Apr 17, 2024  
2017-2018 Undergraduate Catalog 
2017-2018 Undergraduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Earth Science, B.A.

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Dr. Stephen A. Leslie, Department Head

Phone: (540) 568-6130                                                                 
Email: lesliesa@jmu.edu
Location: Memorial Hall, Room 7335                                           

S. Baedke, L. Eaton, L. Fichter, L. Kearns, S. Leslie, E. Pyle, K. St. John, S. Ulanski, S. Whitmeyer

Associate Professors
J. Haynes, E. Johnson

Assistant Professors
Y. Admassu, R. McGary

C. Kearns, S. Whitmeyer


Our mission is to serve two vital needs of the JMU students. First, the majors in geology present high-quality programs of specialized study focusing on Earth materials, internal and external Earth processes, analysis of Earth history and application of geology to environmental and engineering issues. In support of this mission is a commitment to foster the ability to think analytically and to communicate both within the discipline and with non-scientists. Course work and research experiences prepare the student for postgraduate study or professional careers that are subject to rapidly changing societal needs. Second, our department strives to enhance the university’s general education program by offering timely and challenging courses that provide insight into Earth processes and human-environment interactions. These courses promote life-long liberal learning by fostering critical thinking and an awareness of natural science.


Provide a stimulating, intellectual environment for students in geology and environmental science that will generate interest and enthusiasm for learning and will provide a solid foundation for graduate work and careers in geology and environmental science.

Teach science as science is practiced. Since the advancement of scientific knowledge often occurs within a social context – collaboration among scientists, conferences, seminars – the goal is to develop a similar mode of operation for the geology program.

Provide high-quality, relevant general studies courses within the discipline that focus on the fundamental science in the societal context (e.g., environmental change, climate change, hazards). These courses will incorporate critical thinking and an appreciation of human-environment interactions.

Career Opportunities

  • Earth Science Teacher
  • Engineering Geologist
  • Environmental Geologist
  • Environmental Scientist/Specialist
  • Geochemist
  • Government or Industry Geologist
  • Geological Oceanographer
  • Geomorphologist
  • Geophysicist
  • Hydrogeologist
  • Meteorologist
  • Science Museum Curator
  • Paleoclimatologist/paleoceanographer
  • Paleontologist
  • Petroleum Geologist
  • Soil Scientist

Co-curricular Activities and Organization

The department encourages majors and minors to participate in the student Geology Club, which sponsors field trips, camping excursions, and hosts educational activities for elementary school students. Geology majors are encouraged to apply to be laboratory teaching assistants and research assistants for faculty in the department. Majors and minors are also strongly encouraged to become members of one or more of the following geoscience organizations and to present their research at the affiliated regional or national meetings:

  • Geological Society of America (GSA)
  • American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)
  • American Geophysical Union (AGU)
  • National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT)

Degree and Major Requirements

There are two bachelor degrees offered in the Department of Geology and Environmental Science , a B.S. in geology and a B.A. in Earth science. Both degree options have a research requirement that includes a formal presentation. The B.S. degree has two concentrations: a general geology concentration designed for students who want to take a wider range of geology elective courses and an environmental and engineering geology concentration designed for students who want to focus their geology electives toward applied environmental science.

The B.A. in Earth science prepares individuals to work in a wide range of professional public sector service careers where preparation in Earth science and communication of science to nonscientific audiences is a requirement or an asset. This includes the preparation of Earth science teachers.

Bachelor of Arts in Earth Science

The B.A. in Earth science degree is designed to integrate all the Earth sciences in a systems approach to understanding the Earth. This includes incorporating and integrating subjects such as oceanography, meteorology and astronomy. The emphasis is on the preparation of individuals to work in a wide range of professional public sector service careers where preparation in Earth science and communication of science to non-scientific audiences is a requirement or an asset.

Degree Requirements

Required Courses

  • General Education  41 Credit Hours 1
  • Foreign Language classes (intermediate level required) 0-14 Credit Hours 2
  • Philosophy course(s) (in addition to General Education  courses) 3 Credit Hours 3
  • Major requirements (listed below including cognate sciences and math) 59-63 Credit Hours
  • General Electives 0-17 Credit Hours

Total: 120 Credit Hours


1 The General Education  program contains a set of requirements each student must fulfill. The number of credit hours necessary to fulfill these requirements may vary.
2 The foreign language requirement may be satisfied by successful completion of the second semester of the intermediate level of the student’s chosen language (typically 232), or by placing out of that language through the Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures and Cultures’ placement exam.
3 100, 200, 300 or 400-level course acceptable or consult the list of courses satisfying B.A. degree requirements at http://www/jmu.edu/registrar.

Major Requirements

B.A. degree students are expected to complete CHEM 131 -CHEM 131L  before enrolling in geology courses numbered 300 and higher.

Choose one of the following: 3 Credit Hours

Research Requirements: 2-6 Credit Hours

In addition to GEOL 291 , choose from the following to complete the research requirement. All majors must complete a minimum of two credits. Students conducting research with faculty should select GEOL 497 ; Honors students doing research with faculty must complete a minimum of six credits in GEOL 499A /GEOL 499B /GEOL 499C . All students must give a formal presentation to fulfill this requirement.

Total: 37-41 Credit Hours

Cognate Science and Mathematics Area

The B.A. degree option requires that each student complete at least 16 hours of cognate science credit hours with at least one course from biology, physics and chemistry chosen from:

Math: 3-4 Credit Hours

The B.A. option requires that each student complete at least six credit hours of mathematics, including one of the following:

Total: 20-22 Credit Hours

Recommended Minors for the Bachelor of Arts in Earth Science

The B.A. Earth science degree recommends (but does not require) that students complete a minor in a complementary program, suitable toward the career goals of the student.

Students may also propose a minor that is not listed above to their adviser for approval.


Approved minors include:


1 Credit hours for courses in the minor that are already required courses for the B.A. in Earth Science major have been subtracted from the total hours listed here.

Recommended Schedule for B.A. Degree in Earth Science

Total: 27-30 Credit Hours

Foreign language courses 1-8 Credit Hours

Total: 27-34 Credit Hours


1 Foreign language at the intermediate level.

Third Year

Choose one of the following: 3 Credit Hours

Total: 25-28 Credit Hours

Fourth Year

Teaching Licensure

Students interested in becoming teachers must meet specific curriculum requirements in their major as part of the undergraduate academic degree. The B.A. in Earth science includes state course requirements in astronomy, meteorology and oceanography, to total no less than 32 hours in the Earth sciences (including geology) and a minimum of 16 hours total in physics, chemistry and biology.

In addition to the general education and academic major requirements, Earth science majors desiring secondary teacher licensure must be admitted to the pre-professional program in secondary education at the undergraduate level and complete the graduate level Master of Arts in Teaching degree.

It is critical that students seeking teaching licensure consult regularly with both their education adviser and their major adviser to support their progression through the programs.

For a full description of the program in secondary teaching, refer to the Department of Middle, Secondary and Mathematics Education , in addition to the College of Education .

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