Sep 30, 2023  
Course Catalog 2020-2021 
Course Catalog 2020-2021 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Geology Major

The major consists of a minimum of 10 full courses (or the equivalent).

Note: Students must earn minimum grades of C- or P for all courses that apply toward the major.

For courses in cognate Natural Sciences and Mathematics, students must earn the minimum grade required by the home department. For example, if the Department of Chemistry will accept a course in which a student earns any passing grade to fulfill their major requirements, the Department of Geology will accept that course to fulfill the geology-major requirements

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Prospective geology majors should discuss their major program with a member of the Geology Department as early as possible in order to identify the courses that best serve their needs. Advanced electives (400-level courses) and independent research in geology are also available, but such courses are neither required nor count toward the Geology major. After completing GEOL 120 (Earth’s Environments) , a student can complete a Geology major in four semesters, although a less compact schedule is preferable.

Note: Students pursuing a professional career in earth science usually take more than the minimum number of courses required for the Geology major. In particular, many Geology graduate programs require two semesters of college-level mathematics and introductory Physics; employers often find computer skills attractive. We also urge majors to take a summer course in field geology or to get field experience by other means. Students with interests in environmental policy and/or resource development who are considering geology as part of a pre-law program should consult with both the Geology department chair and with a member of the Pre-law Advisory Committee.

arrow View entry-level course sequence suggestions.


Outstanding students may participate in the Honors Program in Geology. Honors students carry out a program of independent geological research under the supervision of an individual faculty member during their senior year. Any student interested in doing Honors research should discuss this with a member of the department in her or his junior year. In order to be accepted into the Honors Program, a student must have a GPA of 3.10 or higher in their geology course work and submit a written proposal to the department. Other guidelines for the Honors Program are set forth elsewhere in this catalog.

Transfer of Credit

Students can substitute non-Oberlin courses for those that count toward the major but are taught outside the department (e.g., CHEM 101, 102, 103, cognate courses). However, each course must be certified by the chair of the appropriate on-campus department as being identical to the replaced course. In addition, up to two non-Oberlin geology courses can be used to satisfy the “four intermediate-level geology courses” and/or  “additional elective geology courses” described under “Major” above. Substitutes for “intermediate-level courses” must be substantially similar to those being replaced. More latitude is possible for elective geology courses.

Entry-Level Course Sequence Suggestions

The department offers a variety of introductory courses in the earth sciences. Earth’s Environments (GEOL 120) has no prerequisite, provides a broad overview of earth science that includes field trips to local sites, and is a good first course for students who see geology as a potential major. This course, offered in both the spring and fall semesters, is also suitable for students who are interested in related fields such as environmental studies, oceanography, and evolutionary biology and are seeking hands-on experience with maps and earth materials. The department also offers topical Courses of General Interest intended for non-specialists or non-scientists and with no prerequisites.

A substantial number of non-majors also enroll in upper-level geology courses. Students can enroll in any 200-level class after taking Earth’s Environments (GEOL 120). In order to enroll in 300-level geology courses, students must complete at least one 200-level course. Students can progress from any of the 200-level courses into any of the 300-level courses with the exception of GEOL 361 (Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology), which has a prerequisite of GEOL 201 (Mineralogy). 

Geology Major Course Lists

General Chemistry Requirement

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Note: One chemistry course in which a student has earned a grade of D may be used to fill the requirements of the major as defined in the grade requirements for the Chemisty Major.

Natural Sciences and Mathematics Courses

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One additional FULL course (or equivalent) at the introductory or advanced level selected from courses that count toward the Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Mathematics, or Physics majors. Common cognate courses are listed below.