Geology, Bachelor of Arts College of Letters & Science

“Civilization exists by geological consent—subject to change without notice.” — Will Durant

Geology is the study of the Earth, and in particular its history, structure, and the processes that have molded our planet and its biosphere. Geology involves the origin of continents & ocean basins, earthquakes & volcanoes, variations in global climate, and how these physical changes impact the evolution of life. All of these planetary processes are viewed through the prism of “deep time,” a perspective unique to geologists and one that  distinguishes geology from most of the other physical sciences.

A significant component of geology is oriented toward the interaction between humans and the Earth. This aspect includes the study of  resources such as minerals, oil, and water; identification & mitigation of Earth hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, floods, and volcanic  eruptions; identification & mitigation of polluted ground water; land use planning; and the study of ancient & modern climate change.

The Program

Students interested in becoming professional geologists or continuing their geological studies at the graduate level should choose the Bachelor of Science degree program. The Bachelor of Arts program is for students interested in an interdisciplinary program of study, or who plan to go into pre-college teaching. The upper division electives are not restricted to geology courses but must be chosen to provide a relevant, coherent, and in-depth program of study. 

Undergraduate Research 

The geosciences span many disciplines at UC Davis, and students have opportunities to participate in undergraduate research in a variety of interest areas. Many students choose to complete a senior thesis to develop their research and writing skills during their senior year. 

Internships & Careers

A degree in Geology provides students with knowledge and practical experience needed to pursue careers in the geosciences (government, private sector, research, teaching). The major program includes flexibility to participate in research, internships, and fieldwork to help prepare students for these career paths. 

Global Learning in Geology

Consider studying or interning abroad through programs available through the Global Learning Hub.

Get Involved

Find your community through clubs, events, seminars, and workshops relating to geoscience. 

Graduation Honors

Students graduating from the College of Letters & Science are eligible for Departmental Honors, depending on their GPA and whether or not they complete a Senior Thesis. Students who graduate with a GPA in the top percentages of their college will automatically graduate with Honors. Students who qualify for Honors at graduation may also be eligible for High Honors or Highest Honors, based upon the quality of their Senior Thesis (course number 194A-194B) or Senior Honors Thesis (course number 194HA-194HB). It is Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences policy that an "A-" grade on the thesis will earn the student High Honors, and an "A" grade will earn the student Highest Honors.


Visit the staff major advisor for help navigating major requirements and planning for your degree. Visit the faculty major advisors for additional advice on courses, careers, and graduate school. Faculty advisors: R. Motani, D. A. Osleger, M. Rudolph.

Visit the College of Letters & Science advisors for help navigating university requirements and college requirements

Graduate Study

The coursework, research and internship opportunities, and fieldwork requirements in the Geology major help prepare students to enter graduate programs to continue their studies and prepare for their career. Students should meet with advisors and faculty to build a strong application for graduate school through additional independent research or other co-curricular involvements. 

The major requirements below are in addition to meeting University Degree Requirements & College Degree Requirements; unless otherwise noted. The minimum number of units required for the Geology Bachelor of Arts is 79.

Preparatory Subject Matter
GEL 050Physical Geology 3
GEL 050LPhysical Geology Laboratory2
GEL 053Introduction to Geobiology3
GEL 055Introduction to Geochemistry3
GEL 060Earth Materials: Introduction4
Choose a series:6-8
Short Calculus
and Short Calculus
Calculus for Biology & Medicine
and Calculus for Biology & Medicine
Calculus for Data-Driven Applications
and Calculus for Data-Driven Applications
and Calculus
Choose a series:10
General Chemistry
and General Chemistry
General Chemistry for the Physical Sciences & Engineering
and General Chemistry for the Physical Sciences & Engineering
Choose a series:8-10
General Physics
and General Physics
Classical Physics
and Classical Physics
Honors Physics
and Honors Physics
Choose one:4
Elementary Statistics
Elementary Statistics
Gateway to Statistical Data Science
Applied Statistics for Biological Sciences
Preparatory Subject Matter Subtotal43-47
Depth Subject Matter
GEL 101Structural Geology3
GEL 101LStructural Geology Lab2
GEL 103Field Geology4
GEL 107Earth History: Paleobiology3
GEL 107LEarth History: Paleobiology Laboratory2
GEL 108Earth History: Paleoclimates3
GEL 109Earth History: Sediments & Strata3
GEL 109LEarth History: Sediments & Strata Laboratory2
Upper Division Electives
Choose 14 units:14
Choose from courses GEL 130-194 or pre-selected non-GEL courses. Only one of GEL 181/EDU 181 or GEL 183/EDU 183 or GEL 185A or 185B or 186 may be applied toward elective credit. Pre-selected non-GEL courses in related fields: CHE 100, ECI 171/ECI 171L, ECI 175, ESM 100, ESM 186, ESP 152, HYD 144, HYD 146, LDA 150/ABT 150, SSC 100, WFC 102. Other courses in related fields must be approved in advance by the major advisor. No more than 3 units of upper division elective credit for courses GEL 115-GEL 120. No more than 6 units of upper division elective credit for GEL 192 or GEL 194A-GEL 194B or GEL 194HA-GEL 194HB. Students who receive approval to do a senior thesis for part of the capstone requirement may not use GEL 194A-GEL 194B or GEL 194HA-GEL 194HB for the upper division elective courses.
Non-Renewable Natural Resources
Risk: Natural Hazards & Related Phenomena
Introductory Inorganic Geochemistry
Environmental Geochemistry
Environmental Geology & Land Use Planning
Ecogeomorphology of Rivers & Streams
Introductory Volcanology
Rivers: Form, Function & Management
Introduction to Process Geomorphology
Evolutionary History of Vertebrates
Basin Analysis
Advanced Igneous Petrology
Historical Ecology
Advanced Metamorphic Petrology
Radiogenic Isotope Geochemistry & Cosmochemistry
Geology of Ore Deposits
Stable Isotopes & Geochemical Tracers
Geothermal Systems
Physical & Chemical Oceanography
Geological Oceanography
Biological Oceanography
Paleobiology of Protista
Hydrogeology & Contaminant Transport
Geological Data Analysis
Geophysical Field Methods
Geophysics of the Solid Earth
Planetary Geology & Geophysics
Advanced Field Geology
Teaching in Science & Mathematics
Field Studies in Marine Geochemistry
Teaching High School Mathematics & Science
Conceptual Integrated Science for Non-Science Majors: The Physical World
Conceptual Integrated Science for Non-Science Majors: Earth System Science
Facilitating Learning in STEM Classrooms
Seminar in Geology
Internship in Geology
Senior Thesis
Senior Thesis
Senior Honors Project
Senior Honors Project
Environmental Water Chemistry
Soil Mechanics
Soil Mechanics Laboratory
Principles of Hydrologic Science
Environmental Remote Sensing
Coastal Oceanography
Groundwater Hydrology
Hydrogeology & Contaminant Transport
Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
Principles of Soil Science
Field Studies in Fish Biology
Field Studies in Fish Biology: Laboratory
Depth Subject Matter Subtotal36
Total Units79-83