Why study geological and environmental sciences?

As a student in the geological and environmental sciences, you will explore humanity’s most precious asset, our planet, through diverse and exciting courses on today’s most challenging questions regarding water, energy, climate, natural hazards and space exploration. It is no surprise then, why the geological and environmental are one of the most actively recruiting disciplines with the highest earned income in all of the STEM fields. Successful students have exciting and innovative employment opportunities in the oil industry, remote sensing, hydrogeology, environmental studies, climatology and other earth science disciplines. Furthermore, the geological and environmental sciences are the most interdisciplinary educational and research experience in the STEM fields. In the geological and environmental sciences, you will gain experience in physics, chemistry, mathematics and engineering; this exposure opens up more opportunities for graduates. For example, geochemistry majors are both chemists and geologists; hydrogeologists are trained in geology as well as modeling (geological engineering) and geophysics students know both geology and physics. 

Why study geological and environmental sciences at WMU?

Western Michigan University has a proud legacy of specialized educators, dating back from its heritage as a normal school from 1903 to 1930. In its 50+ year history, the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences has continued to build on this legacy. Today, 20 percent of our faculty focus on teaching and performing research related to improving educational methods in the geological and environmental sciences. Furthermore, teaching faculty work very closely with research faculty to develop new courses and continuously improve existing ones to match the highest requirements for nationally and internationally reputed geological and environmental programs. Undergraduate students receive an education that is 60 percent focused on classroom instruction and 40 percent on hands-on applications with a diverse set of laboratory measurements and field courses. Graduate students receive an education that is 20 to 40 percent focused on classroom/laboratory education with a 60 to 80 percent focus on research. Our graduate and undergraduate degree programs are designed for national and international students coming from diverse scientific backgrounds with a variety of career goals—from industry to academia. 

In the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences…

  • Our innovative course offerings encompass one of the strongest hydrogeology and remote sensing programs in the nation.
  • Field and laboratory training involves learning to work with state-of-the-art geophysical, environmental and surveying equipment, in addition to cutting-edge numerical and imaging tools that match the highest standards of the industry.
  • We understand that the geological and environmental sciences are a dynamic and constantly evolving field. We have added exciting new curricula, including insights into space exploration, planetary sciences and airborne geophysics, in order to give students the tools they will need to enter their chosen field.
  • We emphasize understanding the fundamentals of the geosciences and their application in real fieldwork cases. We accomplish this through our numerous and diversified field experiences that increase student readiness and prepare students to transition to future employment immediately, bypassing months of on-the-job training.
  • Graduate programs have a seamless transition between M.A., M.S. or Ph.D. Students can scale their degree as they successfully complete each step. Our accelerated M.A. in earth sciences program allows upper-level undergraduates to transition seamlessly to our MA program.
  • We provide a highly supportive environment for all of our students. Our passionate and experienced faculty members work closely with students to provide individualized guidance and assistance.
  • We offer a wide variety of disciplines which allow students to choose their areas of interest.

Our Students…

  • Participate in research projects around the world, including Asia, South America, the Middle East and the United States. Travel for these projects is often funded by state or federal grants.
  • Present papers at national conferences where they meet peers in their field and learn about the newest discoveries in geological and environmental sciences.
  • Have the potential to participate in national and international joint internships and training through our collaborating networks of research institutes and companies.

Where will this degree take me?

  • An undergraduate degree in geological and environmental sciences prepares students for entry-level geological and environmental sciences positions as well as preparing them for graduate school. WMU geological and environmental sciences graduates hold positions in places such as government agencies, energy and natural resources companies, consulting firms, nonprofit organizations and academic institutions.
  • A master's degree in geological and environmental sciences prepares students to advance into a wide range of career paths in fields where they can make a real, practical difference.
  • A doctoral degree prepares students specifically for high-level and cutting-edge research in industry and academia.

To see where alumni have found careers in the geological and environmental sciences, check out our Alumni Spotlight and Alumni Achievement Award Recipients pages. For yearly statistics about job placement, salary expectations and hiring trends, consult the American Geological Institute brochure, which answers these and many other questions.

What's next?