10 Best Earth Sciences Undergraduate Programs


This is a ranking of the 10 Best Earth Sciences Undergraduate Programs in the United States. If you are interested in learning and solving the mysteries of our planet earth, then a bachelor’s degree in Earth Sciences also known as Geoscience is for you.

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Best Earth Sciences Undergraduate Programs Ranking Guidelines

10 Best Earth Sciences

Undergraduate Programs

School Ranking

1.Princeton University

Princeton, New Jersey

Princeton’s Department of Geosciences is at the forefront of scientific discovery in the studies and theories dealing with the solid earth, environmental geosciences, and oceanography/climate science. Students are encouraged to address critical societal issues, such as climate change and geologic hazards, through research and education, at all levels.

The Bachelor of Arts in Geosciences (GEO) degree program is designed keeping in mind the mission to understand Earth’s history and its future, the energy and resources required to support an increasing global population, and the challenge of sustainability in a changing climate.

The Department of Geosciences at Princeton University offers a concentration in one of three tracks:

  • Environmental Biogeochemistry (EBC)
  • Ocean, Atmosphere, and Climate (OAC)
  • Geophysics and Geology (GPG)

The university also offers two related certificate programs: Planets and Life Certificate Program in Astrobiology and Certificate in Geological Engineering.

Selection of Core Courses:

  • Methods in Data Analysis and Scientific Writing
  • Ocean, Atmosphere and Climate
  • Fundamentals of Solid Earth Science
  • Life in the Universe
  • Earth’s Atmosphere
  • Earth’s History
  • Environmental Geochemistry: Chemistry of the Natural Systems
  • Sedimentology

Admissions and transfer credit information: In addition to admission application, Princeton University requires the Princeton supplement, a graded written paper, transcripts, school reports, school counselor letter, 2 teacher recommendations and SAT or ACT scores.

Accreditation: The Middle States Commission on Higher Education provides accreditation to Princeton University.

2.Columbia University In The City Of New York

New York, NY

The department of Earth & Environmental Sciences at Columbia University offers undergraduate and graduate degrees.

The Bachelor of Arts with an undergraduate major in Earth and Environmental Sciences degree program at Columbia University provides students with an understanding of the natural functioning of our planet Earth and encourages them to think creatively about the Earth system processes and how to address multidisciplinary environmental problems.

The department is closely affiliated with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the Earth Institute at Columbia (EI), and several departments within the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. This gives the enrolled students ample opportunities to participate in a wide variety of current research programs. Lamont and GISS also offer summer employment, research, and additional educational opportunities.

Credit requirements: 45.5 credits

Selection of required core courses:

  • Foundational Courses in the department
  • Supporting Math and Science Courses
  • Capstone Experience or Geology Field Course
  • Depth, Breadth and Related Fields

Admissions and transfer credit information: Prospective undergraduates seeking to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences should apply to either Columbia College or the School of General Studies.

Columbia College accepts either the Coalition Application or the Common Application. You are also required to submit secondary school reports, SAT or ACT scores and letters of recommendation.

Transfer applicants must use the Coalition Application to apply for admission to Columbia. They are also required to submit transcripts from all high schools attended, official college transcript from all colleges attended, The Coalition Application Transfer Report, The Coalition Application Curriculum Report, SAT or ACT scores and two college academic recommendations.

Undergraduate students applying to the School of General Studies must submit:

  • An online application along with high school transcripts
  • Secondary school records
  • Transcripts from all colleges or universities attended
  • Test scores
  • One typed, double-spaced essay of approximately 1,500-2,000 words
  • Two letters of recommendation

Accreditation: Columbia University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

3.University of California, Los Angeles

Los Angeles, CA

UCLA is a renowned global university that has a long tradition of academic and research excellence, which is universally respected by leading employers and graduate schools alike. The department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences at UCLA offers Earth Sciences degree programs with 5 different majors:

  • Bachelor of Science in Geophysics
  • Bachelor of Arts in Earth and Environmental Science
  • Honors in Geology or Geophysics
  • Bachelor of Science in Geology
  • Bachelor of Science in Geology/Engineering Geology

The curriculum for the Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences degree program is well suited for students who are interested in learning about different interactions between the Earth, oceans, atmosphere, the biosphere, and human environments. The course is designed in such a way that it well prepares the students who are considering careers as professional geologists, geochemists, or geophysicists.

