Geology Courseworks

The Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences offers the Bachelor of Science degree in geology and the Bachelor of Arts degree in Earth science. The B.S. in geology focuses on traditional and environmental geology, while laying a solid foundation for further graduate study. The B.A. in Earth science provides a broader overview of geology and supporting sciences and is designed primarily for careers in secondary education.

Degree Requirements PDF


The B.S. degree is the only degree offered in the geology program and is designed to acquaint the student with the broad discipline of geology and its supporting sciences. Sufficient depth of coursework is provided so that the student may pursue graduate study. Forty-four credits of geology are required, including Geol 100, 100L, 102, 102L, 302, 315, 315L, 316, 356, 365, 368, 479 and 9 credits of geology electives (Table 1 in PDF above). Required supporting courses include Chem 177, 177L, 178, 178L, Phys 111 and 112; Math 165, 166 or 181, 182, Engl 309 or 314, and 6 additional credits of either geology electives (Table 1 in PDF above) or courses from an approved departmental list of science, engineering, and mathematical disciplines outside of geology. Students with senior standing may use graduate geology courses (500-level or above) to fulfill the elective requirement; however, they should be aware that courses taken at the graduate level and counted toward the B.S. degree cannot be applied again toward a graduate degree at Iowa State University.

Geology courses generally have prerequisites in geology or in mathematics, chemistry, or physics. Prerequisites require that courses be taken in a prescribed sequence; however, because of differences in the preparation and background of each student, there is not a unique way to proceed through the B.S. program. Possible sequences of courses that will allow the student to complete a degree within four years are shown in Table 3. Students are advised to maintain frequent contact with their academic advisors so that all degree requirements are met in a timely fashion.


The B.A. degree is offered in the Earth-science program. It requires fewer courses in geology, allows coursework in other disciplines, and prepares the student primarily for a career in secondary education. It requires 35 credits in geology, 3 credits in meteorology, and 6 credits in astronomy. The required courses are Geol 100, 100L, 102, 102L, 302, 315, 315L, 316, 356, 365, 368, 3 credits of a geology elective, Mteor 206, 2 and Astro 120 and 150 (Table 2 in PDF above). Additional courses in geology and agronomy are strongly recommended. The required supporting courses include Chem 177, 177L, 178, 178L, Phys 111 and 112, Math 151 or 160 or 165 or 181, Stat 101 or 104 or Com S 107, and a course in biology. In addition to these requirements, the student must meet the requirements for teacher licensure (outlined in Table 2; see also the listings under the Teacher Education Program in the ISU Catalog). Dr. Cinzia Cervato is the Teaching Coordinator for Earth Sciences.

The English requirements for the Earth-Science program are the same as for the Geology program.


A minor in geology may be completed by taking Geology 100 and 100L (or 201), 102 and 102L, and additional credits at the 300-level or above for a total of 15 credits. A total of 9 credits must be unique to the minor and cannot be counted for both the major and the minor field of study. The minor will appear on the undergraduate transcript. Although it does not provide adequate preparation for a career in geology, the minor will provide a core experience that can augment a professional degree in environmental science or any field of physical science, agronomy, or engineering.

A minor in Geographic Information systems (GIS), offered by the College of Design, is complementary to the Geology Program and would be useful in a variety of geology careers

The Bachelor of Arts in Geological Sciences is a classical arts and sciences degree that gives students a great deal of flexibility in their choice of upper-division courses. Students must complete courses in the natural sciences, the social and behavioral sciences, and the humanities. This diversity of subjects provides an opportunity to learn about basic differences in outlook among different disciplines, the ways questions are raised and answered, and the ways the answers are validated and made relevant in practical use. 

Students who plan to become professional geoscientists should pursue one of the BS Geological Sciences degree options. The BS Geological Sciences, Option V: UTeach is available for students interested in pursuing a career teaching math and science at the middle and secondary school level.

Additional Requirements Specific to the BA Geological Sciences

The coursework counted toward the degree may include no more than 36 hours in any one field of study in the College of Liberal Arts or the College of Natural Sciences; and no more than 36 hours in any other single college or school of the University, including the Jackson School.

