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The Earth Science major is offered by the Department of Geology and Environmental Sciences within the College of Science & Mathematics.

Admission and Progression Standards

Visit the Major Snapshots site to learn more about the admission and progression standards of this major.

Description of Major

Earth Science is offered as a major at JMU through the Department of Geology and Environmental Sciences. Students complete a Bachelor of Arts degree with this major, requiring additional coursework in philosophy and foreign language outside of the major. The BA in Earth Science degree is designed to integrate all the Earth sciences in a systems approach to understanding the Earth. This includes incorporating and integrating subjects such as oceanography, meteorology and astronomy. The emphasis is on the preparation of individuals to work in a wide range of professional public sector service careers where preparation in Earth science and communication of science to nonscientific audiences is a requirement or an asset, including Earth science teaching, environmental law, and public administration.

More About the Field

Earth Science (also known as geoscience, the geosciences, or the Earth Sciences), is an all-embracing term for the sciences related to the planet Earth.


Earth Science generally recognizes 4 spheres, the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, and the biosphere. These correspond to rocks, water, air, and life. Major fields within Earth Science include: 

  • Geology (study of the Earth's crust and formation) 
  • Geodesy and Geophysics(study of magnetic and other fields) 
  • Soil Science (study of soil formation processes)
  • Oceanography and Hydrology (study of bodies of water) 
  • Glaciology (study of ice formations)
  • Atmospheric Science (study of the atmosphere including meteorology and climatology)

Complementary Majors and Minors 

Complimentary majors and minors would include Anthropology, Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Environmental Information Systems, Environmental Management, Environmental Science, Geographic Sciences, Integrated Science and Technology, Management Science, Nonprofit Studies, Secondary Education, Urban and Regional Planning, and Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication.

Characteristics of Successful Students

Successful students in this program are those that have a deep appreciation for all aspects of the Earth and a strong desire to learn about the interactive systems that make up the Earth. These same students must also be willing and able to work with others in a cooperative fashion, either in a peer group or with external audiences that have an interest in learning the content. Students should be prepared to apply their expertise in a variety of settings where a background in Earth science is either required or desirable as a starting point for further studies.


Many graduates choose typical career paths associated with this major. However, some graduates choose nontraditional career fields that utilize skills and experiences developed during their years in college. Keep in mind, that some fields will require graduate study or further training. The listing below offers examples of possible career paths and is not meant to be comprehensive.

  • Aerial Photographer
  • Cooperative Extension Agent
  • Earth Science Teacher
  • Engineering Technician
  • Environmental Attorney
  • Field Technician
  • Laboratory Technician
  • Landscape Architect
  • Meteorologist
  • Mineral Curator
  • Museum Consultant
  • Museum Researcher
  • Park Naturalist
  • Pollution Control Specialist
  • Prospector
  • Researcher
  • Regional Planner
  • Soil Specialist
  • Surveyor
  • Technical Consultant
  • Technical Writer
  • Urban/Regional Planner

Who Employs Graduates?

School Systems (K-12), Bureau of Land Management (Fed Gov), Bureau of Mines (Fed Gov), Coal Companies, Colleges/Universities, Construction Firms, Department of Defense (Fed Gov), Department of Energy (Fed Gov), Energy Companies, Environmental Agencies, Environmental Protection Agency (Fed Gov), Equipment Suppliers, Federal/State/Local Government Agencies, Museums, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (Fed Gov), National Laboratories, or Research Firms.

Internships and Experiential Opportunities 

Practicum, internships, and other forms of individual study are available to all students majoring in Earth Science. Students should contact faculty coordinators in their areas of interest to gain further information.

View our list of internship coordinators for each major.

Career Profiles 

Atmospheric Scientists, including Meteorologists
Conservation Scientists and Foresters
Environmental Scientists and Specialists
Environmental Compliance Inspectors
Environmental Science, Health and Protection Technicians 

Additional Resources to Research Careers
  • Handshake: view new internships and jobs that employers are looking to hire JMU students from your major 
  • Career Outcomes: see where alumni worked or studied right after graduating.
  • GoinGlobal: learn more about employment opportunities overseas as well as H1B visa information for international Dukes pursuing jobs in the U.S.
  • O*NET: browse occupational profiles to learn about thousands of different careers, pulling data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 
  • CareerOneStop: explore thousands of different careers by looking at career profiles 
  • Utilize the LinkedIn Alumni tool to see what others have done with their majors and what their career paths look like. Reach out to alumni via LinkedIn and conduct an informational interview.

© University Career Center, James Madison University

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from the JMU University Career Center. Content for each major has been written/reviewed by faculty in the respective department and is revised each year. Requests to update content can be submitted to

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