Credit requirements: 180 total credits

List of Courses:

  • Igneous Petrology
  • Sedimentary Petrology
  • Stratigraphic and Field Geology
  • Structural Geology
  • Paleontology
  • Continental Drift and Plate Tectonics

Program length: Average, four years

Admissions and transfer credit information: The incoming freshmen should have completed high school with a superior record in academic subjects. They are also expected to take the ACT Assessment plus Writing or the SAT with Essay

Transfer applicants to the Earth and Environmental Science major with 90 or more quarter units (60-semester units) must have completed:

  • 1 introductory Earth sciences course
  • 2 general chemistry courses with laboratory
  • 1 calculus course

Accreditation: The Western Association of Schools & Colleges provides accreditation to the University of California, Berkeley.

4.Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, MA

The Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers meticulous and hands-on training to students by enabling them to solve real-world problems through the application of mathematics, chemistry, and physics.

The Bachelor of Science in Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences degree program provide students with a solid foundation in geophysical sciences: geology, geophysics, geochemistry, geobiology, atmospheric science, oceanography, climate, planetary science, and astronomy. Once students are done with their core courses, they are required to select lab or field subjects and concentration area subjects that align with their personal goals and interests.

The Department also offers a fifth-year Master of Science degree program.

Credit requirements: 180 total credits

List of courses:

  • Introduction to Geology
  • Introduction to Geophysics and Planetary Science
  • Introduction to Atmosphere, Ocean, and Climate Dynamics
  • Theoretical Environmental Analysis
  • Differential Equations
  • Senior Thesis

Program length: Four years

Admissions and transfer credit information: The freshmen should submit official transcripts, standardized test scores and letters of recommendation.

Transfer students should submit their high school and college transcripts as well as standardized test scores.

Accreditation: Massachusetts Institute of Technology is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

5.Yale University

New Haven, Connecticut

The Geology and Geophysics (G&G) department at Yale University is interlinked with other departments including Anthropology, Astronomy, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Physics; as well as the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale Peabody Museum, the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, and the Yale Energy Studies program.

Due to the small size of the department, professors and students share a close bond and special attention is given to each student. The curriculum not only focuses on core subjects like physics, chemistry, and biology but local and international field trips are also planned to understand the subject practically.

Yale offers two degree programs:

The Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) track in Geology and Natural Resources is appropriate for students pursuing a double major or seeking a career in law, business, government, or environmental fields.

The Bachelor of Science in Earth Sciences is oriented toward training students for professional careers in the earth sciences and natural resource fields.

Credit requirements: 36 credits

Core Courses Include:

  • Earth’s climate system
  • Meteorology
  • Physical oceanography
  • Fluid mechanics
  • Statistics or linear algebra

Admissions and transfer credit information:

All first-year students must submit an admission application with Recommendations from two teachers and one counselor, School Report with transcript, Standardized test results (ACT or SAT) and Mid-Year Report.

Transfer students must enroll at Yale for a minimum of two years to qualify for a bachelor’s degree. Eligible transfer students must have at least one year’s worth of transferable postsecondary credit before entering Yale College.

In addition to prerequisites and required courses in Geology and Geophysics, students for the B.A. and B.S. degree programs are strongly encouraged to gain practical experience in the Earth sciences, either by attending summer fields or by participating in summer research opportunities offered by the department.

Accreditation: Yale University is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education.

