Major/Minor Requirements

Geoscience goals for the major and major/minor requirements

Narragansett Pier granite, Rhode Island

Intrusive relationships in the Narragansett Pier granite, Rhode Island

Goals for the Major

Goals for our 100 level curriculum

  • Develop scientific literacy
  • Explore earth systems in the classroom, the lab, and in the field
  • Understand our local landscape, sustainability, and planetary limits
  • Collect, curate, and model data to create geological narratives

Goals for our 200-300 level curriculum

  • Understand the drivers of Earth processes from first principles
  • Experience content through inquiry based research projects, field work, analogue modeling and engagement with Earth materials and scientific data
  • Apply the scientific method and use data to make interpretations about geologic processes
  • Collaborate with peers in a project based setting
  • Demonstrate written, oral, and visual communications skills to convey complex information to a range of audiences.

Requirements for the Geosciences Major

The geosciences major includes three components: a set of three core requirements (100-200 level), a set of five electives, three of which must be at the 300 level, (one of which may be GEOS 350, GEOS 360, GEOS 370) and a set of four cognate STEM courses. The core requirements provide students with an introduction to the key elements of geosciences: earth materials and processes, scale, and deep time, as well as the development of system thinking skills. The electives (200-300 level) allow students to develop an area of focus that reflects their particular interests and future goals. The cognate STEM courses provide context, depth, and additional quantitative skills.

The core includes one 100 level course from either GEOS 101, or GEOS 102, and two 200 level courses GEOS 200 and GEOS 203.  In addition, students and encouraged, in consultation with their advisors, to choose a "focus" that lends depth and coherence to the major and can guide elective choices. Example foci might include 1) Earth Material and Tectonics, 2) Environmental Geosciences and Surface Processes, 3) Planetary Geology, 4) Earth and Space Education.  Four complementary (cognate) courses from mathematics, biological sciences, chemistry, physics, and astronomy, computer science, or STEM focused environmental studies are also required, and two must come from the same discipline. Most majors pursue research experiences as part of their curriculum. 

Requirements for the Minor

A minor in geosciences consists of five courses, including any 100-level GEOS course and at least one course at the 300 level. Students will choose an appropriate set of courses witht he guidance of a departemental advisor.


The only route to honors in the major is writing a thesis and passing an oral examination. To be admitted to the thesis program, a student must have a grade point average of at least 3.5 in all work in the major field above the 100 level; the department may petition on behalf of the student if the GPA in the major is between 3.0 and 3.5. See Academic Distinctions.

Graduate Study

Students considering graduate school are urged to take two semesters of mathematics, two of chemistry, two of physics, and a geoscience field experience or summer research program. Students will choose an appropriate set of complementary courses with the guidance of a departmental advisor.