Undergraduate Degree Programs in Earth Sciences


Degree Programs

The Department of Earth Sciences offers bachelor of science and bachelor of arts degrees. The bachelor of science degree is recommended for students intending to pursue a career in the Earth Sciences–either professionally or in academia.

Two bachelor of science degree tracks are offered within the department, the B.S. in Earth Sciences, and the B.S. in Earth Sciences with focus in environmental science. The B.S. in Earth Sciences provides a strong background in basic science and geology, and through appropriate choice of electives can be tailored to meet a wide range of possible interests within the Earth Sciences. The B.S. in Earth Sciences with focus in environmental science is offered jointly with the biology department, and is recommended for those students specifically intending to pursue a career in the environmental arena.

Most bachelor of science students continue on to graduate school to obtain a master’s degree, the standard entry-level professional degree in the Earth sciences, or a Ph.D. if they intend to pursue a career in academia.

The bachelor of arts degree in Earth Sciences is recommended for those students who enjoy and are intellectually intrigued by the Earth Sciences, but intend to pursue careers in other fields. The B.A. degree differs from the B.S. degree in that it requires fewer ancillary science courses and fewer electives from within the department. Along with intellectual enrichment, the B.A. degree provides a rounded science foundation and critical thinking skills that can be applied to numerous other fields. Graduates with B.A.s in Earth Sciences go on to be lawyers, teachers, business people, environmental planners, public policy makers, and politicians, as well as geologists.

Click on the link below to see the requirements for the following degrees:

B.S. degree in Earth Sciences

 B.S. degree in Earth Sciences with Focus in Environmental Science

 B.A. degree in Earth Sciences

 Minor in Earth Sciences

Petition for a B.S.

Students are automatically enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts degree program when they declare the major.  It is necessary for the student to petition to receive the Bachelor of Science degree.  The completed petition and a copy of your transcript from myslice must be forwarded to the Director of Undergraduate Studies or the Academic Coordinator in the department of Earth Sciences.  The petition will be reviewed and approved if all the degree requirements are planned for or met.  An ideal time to accomplish this milestone is during academic advising prior to registration for courses.

Graduating with Distinction in Earth Sciences

Departmental distinction is conferred upon students who demonstrate exceptional academic achievement in the Earth Sciences and who complete and defend a research thesis.  Departmental distinction could complement a degree with Honors, but Honors students would not automatically receive departmental distinction.

As stipulated by the University, all students receiving departmental distinction must have a cumulative GPA of 3.4 by the end of their senior year.  In addition, these students must have a minimum GPA within the Earth Sciences of 3.6, and must complete a Senior Thesis project. The same thesis project may be used both to earn departmental distinction and to fulfill the thesis requirement of university honors, but it must meet the separate requirements of each program.  Students in both the B.S. and B.A. programs are eligible for a degree with distinction.  

Students must complete a research-based senior thesis in conjunction with a faculty supervisor.  The thesis must constitute independent, hypothesis-driven research involving investigative tools and techniques in the Earth Sciences.  Students must submit the written thesis to the department and give a public seminar reporting their results.  Students should register for EAR 409 (Senior Thesis in Earth Sciences) or EAR 499 (Honors Capstone Project) in the semester in which they plan to submit the thesis.  All else being satisfied, distinction is conferred following a vote of approval from the Faculty of the Department of Earth Sciences.

Graduating with Distinction is a new option available to students beginning in 2013.

Field Experience

One of the highlights of your undergraduate experience is the geology field experience.   This requirement is usually satisfied by participation in an approved six week summer "field camp".  These field camps are run by numerous universities outside of SU that routinely accept students from other institutions.  There are traditional geological field camps, or a more discipline-specific field course (e.g. hydrogeology).  Syracuse University typically approves geology field camp experiences that include 4-6 weeks of intensive field study including excursions to key geological sites as well as geological mapping and related exercises.

Choosing a Field Camp

It is necessary to apply for acceptance by a particular field camp.  Among the factors you will want to consider when choosing a field camp are:

  • Geography (our general advice:  West is Best);
  • Geology (structural complexity and style, principal bedrock types; ruggedness (some "rough it" all the way; others are tamer); and
  • Reputation (best judged by talking with seniors and graduate students who have had recent, first-hand experience).

Students should consult "How to Choose a Geology Field Camp". In addition, geology.com has a list of field courses offered by 100+ schools.  You can examine brochures advertising many such programs in the department office (Room 204) or on the department bulletin board.

Occasionally, students are able to meet the field course requirements with an NSF-sponsored Research Experience for undergraduates (REU) or Keck Consortium field experiences.  Students are encouraged to visit the websites for these programs to see what is available to them for the particular year they plan to satisfy the requirement.

Advanced Faculty Approval and Transferring Credit

Prior approval for field camp locations need to be secured from the Director of Undergraduate Studies.  In some cases students may need to petition the faculty for approval.

Six or more transfer credit hours may be accepted by Syracuse University if the field camp is pre-approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies.  The credits are awarded by the outside University program and transferred to SU as EAR470, experience credit.

When Do You Go to Field Camp?

Most Earth Science majors take field camp in the summer between their junior and senior years, but you can also receive a B.S. degree at commencement, pending completion of the requirement in the summer following graduation.  An important consideration in timing is your own background: courses in Structural Geology and Sedimentology or Stratigraphy may be required.

Pre-Requisites for Field Camp

Students attending a traditional geological field camp (the majority of our students) should have successfully completed EAR317 and EAR333 before they attend the field course.  If they have not yet taken those courses, they will need to supply a written communication with the director of the field camp of their choice to the effect that those courses are not required.

Scholarship for Field Camp

The department recognizes that these courses constitute an extra financial burden on students.  Therefore, if available, the department will provide a supplement (currently $400) to our students to offset the cost of this course.  To be eligible for the supplement, students must request support in writing to the Chairperson by April 1 of the year that they intend to attend field camp.  A brief email requesting support and specifying the field camp is sufficient.

In addition, students are encouraged to make every effort to secure additional funding from outside this institution to offset course costs.  For example, the National Association for Geology Teachers offers a scholarship for field study, and many individual field programs offer a variety of ways to offset costs, both merit-based and need-based.