College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Advising - Zulauf Hall 201 - 815-753-0114

A 2 + 2 Plan Leading to a Bachelor of Science Degree
in Geology and Environmental Geosciences


All degree requirements are subject to the provisions and notices in the Undergraduate Catalog.  Information is valid through August 2015.


B.S. Degree in Geology and Environmental Geosciences 

Geology is the fascinating study of the earth and its environment. It brings together all the natural sciences to examine the origin and development of continents and oceans, rock-forming and crust-deforming processes,  landforms, the earth's interior, other planets, the evolution of plants and animals, the formation, occurrence and chemistry of rocks, water, mineral, and fuel resources. Geology addresses environmental issues human as diverse as exploration and development of mineral, energy, and water resources; ground-water pollution; past climate change and future global warming; and the prediction and mitigation of natural hazards such as earthquakes and volcanoes.

Careers in Geology and Environmental Geosciences

Geological studies and careers involve a variety of field, lab, office and computer work. Geologists are employed throughout the environmental field, for example, developing and protecting groundwater supplies, assessing impacts from waste disposal, wetland protection, mine drainage, site evaluation and landfill planning. They are responsible for exploring, mapping, and developing supplies of petroleum, natural gas, coal, and other energy resources, as well as the metals and minerals that support our civilization and the stone and aggregates that build it. There is a continuing demand for geologists and environmental geoscientists in environmental and engineering consulting companies, mineral, mining and petroleum industries, and local, state, and national government agencies and surveys; and for earth science teachers in middle and high schools, colleges, and universities. The B.S. in geology and environmental geosciences also provides a solid scientific background for non-geoscience careers requiring broad technical abilities.


The Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences

The Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences offers degree programs at both the undergraduate (B.S.) and graduate (M.S. and Ph.D.) level. The undergraduate major offers three emphases:

  • the geology emphasis concentrates in depth in geology, understanding the earth, and applying geological methods;
  • the environmental geosciences emphasis combines geology with elective co-disciplinary areas such as geography and biology for broader study and application in environmental sciences;
  • the earth science education emphasis is intended for students pursuing licensure to teach at the secondary school level.

From your entry into the geology program, you will work closely with the department's adviser for your emphasis to ensure that you make appropriate course choices and effective progress. 

All emphases include a 4-hour introductory geology class with lab (should be taken at community college) and a 16-hour geology core, plus upper-division electives including field course, clinical teaching in earth science education and various required allied science courses. 

Geology Emphasis:  a comprehensive, in-depth study of earth science, which includes upper-division electives in geology plus a summer six-week geology field course in the western U.S. 

Environmental Geosciences Emphasisa broader study of environmental geology and environmental science, which includes upper-division electives in both geology and a chosen co-disciplinary area, plus a summer four-week environmental field methods course based at NIU and our environmental field site in Ogle County. 

Earth Science Education Emphasis:  A solid scinece foundation, which includes the geology core classes as well as physics, chemistry, and biology classes and prepares students for Illinois licensure in Earth and Space Science at secondary school level. This emphasis also includes science specific teaching methodology courses.  For curricular details, please visit our website at and select Teacher Licensure.  The emphasis is difficult to complete within the 2 + 2 time frame; interested students should contact the emphasis adviser as soon as possible ( .

The 2 + 2 Plan for Community College Students

Because geology is an integrative science that encompasses the biological, chemical, and physical aspects of the earth, geoscientists need a broad preparation in basis science and mathematics. To meet the degree requirements and graduate on a timely schedule, students should take some prerequisite courses at their community college.  You can learn how community college courses transfer into NIU courses in the Articulation Handbook.

The 2+2 plan assumes that the student will complete all general education classes for A.A./A.S. and receive the associate's degree from the community college and/or has completed the Illinois Transferable General Education Core Curriculum. The following sequence is recommended for a student to graduate from Northern at the end of four years. Equivalent NIU classes and semester credit hours are listed.

Years 1 and 2, at Community College: 

Needed to begin critical geology classes in Junior Year:

  • Mathematics preparatory to calculus, MATH 110 or 155 (3)
  • Introductory physical geology (or earth science) with laboratory, GEOL 120 (3) and 121 (1)
  • Introductory chemistry (CHEM 110) preferably followed by first semester college chemistry with laboratory, CHEM 210 (3) and 212 (1).

Also recommended, for best progress:

  • First semester calculus, MATH 229 (4) (MATH 211 (3) may substitute in Environmental Geosciences).
  • Second semester chemistry, CHEM 211 (3) and 213 (1).
  • One year of either college physics or biology, appropriate for the emphasis and focus desired.
  • For earth science education emphasis ONLY: introductory astronomy, GEOL 103 (3) or PHYS 162 (3), and introductory meteorology, GEOG 105 (3) and 106 (1).

Junior Year, at NIU:

Geology core courses, offered only in semester shown:

*Paleogeography, Paleoclimatology, Paleoecology, GEOL 322(4)
*Solid Earth Composition, GEOL 325 (4)

*Global cycles, GEOL 330 (4)
*Dynamics and Structure of Earth, GEOL 335 (4)

*Electives in GEOL and/or co-disciplinary area
*Chemistry, math, and science requirements not completed in freshman and sophomore years.

Senior Year, at NIU:

  • Courses within the department and/or allied departments to complete requirements for the selected emphasis.
  • Any remaining required math/science requirements.
  • Elective courses to complete 120 hours required for graduation.

Summer (May-June)

Geology Emphasis: Geologic Field Work, GEOL 478 and 479 (6), in Wyoming and S. Dakota: six weeks.
Environmental Geosciences Emphasis: Field Methods, GEOL 477 (4), in central and northern Illinois: four weeks.


The Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences has 12 full-time faculty members and approximately 40 graduate students and 95 undergraduate majors, an excellent student/faculty ratio allowing close interaction and dedication to our students' academic success. Geology courses for majors are taught by geology faculty who hold Ph.D.s in their specializations and are committed to both teaching and research. Undergraduates are encouraged to share in research activities through senior theses, independent study projects, and the college's Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program.

For more information on the geology and environmental geosciences programs at NIU write to: 

Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, Illinois 60115-2854


Visit our website:

For information on the earth science education emphasis and teacher licensure, contact the department's coordinator for these programs: .


For a current NIU Undergraduate Catalog and application materials, contact:

Office of Admissions
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, Illinois 60115­-2857
(800) 892­-3050 (toll-free in Illinois)
or (815) 753­-0446

Or visit the website:


Northern Illinois University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, marital status, national origin, disability, status based on the Victims' Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA), or status as a disabled or Vietnam-era veteran. Further, the Constitution and Bylaws of Northern Illinois University provides for equal treatment regardless of political views or affiliation, and sexual orientation.