6.Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD

The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at John Hopkins University offers programs of study and research in atmospheric science, ecology, geochemistry, geology, geophysics, oceanography, paleoecology, and planetary science. Resources available to students include laboratory facilities with modern geochemical and petrological instrumentation, access to cutting-edge computational facilities, and both departmental and university libraries. Faculty collaborations also provide students with access to resources at the Applied Physics Laboratory as well as NASA and Department of Energy facilities.

The Bachelor of Arts in Earth and Planetary Sciences degree program revolves around the study of physical, chemical, and biological processes that shape the Earth and the other planets. It is designed mainly for students who wish to pursue careers in the field of research but it is also suitable for those planning careers in health professions. Students have broad options of customizing which upper-level courses they take depending on their academic interests.

The university also offers Honors in Earth and Planetary Sciences.

Credit requirements: 120-130 credits for university graduation

Selection of core courses:

  • Oceans & Atmospheres
  • The Dynamic Earth: An Introduction to Geology
  • The Dynamic Earth Laboratory

Admissions and transfer credit information: New students have to submit a college application, their secondary school report, mid-year report, two teacher evaluations, and their SAT or ACT score

Transfer students are required to submit their application along with official transcripts, reports, application fees, and a recommendation.

Accreditation: The Johns Hopkins University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education

7.University of Washington

Seattle, Washington

The University of Washington in Seattle is home to the College of the Environment. There are eight relevant undergraduate areas of study available through the College including a Bachelor of Science in Atmospheric Science, Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts in Earth and Space Sciences, and a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies.

Students studying Atmospheric Science may specialize in Meteorology, Climate Science, or Atmospheric Chemistry. The major requires 97-117 credits based on the area of specialization.

The Earth and Space Science programs require 93-104 credits for the Bachelor of Science or 88-90 credits for the Bachelor of Arts. Students in the B.S. program may choose from one of four concentration areas: Geology, Biology, Physics, or Environmental Earth Sciences. While the B.S. program is more research based, the B.A. program in Earth and Space Science is an option for students oriented towards professional careers in environmental law, science journalism, education, and environmental policy.

Students in the B.A. in Environmental studies must complete 82-88 credits for the major.

Whichever program students select through the College of the Environment, they will find opportunities to study with renown educators, gain hands-on experience through class field trips or study abroad opportunities, and to participate in field station research. Students have some flexibility with each program to customize their educational experience to meet their career goals.

Credit requirements: 180 total credits, including general education requirements

Selection of Courses:

  • Physical Processes of the Earth
  • Access to Space
  • Earth Materials and Processes
  • Evolution of the Earth
  • Geomechanics
  • Geochemistry
  • Geobiology
  • Geophysics

Admissions and transfer credit information: Prospective students must submit previous academic transcripts, immunization paperwork and standardized testing scores.

Accreditation: The University of Washington is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) and is a member of the Association of American Universities.

8.University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

Twin Cities, MN

Guided by the principle that understanding and resolving environmental and universal problems requires an interdisciplinary approach, the University of Minnesota’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences offers two innovative programs, Earth Sciences and Environmental Geosciences, which are both offered as Bachelors of Arts (BA) or Bachelors of Science (BS) degrees through the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Science and Engineering, respectively.

The Earth Sciences program provides students with an integrated and comprehensive view of the composition, structure, and history of the Earth, as well as the processes that operate on and within it, from the planet’s core to the outer atmosphere. It prepares students for graduate study or professional employment. Students are encouraged to emphasize applications of physics, chemistry, and biology to understand Earth processes.

The Environmental Geosciences program focuses on the processes within, and interactions between, the atmosphere, the ocean and the land that determine the habitability and sustainability of the planet. In short, it is the branch of geoscience that is concerned with the interactions between humans and the geologic environment. Students develop key observational and analytical skills that enable them to address fundamental questions about the functioning of geoscience systems, especially in relation to hydrology and water quality, soils, mineral resources, and climate change. This major is particularly well suited to those interested in pursuing geoscience careers in environmental, geological and hydrogeological consulting, industry, and local, state, and federal government agencies.

