Geology, Bachelor of Science

School of Earth and Sustainability

College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences

This degree attracts students who are curious about geologic hazards, the evolution of the Earth, and what lies beneath the landscape. The program incorporates fieldwork, laboratory experience, and specialized computer programs that help unveil the secrets of the Earth’s infrastructure.

Beginning fall 2024, students can graduate under a redesigned and unified Geology BS degree program. Please note that emphasis areas will no longer be offered for the Geology BS degree after summer 2024.

  • Available Emphasis Areas:
  • Applied Geology - Emphasis (ending Summer 2024)
  • Geophysics - Emphasis (ending Summer 2024)
  • Paleontology - Emphasis (ending Summer 2024)
  • Geology Coursework (ending Summer 2024)

  • To receive a bachelor's degree at Northern Arizona University, you must complete at least 120 units of credit that minimally includes a major, the liberal studies requirements, and university requirements as listed below.

    • All of Northern Arizona University's diversity, liberal studies, junior-level writing, and capstone requirements.
    • All requirements for your specific academic plan(s).
    • At least 30 units of upper-division courses, which may include transfer work.
    • At least 30 units of coursework taken through Northern Arizona University, of which at least 18 must be upper-division courses (300-level or above). This requirement is not met by credit-by-exam, retro-credits, transfer coursework, etc.
    • A cumulative grade point average of at least 2.0 on all work attempted at Northern Arizona University.

    The full policy can be viewed here.

In addition to University Requirements:

  • 69 - 88 units of major requirements including 16 - 32 units of concentration or emphasis requirements.

  • Up to 9 units of major prefix courses may be used to satisfy Liberal Studies requirements; these same courses may also be used to satisfy major requirements.

  • Elective courses, if needed, to reach an overall total of at least 120 units.

Students may be able to use some courses to meet more than one requirement. Contact your advisor for details.

Minimum Units for Completion 120
Highest Mathematics Required MAT 137
Additional Admission Requirements Required
Fieldwork Experience/Internship Required
Research Optional
University Honors Program Optional
AZ Transfer Students complete AGEC-S Recommended
Progression Plan Link View Progression Plan
Emphasis or Concentration Required An emphasis or concentration is required for this major.

Purpose Statement

The Geology program in SESES develops an interdisciplinary base of knowledge that students use to understand the physical and biological history of the Earth and the evidence for that history. A distinguishing characteristic of geology is that it includes deep time in its understanding of terrestrial and solar system processes.

The Geology program is based on a strong foundation of physics, chemistry, and mathematics that provides an underpinning for the students as they move through the program and start to develop an appreciation for the complexities of interconnected Earth systems and their physical and chemical processes. Students work in field and lab environments, using the scientific method to develop an understanding of Earth materials and to synthesize information from diverse sources and methods to interpret the geological history of the Earth and the processes that occur on and below its surface. This includes the analysis of topographic maps 40 and remote sensing images using GIS tools to study the three-dimensional geometry of rock units, as well as geochemical and geophysical data obtained in the field and laboratory.

The three emphases within the program allow the students to develop a deeper understanding of specific fields within the subject and to prepare themselves for a range of professional opportunities. These enable them to explore the use of a range of geophysical and geochemical data and understand how to apply it to solve environmental and geotechnical problems. The program also provides experience in studying the interactions of humans with Earth systems using mathematical, physical, and chemical methods.

Student Learning Outcomes

Core Geology Outcomes

  • Describe and assess linkages between interconnected Earth systems and relate those linkages to human society.
  • Analyze properties of Earth materials as recorders of geological processes.
  • Collect and synthesize complex and often incomplete field data and other spatial information to interpret geologic history.
  • Evaluate, critique, and synthesize scientific literature and communicate scientific information.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in quantitative problem solving in a geologic context.
  • Understand the physical and biological history and evolution of the Earth and the evidence for that history.
Paleontology Emphasis
  • Explore core aspects of paleontology including phylogenetic analysis and the use of taphofacies, ichnofacies, and fossil assemblages to determine sedimentary depositional environments.
  • Apply an understanding of the evolution of organisms through time to problems of dating geological sequences.
Applied Geology Emphasis
  • Explore the use of geologic, geophysical, geochemical, and geomorphic data and apply it to develop solutions to environmental and geotechnical problems.
  • Study the interactions of humans with Earth systems using mathematical, physical, and chemical methods.
Geophysics Emphasis
  • Understand how mathematical and physical concepts and principles may be applied to solving problems of the solid Earth.
  • Obtain and analyze geophysical data including seismology, gravity, magnetics, and resistivity to answer questions about the Earth’s subsurface and surface processes such as earthquakes.

Additional Admission Requirements
  • Individual program admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are required.

  • You will be automatically admitted to Northern Arizona University's geology program if you:

  • If you don’t meet these requirements, you must apply to the program by writing a letter of application, supported by current transcripts, before entering GLG 309. Send your application to the program coordinator of the Geology Program (see School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability for more information).

Major Requirements
  • This major requires 69 - 88 units distributed as follows:

    • Core Requirements: 53-56 units
    • Select an Emphasis or Coursework: 16-32 units
      • Applied Geology Emphasis: 32 units
      • Geology Coursework: 16 units
      • Geophysics Emphasis: 25 units
      • Paleontology Emphasis: 26-27 units

    Take the following 69-97 units

    Core Requirements (53-56 units)

      • *Students in the Applied Geology Emphasis may not select ENV 115 for this requirement.

    • **MAT 137 is required for students completing the Applied Geology or Geophysics Emphasis.  Some employers and graduate programs may require the MAT 136 and MAT 137 pairing.  Consult with your advisor.

      Please note:

      • The PHY 161 and PHY 262 pairing is recommended, and is specifically required for those who choose the Applied Geology and Geophysics Emphasis. PHY 262L is not required.
      • GLG 490 is not required, but is highly recommended. 


  • Emphasis or Coursework Requirements (Select One):
    • Please Note:

      • PHI 331 is not required but is encouraged as a Liberal Studies elective for students in the Applied Geology Emphasis.


General Electives
  • Additional coursework is required if, after you have met the previously described requirements, you have not yet completed a total of 120 units of credit.

    You may take these remaining courses from any of the academic areas, using these courses to pursue your specific interests and goals. You may also use prerequisites or transfer credits as electives if they weren't used to meet major, minor, or liberal studies requirements.

    We encourage you to consult with your advisor to select the courses that will be most advantageous to you.

Additional Information
  • Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also successfully complete. For prerequisite information, click on the course or see your advisor.

  • This program is available as an Accelerated Undergraduate/Graduate Plan wherein a student may start a master's degree while simultaneously completing their bachelor's degree.