectonics, oceanography, and geochemistry. The requirement also can be satisfied, with prior approval of an undergraduate advisor, by a wide variety of courses from any of the physical or biological sciences, including, for example, hydrology, engineering, physics, chemistry, mathematics, zoology, or genetics. Because of the recent demand for hydrogeologists, for example, many of our undergraduates, with our encouragement, have taken courses in the Hydrologic Sciences program as part of their elective requirements for the major. Lastly, students can take up to 6 units worth of internship credit or complete a senior thesis to count for upper division electives.

Study Plans: the Ideal Geology Major

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Degree Requirements (from the UC Davis General Catalog)
Please note: The on-line version of the course catalog linked here is provided as a convenience to the campus. All courses, courses descriptions, instructor designations, curricular and degree requirements, deadlines, and fees described are subject to change or deletion without notice. The official version of the General Catalog is the printed version prepared by the Office of the University Registrar and Editorial/Design and sold by the UC Davis Bookstore.


Bachelor of Arts Degree Program

The Bachelor of Arts degree program is a subset of the courses required for the Bachelor of Science Degree program. The fewer units required allow these students to pursue other objectives.

Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) Degree Requirements (from the UC Davis General Catalog)
Please note: The on-line version of the course catalog linked here is provided as a convenience to the campus. All courses, courses descriptions, instructor designations, curricular and degree requirements, deadlines, and fees described are subject to change or deletion without notice. The official version of the General Catalog is the printed version prepared by the Office of the University Registrar and Editorial/Design and sold by the UC Davis Bookstore.


Upper Division Electives

  • Additional upper division electives chosen from GEL 130–194 courses
  • Only one of GEL/EDU 181 or GEL/EDU 183 may be applied toward elective credit
  • No more than 3 units upper division elective credit for GEL 115–120 courses
  • Maximum of 6 units upper division elective credit for GEL 192 (internships) or 194A-194B or 194HA-194HB (senior thesis)
  • Preapproved electives outside of Geology:
  • ECI 171+171L – Soil Mechanics (5)
  • ECI 175 – Geotechnical Earthquake Engineering (4)
  • ESM 100 – Principles of Hydrologic Science (4)
  • ESM 186/186L – Environmental Remote Sensing (3) Lab (2)
  • ESP 152 - Coastal Oceanography (3)
  • HYD 144 – Groundwater Hydrology (4)
  • HYD 146/GEL 156 – Hydrogeology and Contaminant Transport (5)
  • LDA 150/ABT 150 – Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (4)
  • SSC 100 – Principles of Soil Science (5)
  • WFC 102+102L – Ecogeomorphology (1 unit) / Lab (6 units)
  • Cross-enrollment online class at UCLA: Geography 168 – Intermediate GIS (4 units)
    https://crossenrollcourses.universityofcalifornia.edu/catalog/view/119?title=GEOG+168+Intermediate+Geographic+Information+Systems
    (this course counts as UC Davis’ LDA/ABT 150, so students cannot take both)
  • And related fields approved in advance by major adviser

Upper Division Electives