At least 18 semester hours of coursework in geological sciences, including six hours of upper-division coursework, must be completed in residence at the University. As long as all residence rules are met, credit may be earned by examination, by extension, by correspondence (up to 30 percent of the semester hours required for the degree), or, with the approval of the dean, by work transferred from another institution.

Degree requirements are divided into three categories: university-wide undergraduate degree requirements such as the University Core Curriculum and flag requirements, prescribed work for the degree, and major requirements. In addition, the student must fulfill the University’s general requirements and the requirements of the Jackson School of Geosciences.

Prescribed Work

BA Geological Sciences

Major Requirements

BA Geological Sciences

  1. Geological Sciences 401 or 303, 405, 416K, 416M, and 420K. 
  1.   Six semester hours in biology.
  1. Chemistry 301 and 302.
  1.  Three semester hours in physics.
  1.  Enough additional coursework to total 32 semester hours in geological sciences.
  1.  A total of 120 hours of coursework including core, prescribed and major work.

Suggested Arrangement of Courses

BA Geological Sciences

Total Credit Hours  120 

  1. Foreign Language Requirement: The BA, Geological Sciences degree requires that students achieve Intermediate-level proficiency in a foreign language as part of the degree requirements. The foreign language requirement is the attainment of a certain proficiency, rather than the completion of a specified number of hours. The number of semesters and total number of hours required vary by language. Any part of the requirement may be fulfilled by credit by examination. Courses used to fulfill the foreign language requirement must be language courses; literature-in-translation courses, for example, may not be counted. Consult the Intermediate-level language proficiency course list to see which classes are required to complete this degree requirement for a specific language. Students are encouraged to consult with their academic adviser about fulfilling the foreign language degree requirement.
  2. Social Science: Three semester hours in social science, in addition to the course counted toward the social and behavioral sciences requirement of the core curriculum. The course must be chosen from the following fields and it must be in a different field from the course used to fulfill the Core Curriculum social and behavioral sciences requirement.
    1. Anthropology
    2. Economics
    3. Geography
    4. Linguistics
    5. Psychology
    6. Sociology
  3. Natural Science: Six semester hours in natural sciences, in addition to the courses counted toward the science and technology requirements of the Core Curriculum. Courses must be chosen from the following fields; no more than three hours may be in either the history of science or the philosophy of science.
    1. Astronomy
    2. Biology
    3. Chemistry
    4. Marine science
    5. Nutrition
    6. Physical science
    7. Physics
    8. Mathematics
    9. Computer science
    10. Experimental psychology
    11. Physical anthropology
    12. Physical geography
    13. Philosophy (courses in logic)
    14. History of science and philosophy of science
  4. General Culture: Three semester hours in addition to the course counted toward the visual and performing arts requirement of the Core Curriculum. Courses in the following fields may be used:
    1. Architecture
    2. Classical civilization, Greek, Latin
    3. Art history, design, ensemble, fine arts, instruments, music, studio art, theatre and dance, visual art studies
    4. Philosophy (excluding courses in logic)
  5. Interdisciplinary Studies: 12 semester hours, of which at least six must be upper-division courses, in any one of the disciplines listed below. These courses must be in addition to those counted toward the Core Curriculum requirements, prescribed work or major requirements.
    1. Anthropology
    2. Astronomy
    3. Biology
    4. Business
    5. Computer science
    6. Chemistry
    7. Education
    8. Engineering
    9. Geography
    10. Mathematics
    11. Physics
    12. Other disciplines may be chosen with submission and approval of a petition through the JSG Student Services Office.
  6. Enough additional upper-division coursework to total 36 semester hours.
Third Year
First TermHoursSecond TermHours
E 316L, 316M, 316N, or 316P3GOV 310L3
Social Science (core)3Social Science (major)3
Interdisciplinary Studies3Interdisciplinary Studies3
Total credit hours: 31
Fourth Year
First TermHoursSecond TermHours
Interdisciplinary Studies UD3GEO UDE3
GOV 312L3US History3
Elective UD3Visual / Perf Arts3
Elective UD3Interdisciplinary Studies UD3
Total credit hours: 30


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