Jul 21, 2024  
Course Catalog 2022-2023 
Course Catalog 2022-2023 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Geosciences Major

The major consists of 10.5 full courses (or the equivalent).

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

arrow View the catalog page for the Department of Geosciences. 

Prospective geosciences majors should discuss their major program with a member of the Department of Geosciences as early as possible in order to identify the courses that best serve their needs. Advanced electives (400-level courses) aside from the capstone seminar (GEOS 419 ) and independent research in geosciences (500-level courses) are available, but such courses are neither required nor count toward the geosciences major. After completing an introductory course, a student can complete a geosciences major in four semesters, although a less compact schedule is preferable.

Note: Students pursuing a professional career in the geosciences usually take more than the minimum number of courses required for the geosciences major. In particular, many geosciences graduate programs recommend two semesters of college-level mathematics and introductory physics, introductory chemistry, and a summer course in field geosciences. Students with interests in environmental policy and/or resource development who are considering geosciences as part of a pre-law program should consult with both the Department of Geosciences chair and with a member of the Pre-Law Advisory Committee.

arrow View course sequence suggestions.

Summary of Requirements


Outstanding students may participate in the Honors Program in Geosciences. Honors students carry out a program of independent geoscientific 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 geosciences 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 geosciences courses can be used to satisfy the “four intermediate-level geosciences courses” and/or  “additional elective geosciences courses.” Substitutes for “intermediate-level courses” must be substantially similar to those being replaced. More latitude is possible for elective geosciences courses.

Course Sequence Suggestions

The department offers a variety of introductory courses in the geosciences. Our 100-level courses, which do not have any prerequisites and do not require any special background, provide an excellent opportunity to learn more about our planet and the environment. Most of these courses are topical and change from year to year. Any 100-level full course provides an entry point to the major. Two of the 100-level courses include hands-on lab experiences. GEOS 120  provides a broad overview of earth science that includes laboratory work and field trips to local sites. GEOS/AAST 124  offers similarly broad coverage and laboratory and field experiences, but has a specific focus on the intersection of Earth science and critical social issues. All our 100-level courses are suitable for students who are interested in related fields such as environmental studies, environmental science, oceanography, and evolutionary biology and are seeking hands-on experience with maps and earth materials.

Students can enroll in any 200-level geosciences course after taking any full 100-level geosciences course. Similarly, students in general must have completed any one 200-level geosciences course in order to enroll in a 300-level geosciences course; the two exceptions are GEOS 335 , which has no prerequisites, and GEOS 361 , which has a prerequisite of GEOS 201 . This policy allows for a substantial number of non-majors to enroll in upper-level geosciences courses in addition to geosciences majors.

Geosciences Major Course Lists

Geosciences Electives Courses

Return to the summary of requirements.

Two additional geosciences full courses (or equivalent half courses) selected via some combination of the following:

  • One full geosciences course at the 200- or 300-level
  • Two half geosciences courses at the 200- or 300-level (each counts as half an elective)
  • CHEM 208 - Environmental Chemistry  may count as one elective

Common electives include, but are not limited to:

Supporting Natural Sciences and Mathematics Courses

Return to the summary of requirements.

Two additional full supporting natural science and math courses (or equivalent) at the introductory or advanced level, selected from those listed below.

Note: For Supporting Natural Sciences and Mathematics Courses, students must earn the minimum grade required by the home department. For example, if the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry will accept a course in which a student earns any passing grade to fulfill their major requirements, the Department of Geosciences will accept that course to fulfill the geosciences major requirements.