Credit requirements: 120

Selection of Core Courses:

The Earth Sciences degree program requires:

  • Solid Earth Dynamics
  • Earth History
  • Earth Surface Dynamics
  • Mineralogy
  • Fluid Earth Dynamics
  • Geochemical Principles
  • Field Methods

The Environmental Geosciences degree program requires:

  • Mineralogy
  • Geochemical Principles
  • Field Methods
  • Sedimentology and Stratigraphy
  • Environmental Geophysics
  • General Hydrogeology
  • Geomorphology
  • Geomicrobiology
  • Structural Geology
  • Basic Soil Science
  • Principles of Geographic Information Science
  • Standards and Practices for Professional Geoscientists

Admission and transfer credit information: Prospective students are required to submit their application form, academic reports, and standardized test scores.

Accreditation: The University of Minnesota – Twin Cities is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

9.Albion College

Albion, MI

Albion College’s Geological department provides students with hands-on experience to explore the underpinnings of our wonderful earth. The curriculum combines geological theory and practice in a way that prepares students for their professional careers and success.

The Bachelor of Arts with Major in Earth Sciences degree program consists of earth sciences fundamentals, advanced coursework, field research skills, and quantitative and analytical skills, among others.

All students completing a major in geology or earth science must satisfy a field work requirement equivalent to one unit of study. This requirement may be fulfilled by summer research, internship or work experiences, academic year directed studies or other suitable field experiences approved by the faculty.

Credit requirements: 10 units

Selection of courses:

  • Introductory Geology
  • Introduction to Earth History
  • Earth Resources and the Environment
  • Natural Disasters
  • Oceans, Atmosphere and Climate

Admission and transfer credit information: Applicants must provide transcripts, ACT/SAT scores, information about extracurricular activities, a letter of recommendation and a personal essay.

Accreditation: Albion College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

10.Pennsylvania State University

State College, PA

The Department of Geosciences at Penn State University offers an undergraduate degree program that provides students with an integrated and interdisciplinary study of the whole Earth. It equips them with the necessary skills and knowledge needed to solve real-world problems and prepare them for careers at the forefront of geosciences.

The department currently offers four BS programs:

  • Bachelor of Science in Geosciences
  • Bachelor of Science in Geobiology
  • Bachelor of Science in Earth Science and Policy
  • Bachelor of Science in Earth Sciences

The Bachelor of Science in Geosciences is one of the most popular degrees offered by the department. The program provides a comprehensive background in traditional geology and prepares students for competitive careers in the environmental or oil and gas industries, in hydrogeology.

The Bachelor of Science in Earth Sciences offers flexibility and breadth across subjects such as geosciences, geography, and meteorology. This degree program is ideal for students who look forward to establishing careers in environmental science, teaching, or environmental law or policy.

Credit requirements: Bachelor of Science degree in Earth Sciences requires a minimum of 123 credits and a Bachelor of Science degree in Geosciences requires a minimum of 121 credits.

Selection of Core Courses:

  • Climatology
  • Marine Science
  • Watersheds & Water Resources
  • Earth Systems
  • Global Business Strategies for Earth and Environmental Industries

Admissions and transfer credit information: Prospective students must submit an online application with their previous academic reports and official test scores.

Accreditation: The Pennsylvania State University has been accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education

10 Best Earth Sciences

Undergraduate Programs

End of Schools

10 Best Earth Sciences Undergraduate Programs Ranking Guidelines:

Successful Student provides rankings for the benefit and guidance of current and future students. In this ranking, we looked at the universities which have had the largest influence in academic literature and publications in Earth Science from university faculty and alumni, as ranked at We then focused on Undergraduate programs, and further refined the rankings based on course variety within the programs, degrees offered, and academic reputation.