The Earth Sciences Major 2013-14

The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences offers a bachelor of science (B.S.) degree program that is designed for students who intend to pursue professional careers in Earth and planetary sciences, engineering, policy, law, teaching, or business or who otherwise desire the broad, quantitative training available at UCSC. In addition to providing comprehensive preparation in the basic physical sciences, and particular breadth and depth in Earth and planetary sciences, the curriculum is structured to prepare students for the competitive graduate school and career marketplace.

Along with the standard Earth sciences major, we offer concentrations in environmental geology, ocean sciences, planetary sciences, and science education, and combined majors with environmental studies and anthropology are available. There is also a minor in Earth sciences.

The core of the major includes calculus, physics, chemistry, and a group of comprehensive Earth and planetary sciences courses. For the standard B.S., students then select at least four additional courses from a diverse list of upper-division electives, with at least two that involve significant laboratory or field data acquisition and analysis. These electives, often in combination with additional upper-division courses from E&PS or related departments, provide the student with expertise in one or more subdisciplines within Earth science.

Study and Research Opportunities

  • B.S. standard degree (see Course Work section) or with optional concentrations in environmental geology, ocean sciences, planetary sciences, or science education; minor degree; M.S.; Ph.D. with optional concentrations in geochemistry, geology, geophysics, and planetary science
  • Combined B.A. degrees are available in Earth sciences/anthropology and environmental studies/Earth sciences.
  • An internship program provides opportunities for undergraduate students to gain practical work experience, which may prove beneficial in the industrial, academic, or governmental job markets.
  • Earth sciences students may gain up to seven units of teaching experience through Earth Sciences 196A-C, Teaching Apprenticeship.

High School Preparation

High school students planning to major in Earth sciences at UC Santa Cruz should take the standard courses required for UC admission. In addition, they should have a strong background in high school mathematics, including algebra (two years), Euclidean geometry, trigonometry, and analytic (coordinate) geometry, as well as some background in high school chemistry, biology, environmental science, or physics.

Transfer Preparation

Transfer students are encouraged to contact the Physical and Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs adviser for information on courses they should complete before arrival at UC Santa Cruz. Students and their college advisers are strongly recommended to examine the degree requirements at for the student's intended major. It is important that students have completed one introductory course with a lab component in physical geology and as many as possible of the chemistry, mathematics, and calculus-based physics courses required. Prospective transfer students should visit the Physical and Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs web site at for further information (see the More Information section).

Students planning to major in the sciences and engineering are not well served by completing the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC) due to the extensive lower-division major preparation course load and related prerequisite course requirements. Students interested in these high-unit majors are encouraged to complete courses equivalent to the specific program's lower-division major requirements first and the university's broader general education equivalents second. Please see to identify these course equivalents. Also, please see the Course Work section for more information.

Lower-Division Preparation

A student may officially declare the Earth sciences major when he or she completes (with a grade of C or better) one of the following introductory courses in physical geology:

  • EART 5 California Geology
  • EART 10 Geologic Principles
  • EART 20 Environmental Geology

Course Work

The various degrees offered by the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department may require lower-division preparation in anthropology, astronomy, biology, chemistry, education, environmental studies, math, and physics. These courses are taken in conjunction with some or all of the Earth sciences foundation series and other upper-division requirements. For example, the following is the required course work for the Earth sciences standard B.S. degree:

  • Earth Sciences 5/L, California Geology with Laboratory or 10/L, Geologic Principles with Laboratory or 20/L, Environmental Geology with Laboratory (introductory geology course)
  • Chemistry 1A, 1B/M, and 1C/N, General Chemistry (three quarters)
  • Mathematics 11A-B, Calculus with Applications (two quarters) or 19A-B, Calculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics (two quarters) and 22, Introduction to Calculus of Several Variables or 23A, Multivariable Calculus, or Earth Sciences 111, Mathematical Methods for Earth Scientists
  • Physics 6A/L-B/M-C/N, Introductory Physics (series of 3). Chemistry 108A/L or 112A/L, Organic Chemistry, may substitute for Physics 6C/N
  • Earth Sciences 110A/L, Evolution of the Earth with Laboratory, 110B/M, Earth as a Chemical System with Laboratory, and 110C/N, The Dynamic Earth with Laboratory (foundation series of 3)
  • Earth Sciences 190, Earth Sciences Mentorship (1 unit optional mentorship seminar)
  • Four upper-division electives (of which 2 must be lab- or field-intensive)
  • Senior comprehensive: Senior field internship (Earth Sciences 188A-B) or senior thesis (Earth Sciences 195) or pre-approved graduate level course 

Education Abroad Program (EAP)

The Education Abroad Program (EAP) offers undergraduate students the opportunity to study at more than 100 host universities and colleges in 34 countries as part of their regular UC academic program. Students receiving financial aid can apply their award to a program abroad. Science majors are encouraged to plan carefully and check the degree requirements that may be completed abroad.

Academic Advising

Academic advising is available from Physical and Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs. Undergraduate Affairs publishes the web site at, which contains detailed information about the degree programs, sample schedules, transferring credit, placement exams, faculty research, and opportunities in the Physical and Biological Sciences majors.

More Information

Undergraduate Affairs
Physical and Biological Sciences
142 Jack Baskin Engineering Building
University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, California 95064
(831) 459-4143

See Also