25 Best Colleges for a Geology Degree 2020

Ranking Badge

This list highlights the 25 best colleges for degrees in geology based on alumni earnings. University of Wisconsin - Madison ranks first on the list with the highest median salary for graduates in their first year of employment after graduation. In second place, California State University-Sacramento has a median salary of $45,700 and median student debt of $27,000 for geology majors. The University of Michigan - Ann Arbor has the lowest median student debt on the list, at $13,500.

Tuition, median salaries, and median debt were reported by the U.S. Department of Education. View our methodology for more details about these rankings or read more about the top-ranked schools.

Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Rank School Annual Tuition Median Debt Median Salary
#1 #1 University of Wisconsin - Madison $36,805 $26,305 $52,100
#2 #2 California State University-Sacramento $19,190 $27,000 $45,700
#3 #3 The University of Texas at Austin $37,580 $18,047 $44,400
#4 #4 Pennsylvania State University $34,858 $26,000 $44,400
#5 #5 University of Arizona $11,800 $21,625 $42,300
#6 #6 $21,273 $22,849 $41,200
#7 #7 $26,533 $18,475 $40,100
#8 #8 $43,394 $15,103 $39,300
#9 #9 $28,627 $21,000 $38,100
#10 #10 $23,864 $26,000 $37,700
#11 #11 $17,490 $22,741 $37,000
#12 #12 $37,495 $17,435 $36,400
#13 #13 $15,500 $25,000 $36,100
#14 #14 $17,324 $22,822 $35,800
#15 #15 $29,608 $22,250 $35,600
#16 #16 $19,696 $20,500 $35,500
#17 #17 $37,286 $18,959 $35,300
#18 #18 $18,256 $19,833 $34,800
#19 #19 $18,398 $24,673 $34,200
#20 #20 $23,971 $24,242 $33,900
#21 #21 $49,350 $13,500 $33,800
#22 #22 $28,659 $20,868 $33,600
#23 #23 $23,250 $24,625 $33,300
#24 #24 $36,588 $18,122 $33,200
#25 #25 $30,742 $25,833 $33,000

2020 Best Colleges Highlights

Learn more about the top five colleges for a Bachelor's in Geology degree. You can also read student reviews of each school by clicking on the stars. Although student reviews were not used as a ranking factor in this list, we provide ratings and reviews so students can consider the experience of alumni in their decision-making process.

Median Debt
$26,305
Median Salary
$52,100

Founded in 1848, the University of Wisconsin includes 20 schools and colleges, and UW – Madison is the flagship institution of the system. The College of Letters and Science offers a Bachelor of Science in Geology and Geophysics, where students gain a comprehensive understanding of the structure and composition of the earth’s interior. They study gravity, heat flow, magnetism, seismic waves, and other forces that affect the planet.

The 120-credit program can be completed in four years. A minimum of 30 credits must be taken in residence at UW – Madison, but the full program can include distance or online courses. Core coursework covers subjects such as physics, chemistry, geologic evolution of the earth, mineralogy, and petrology. In the major, students complete one of four tracks: geology, geophysics and engineering, environmental geoscience, or general geology.

Visit University of Wisconsin – Madison's website.

Median Debt
$27,000
Median Salary
$45,700

With an enrollment of more than 30,000 students, California State University-Sacramento offers more than 200 degree programs and awards thousands of degrees each year. The university’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics offers a Bachelor of Science in Geology. Students gain a comprehensive understanding of subjects such as structural geology, hydrogeology, mineralogy, paleontology, stratigraphy, petrology, and other related areas.

A total of 120 credits are needed to complete the degree, with 64 credits in the major. Students must also demonstrate foreign language proficiency in order to graduate. After completing the required lower-division courses, students move on to the major, taking courses such as igneous and metamorphic petrology, field geology, field techniques, geologic mapping, volcanology, and geochemistry and computer mapping. The program can be completed in four years. All first-year students are eligible to enroll in the university’s First-Year Seminar, a cohort of 25 students, designed to increase student engagement with each other as well as faculty. Each seminar has a peer mentor who provides academic advising and assists students in transitioning successfully to the university environment.

Visit California State University – Sacramento's website.

Median Debt
$18,047
Median Salary
$44,400

Founded in 1883, The University of Texas at Austin is organized into 18 schools and is the flagship of the UT system. Nearly 300 areas of study are offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels. A Bachelor of Science in Geological Sciences is offered with four options: (I) General Geology, (II) Geophysics, (III) Hydrogeology, or (V) Teaching. (Option IV is no longer offered.)

The program spans nine semesters and can be completed in four years, with the third year including a summer term. Options I, II, and III require a total of 126 credits to complete the degree, and option V requires 128 credits. A minimum of 60 semester hours must be completed in residence, including six hours of coursework in a foreign language. For options I, II, and III, 36 credits of upper-division coursework must be completed in residence. Students completing the degree with option V can pursue careers as middle and high school teachers.

Visit University of Texas at Austin's website.

Median Debt
$26,000
Median Salary
$44,400

Founded in 1855, Penn State has about 20 campuses throughout the state and offers more than 150 majors. Both a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in Geosciences are offered at the university’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences located on the University Park campus. The BA focuses on a basic education related to the geosciences and is a good option for those who wish to pursue careers that intersect with business, science, and social science or for those who want to teach at the K-12 level.

For students planning to continue with post-graduate education or to pursue careers in the petroleum and mining industries, the BS may be the best choice. Each degree takes four years to complete. The Bachelor of Science offers two options: general and hydrology. An integrated option allows students to earn a BS and MS in five years; students wishing to do this must apply for admission by the end of their junior year.

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Median Debt
$21,625
Median Salary
$42,300

Located in Tucson, the University of Arizona is composed of 20 colleges that collectively enroll more than 45,000 students. The university offers a Bachelor of Science in Geoscience with three sub plans: geology, geophysics, or earth, oceans, & climate. A total of 120 credits are required to complete each degree, with the geology sub-plan requiring 103 credits. Students enrolled in this sub-plan study subjects such as calculus, statistics, optics, thermodynamics, mechanics, physical geology, earth surface properties, stratigraphy & sedimentation, mineralogy, paleontology, and petrology. The program also includes field trips that involve a good deal of walking and hiking.

Seniors are required to complete a six-credit capstone, and students can choose a summer field camp experience or research. The field camp is a rigorous four-week mapping class that is held in backcountry campgrounds with limited facilities. Additionally, a 10-week summer study abroad program based in Orvieto, Italy, is available. Seniors study the geology and history of the Mediterranean region, from the Adriatic coast to the Apennines to the Alps.

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