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


Environmental and Engineering Geology
General Geology

Admission and Progression Standards

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

Description of Major

Geology is offered as a major and minor at JMU through the Department of Geology and Environmental Sciences. The major in Geology presents a high quality program of specialized study focusing on earth materials, internal and external earth processes, analysis of earth history and appreciation of geology to environmental and engineering issues. The Geology program provides a strong theoretical background in geology while allowing the student flexibility in choosing courses to prepare for a specific career in the geological sciences. Geology majors are prepared to collect data in the field and laboratory on minerals, rocks, fossils, landforms and structures; properly use field and laboratory equipment; and construct accurate geologic maps and displays of geologic data. Geology majors are also able to use geologic data to write interpretive geological reports and histories of regions, solve environmental and economic geological problems, and critically evaluate the theories and conclusions of other geologists. The department also offers a BA in Earth Science.

More About the Field 

Geology is the study of the Earth. The composition, structure and interior processes of the Earth are fundamental to all areas of geology. Time and the evolution of the Earth and life on Earth are unique aspects of science. The study of Earth surface processes has recently become one of the most dynamic sub-disciplines. Surface processes are the processes that alter the surface of the Earth, produce the landscape, and control the distribution of water and soil resources. The Earth as a life support system and the limitations of the earth are evolving as major areas of effort for geologists. Geoscience is the science of exploration, discovery, and Earth stewardship. The geosciences address all issues relating to Earth Systems, including the solid Earth, oceans, and atmosphere. The major applications of the geosciences are: exploration and responsible development of natural resources (oil, gas, coal, minerals, construction aggregate, water, soil), preservation of the natural environment, restoration from environmental damage, mitigation of geohazards such as earthquakes and landslides, and exploratory research like the Mars space mission and understanding El Niño. By addressing these issues and developing solutions to problems affecting the Earth, geoscientists act as stewards of the Earth. Though much has been learned about the Earth through earth science, much more is yet to be discovered, especially as new problems face society, such as global climate change, advances in technology, and exhaustion of energy and raw material supplies.


The field of geology like other scientific disciplines has grown so vast that no individual can function at the cutting edge of all aspects of the science. Consequently, virtually all geologists specialize in one or two sub-disciplines. While the total number of areas of specialization is quite large, most geologic effort is focused in a few areas. Some of the more important of these are: fuels geology (mainly petroleum and natural gas exploration), geohydrology, environmental geology, regional studies, soils, engineering geology, sedimentary systems, geophysics, and mineralogy.

Complementary Majors and Minors 

Geology majors commonly acquire minors in Anthropology, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental Management, Environmental Studies, Geographic Studies, Geophysics, Integrated Science and Technology, Mathematics, Materials Science, Physics, Sociology, or Urban and Regional Studies.

Characteristics of Successful Students

Our students are exposed to a greater variety of geologic sub-disciplines than most undergraduates. Enthusiasm for the subject, their clarity of expression on paper and in speech, ability to work well with other people, self-sufficiency, physical fitness and emphasis on the quantitative aspects of the science and report writing has added greatly to their success.


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
  • Agricultural Engineer
  • Cartographer
  • Cooperative Extension Agent
  • Earth Science Teacher
  • Economic Geologists
  • Energy Resource Geologist
  • Engineering Technician
  • Environmental Attorney
  • Environmental Engineer
  • Environmental Geologist
  • Field Technician
  • Geochemist
  • Geologist
  • Geophysics Technician
  • Geotectonics Specialist
  • Hydrologist
  • Laboratory Technician
  • Landscape Architect
  • Marine Geologist
  • Materials Analyst
  • Meteorologist
  • Mineralogist
  • Mining Engineer
  • Museum Consultant
  • Museum Researcher
  • Paleontologist
  • Park Naturalist
  • Petroleum Engineer
  • Petroleum Geologist
  • Petrologist
  • Planetary Geologist
  • Pollution Control Specialist
  • Prospector
  • Regional Planner
  • Seismologist
  • Soil Scientist
  • Stratigrapher
  • Surveyor
  • Technical Consultant
  • Technical Writer
  • Urban/ Regional Planner
  • Volcanologist
  • Wetland Ecologist

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), Environmental Agencies, Environmental Protection Agency (Fed Gov), Equipment Suppliers, Federal/State/Local Government Agencies, Independent Drilling Companies, Mining Companies, Museums, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (Fed Gov), National Laboratories, Petroleum Companies, Oil/Gas Companies, Quarries, Railroad Companies, Research Firms, US Geological Survey (Fed Gov), or Well Drilling Services Companies.

Internships and Experiential Opportunities 

Practicum, internships, and other forms of individual study are available to all students majoring in Geology. 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 

Environmental Scientists and Specialists

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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