Online PhD in Geological Science

Students who chose to enroll in a geological science PhD program will learn fundamental knowledge about the Earth and planetary sciences that affect our everyday lives. Given the drastic changes in Earth's climate over the past few years, geological science has become one of the most popular Ph.D. programs in the country. Research and study in geological science PhD programs contribute to fundamental knowledge about the earth and planetary sciences. In working towards a geological science graduate degree, students can become experts in Earth's geological makeup, planet history, planetary perspective, the properties of geological materials, and environmental science.

Generally, students who have master's degrees in biology, chemistry, geoscience, geology, engineering, environmental science, mathematics, or physics are admitted to geological science Ph.D. programs. The curriculum in a geological science program thoroughly prepares graduate students for a broad variety of careers in many scientific and engineering fields. Students who desire to enroll in geological science degree programs generally want to address the problems facing the environment and Earth's future. An interest in research and analysis is also strongly encouraged in this particular degree as well.

About Online PhD Programs in Geological Science

Along with a geological science PhD students usually choose a concentration, such as environmental science, geodynamics, climatology, marine geology, solid earth geophysics, tectonics, and a myriad of others to study. In these concentrations, students can focus their research and analysis on particular subjects relating to that concentration. Students entering a geological science Ph.D. program with their bachelor's degree usually take about 5.5-6 years to finish their geological science doctorates. Those who already have their master's degrees generally finish sooner.

Year One:

  • Interpretation Theory in Geophysics. This course teaches students how to use basic statistical theory, matrix algebra representation, experiment design, models, and model solutions. The course also briefly introduces stochastic processes and prediction.ÿ
  • Isotope Geochemistry. This survey course discusses fundamental principles in isotope geochemistry, such as nuclear systematics, nucleosynthesis, geochronological and stable isotope systems, and the application of radiogenic and stable isotopic tracers.
  • Terrestrial Nitrogen and Carbon Cycling. This course examines global nitrogen and carbon cycles and the impact of natural and anthropogenic disturbances. The class also covers topics related to nitrification, respiration, photosynthesis, decomposition, climate change, and a myriad of other topics.

Year Two:

  • Tectonic Problems. This course discusses the origin of regional structural features, complex and controversial structures, and tectonic control of ore deposits.
  • Physics of Earth. In this course, students learn about the geophysics of the whole Earth, including Earth's structure, Earth's chemical makeup, tides and rotational variations, geomagnetism, heat flow, earthquakes, and seismicity.
  • Geophysical Time Series Analysis. This course uses time series analysis to discuss fourier transforms, linear digital filters, frequency domain analysis methods, least squares, and other related methods.

During their first year in a geological science program, Ph.D. students will begin to search, prepare, and defend possible research proposal topics. The intent of this process is to determine whether or not a student is passionate and engaged enough with their proposed research topic. After the first year of Ph.D. work, students will finalize their dissertation topic and present it to a committee. During the course of their Ph.D. work, students will present new findings and/or important updates on their research and analyses to professors and graduate committees. Before a student can graduate from a geological science PhD program, they must pass a comprehensive examination. A dissertation typically requires 5 years of research.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Geological Science

Those who pursue a geoscience PhD have a direct hand in solving some of the most puzzling mysteries and difficult challenges in modern environmental issues; therefore, their work is very creatively and philanthropically rewarding. Yet due to the fact that the public-at-large doesn't understand the gravity of the world's drastic environmental changes in recent years, it is hard to make any real change in the way the environment is treated through legislation and policy change nowadays. This can make it quite difficult to believe in the power of research and analysis while pursuing a geological science PhD degree.

Another drawback of obtaining a geological science PhD is the need to understand an array of science-related topics, including but not limited to physics, geology, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, and a myriad of others. Therefore, it is important to analyze whether or not you can comprehend these topics before you apply to a Ph.D. program. Lastly, the earth is experiencing a number of dwindling energy, mineral, and water resources along with concerns about environment and natural hazards, and these occurrences have presented some serious challenges to geoscientists. Consider all the pros and cons before deciding whether or not you want to pursue a geological sciencePhD

Application & Admission Requirements

Different schools have different requirements, but generally, students must have a least a master's degree in geology, earth sciences, environmental sciences, environmental policy & sustainability, engineering, ecology, forestry, planetary science, or a closely related field before they can be admitted to a geological sciences PhD program. Most schools also require their applicants to have at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA on a 4.0 scale. GRE test scores, letters of recommendation, personal statements, and a handful of other items are taken into consideration as well.

Career Options & Job Market

Students who graduate with a geological science PhD can enter an array of professions, including geoscientists, geologists, hydrologists, geological consultants, soil scientists, and numerous other careers. Most jobs in geological science are in oil and gas, consulting firms, and federal and state government agencies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, geoscience-related jobs are expected to grow by 21 percent by the year 2020. Geoscientists typically make anywhere between $80,000-$130,000 a year.

Where to Find Information

  • The Geological Society of AmericaThe Geological Society of America (GSA) is a global professional society comprised of over 25,000 individuals. The organization meets on a regular basis to discuss educational trends and changes in the geological sciences industry.
  • American Geophysical UnionThe American Geophysical Union (AGU) is an organization that furthers the acceptance and embracement of geophysical science education through national and international scientific organizations.
  • International Union of Geological SciencesThe International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) promotes the development of the Earth sciences in schools and communities to advance geological education throughout the world.

How to Get Funding

There are a variety of financial aid options available to graduate students in geological sciences programs. Many students find scholarships and loans that help cover tuition fees each semester. Fellowships and assistantships are also usually available to students as well.

  • Federal Direct Stafford Loan. : This aid program offers students low-interest loans while they pursue their Ph.D. The maximum loan available is $20,500 per academic year, and there is a fixed interest rate of 6.80%.
  • Federal Perkins Loan. : In the case of full-time students with the most need for financial assistance, the Federal Perkins low-interest loan can be awarded, offering an average of $3,500 per academic year — with a fixed interest rate at 5.0%.
  • Campus-Based Aid. : Campus-based programs are managed by the financial aid office of your university. Of course all schools actively participate in almost every program made available by the federal government.

Essential Advice

  • To begin your search for the right school, peruse different geosciences university programs and see if any stand out.
  • The cost of a geological science PhD can be quite high if not enough attention is given to scholarships, loans, and program costs. Do some research and estimate how much you'll have to pay for a specific program and see if there are any loans, scholarships, or grants you might qualify for.
  • When you find a program that interests you, schedule a visit with faculty members in the program and discuss potential thesis research topics you might consider taking on.
  • A geological science PhD requires students to study and research a wide range of and cross-disciplinary areas, such as chemistry, physics, mathematics, geology, biology, astronomy, engineering, and a myriad of others. If you aren't comfortable dealing with these particular science-related topics, you might want to consider pursuing a different Ph.D.