Many students choose to major in geology because they are interested in the environment and wish to take advantage of the numerous opportunities to study geology beyond the traditional classroom. Few students entering Cornell have had any exposure to geology; many of our majors “discover” geology after their first or second (and, occasionally third) year at Cornell. Our program is sufficiently flexible to allow enthusiastic “latecomers” to complete the requirements for the geology major or minor.
We believe strongly in a hand-on approach to learning science, and Cornell's One Course At A Time schedule allows us to include field opportunities in nearly every course, whether for a day or an entire block. Read more about our field course opportunities.
We offer a variety of entry-level courses, including Physical Geology, Climate Change, Marine Science, Earth Science, and Investigations in Geology. At least one of these courses is taught in nearly all eight terms of the academic year, and all satisfy the college science requirement. Most of these courses emphasize how human land use affects geological processes and vice versa, and they underscore the importance of proper land management.
Majors & Minors
We offer a basic curriculum of upper-level courses that, along with supporting coursework in other sciences and mathematics, prepare our graduates for entry-level occupations in government and industry, or for graduate-level education. Our curriculum also prepares students who choose careers in earth science teaching.
We encourage our students to study on-site with professional geologists through internship opportunities. For example, our students have studied volcanic processes with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) at Mount St. Helens and in Hawaii; petroleum exploration methods with oil companies in Oklahoma and Texas; land and soil management with the Natural Resources Conservation Service; water resources with the USGS in eastern Iowa; and energy resources with Alliant Energy. These internships not only enhance the education of our students, but also have opened doors of opportunity to them in graduate research and professional employment.
In concert with departments ranging from biology to politics, we administer an environmental studies program. Several of our courses, including Climate Change, Geology of the National Parks, Marine Science, and Environmental Geology are important components of environmental studies.