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, 357, 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.


The Geology program has identified the core of 31 credits of geology courses that can complement a BS degree or major in materials engineering, civil engineering, environmental science, meteorology, or biology for students wishing to earn a secondary major in geology. This pathway to earning a Geology major allows students in these academic programs with affinity to geology to complete both programs. Students should work closely with their advisers in each department to ensure that all requirements are met. These programs prepare students for careers or graduate study in the geosciences.


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