Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

An Analysis of the Bachelor of Science in Geology Degree as Offered in the United States

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

An Analysis of the Bachelor of Science in Geology Degree as Offered in the United States

Article excerpt


The Bachelor of Science in Geology degree is offered by nearly 300 universities and colleges in the United States. The curriculum of these degree programs is composed of three parts: core required and elective geology courses, cognate science requirements, and general education requirements. Analysis of the frequency of inclusion of courses in the required core has lead to the identification of four curricular patterns common to geology departments. Conversely, there is much more commonality in the cognate science requirements nationally in that two semesters of chemistry, physics, and calculus are required by two thirds of all Bachelor of Science programs. The structure and organization of general education requirements vary significantly as do me number of required credit hours embedded in the general education program. Analysis of the Bachelor of Science in Geology degree serves two important purposes: first, it provides a database upon which informed discussions of curricular content and accreditation standards can be made; second, it provides departments undergoing program review a basis for comparison with other institutions and national norms.


Disciplinary accreditation for the geological sciences has been a long-running controversy in the United States (e.g., Hatcher and Corbett, 1996; Corbett and Corbett, 2001; GSA 2007a; 20OTb). The Geological Society of America has, at various times, established ad hoc committees to review the concept, conduct surveys, and solicit feedback from its membership. Despite these efforts, no consensus for support or rejection of disciplinary accreditation has developed among memlbers of the professoriate. At the heart of the dialog are two critical dimensions - resources and curriculum. It is generally recognized that disciplinary accreditation can be used by academic departments to leverage greater allocation of resources within the University. Anecdotal evidence is readily available at any institution in which a professional school is undergoing reaccreditation. For geology departments, however, there exists a significant risk that costs associated with achieving accreditation standards can exceed the benefits of maintaining the program being considered for accreditation. Depending upon which side of the resource equation a particular geology department falls, attempting accreditation could result in either program expansion or closure. Many faculty members consider presenting their administration with such a resource allocation decision a far too dangerous gambit and are therefore steadfastly opposed to the implementation of any form of disciplinary accreditation. The conversation becomes even more heated when topics of curricular standardization or reform are brought to the table. For some, the establishment of a common academic core and standards for assessing curricular content is a laudable goal. Others, however, consider such structures to be far too restrictive and prescriptive in nature and point to the importance of curricular innovation, regional focus, and variety within the geology curriculum.

It is not the purpose of this offering to debate the merits of disciplinary accreditation. As with any concept of reform or change, a significant number of positives and negatives can be identified. Rather, we set out to present an analysis of the Bachelor of Science in geology degree as offered in the United States. Only by reviewing our programs in detail can informed discussions of curricular modification more forward. Towards that end, 296 American universities and colleges were identified as offering the Bachelor of Science in geology degree option (Keane and Martinez, 2007). Online undergraduate catalogs were reviewed and degree requirements tabulated. The results of the analysis of those programs and their requirements follow.


Geology is at its heart an interdisciplinary and integrative science. …

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