Area of Focus
  • Science & Math
Degrees Offered
  • B.A.
  • B.S.
  • M.S.
  • Ph.D.
  • Undergraduate Minor
Academic Division
  • Physical and Biological Sciences
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences

Program overview

The bachelor of science (B.S.) degree in Earth Sciences focuses on fundamental processes that shape the evolution and functioning of the Earth and other objects in our solar system. Earth scientists study big questions, such as how planets form and evolve, or what controls the landscapes around us. Earth scientists also solve problems affecting society, such as water and resource supply, sea level rise, and natural hazards. The Earth Sciences degree combines material from across the physical sciences to prepare students for the competitive graduate school and career marketplace.

Along with the standard Earth Sciences major, we offer concentrations in geology, geophysics, ocean sciences, and planetary sciences; bachelor of arts (B.A.) combined majors with Environmental Studies and with Anthropology; and an Earth Sciences minor.



Learning Experience

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

Study and Research Opportunities

Faculty and students answer questions such as: how did the Earth form? What is the history of life on Earth? How do mountain ranges form? What causes earthquakes? How do we prevent coastal erosion? What has been the Earth's climate in the past and how will it change? How are other planets in our solar system different from Earth?

  • Lecture, lab, and field courses cover essential topics and provide unique opportunities to study geology, Earth system sciences, geophysics, geologic hazards, water resources, marine geophysics, surface processes, climate modeling, and planetary science. 
  • Opportunities to participate in research projects with faculty sponsors.

First-Year (Freshman) Requirements

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.

Sammy Slug mascot giving a student a high five

Transfer Requirements

This is a non-screening majorTransfer students planning to major in Earth sciences are strongly recommended to complete all lower-division mathematics and science prerequisites prior to transfer and will benefit from completing the equivalents of the following courses prior to transfer: Mathematics 11A and 11B; Chemistry 1A/L,1B/M, and 1C/N; Physics 6A/L and 6B/M; and Earth Sciences 5/L, 10/L, or 20/L. 

Students are encouraged to use ASSIST.ORG to determine course equivalencies. Having this coursework completed prior to transfer allows students greater flexibility in scheduling and completing their UCSC Earth and Planetary Sciences courses.

Student outdoors at UCSC Landels-Hill State Beach Natural Reserve

Internships and Career Opportunities

  • Business and industry
  • Geological and environmental consulting
  • Governmental agencies at the federal, state, and local level
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Research at universities, governmental research institutions, or other scientific agencies
  • Graduate/professional school in areas such as science, engineering, teaching, law, public health, business.

Program Contact



apartment Earth and Planetary Sciences Building, Room A234A
phone (831) 502