Geology is the study of the earth and people employed as geoscientists use their understanding of the earth and how it works to find resources, protect the environment, predict geologic hazards, and guide land-use planning. Geoscientists gather data, sometimes in the field, sometimes in the lab, and interpret the data to answer questions.
Why a geology minor?
The geology minor will strengthen the credentials of students interested in careers in the natural world and the environmental arena. Course work in geology will broaden and expand their opportunities, particularly in areas concerned with land-use and management. Students who wish to pursue a degree in geology may want to focus on taking supporting courses at WNMU and then transferring to an institution that offers a degree in geology or they can consider graduate work in geology with a degree in another science, math, or computer science, a geology minor, and additional appropriate course work in math, physics, and chemistry.
Most geoscientists are employed by companies that provide environmental services, many people work in the petroleum or mining industry and others work for state and federal government. Many follow non-traditional career paths where problem-solving skills and the ability to integrate data learned in geosciences may be applied to business and other problems. Entry-level jobs require a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree is often preferred. People with degrees in other sciences, mathematics, or computer science and some coursework in geology may qualify for jobs in environmental science. Starting salaries for geologists with a bachelor’s degree were about $35,560 in 2000. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (www.bls.gov/oco) the growth in jobs in environmental science is predicted to be faster than average and geologists will be as fast as average. In general jobs in the resource industries (petroleum and mining) offer higher salaries but far less job security.
Earth Science Teaching
Where the jobs are:
At the middle school level (schools that include any of the grades 6-8) just under half of all schools offer a course in earth science and earth science accounts for 14% of all science taught in grades 6-8.
Just over 1/3 of high schools (Grades 9-12) offer at least one earth science course. These courses include geology, astronomy, oceanography and meteorology. Earth sciences account for 7% of all science classes offered at the high school level. By comparison 36% of all secondary science classes are biology, 22% are chemistry, and 12% are physics. Physical science, general science, integrated or other science make up 24% of all courses offered.
Compared to other science disciplines current earth science teachers are under prepared. 9% have no background in earth science and 29% have had only 1-2 semesters. Only 39% of the people teaching earth science have had six or more courses in the field, compared to 82% of the teachers in life sciences who have had six or more courses in their field. In fact, many earth science teachers (40%) have had no in-depth preparation in science.
It is estimated that maybe as many as 1/3 of the current earth science teachers will be retiring in the next 10 years.
Discussion: Although earth science is not taught as widely as life sciences, chemistry, or physics, it is offered in many school systems and the current standards emphasize and highlight the importance and value of earth science and may contribute to an increase in earth science offerings. Many people currently teaching earth science lack adequate preparation. Completion of the Earth Science Endorsement for Secondary Education at Western will provide future teachers with a well-rounded base in earth sciences and will fulfill schools needs for highly qualified teachers in the area.
Statistics from: Status of secondary school earth science teaching by Iris R. Weiss a report on the 2000 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education. www.horizon-research.com
Mary E. Dowse, PhD