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What Do You Need For College to Become a Geological Engineer?

by Karen Farnen, studioD

Geological engineers apply earth science and engineering principles to diverse problems, such as tapping the earth's resources and cleaning up the environment. Interdisciplinary training prepares them for duties such as designing mines, creating transportation methods for minerals and helping reduce industrial pollution. The minimum job requirement for a geological engineer is a bachelor's degree in geological engineering, mining engineering or a related field.


An associate degree in geological or petroleum engineering can prepare you for a job as a technician, but you need a bachelor's degree for an actual engineering job. Bachelor's degree programs receive accreditation from ABET, formerly called the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. An accredited degree shows potential employers that your education meets national standards and qualifies you for eventual state licensing. In addition to a bachelor's degree in geological engineering, more specialized majors can prepare you for a geological engineering career. For example, the University of Arizona offers a bachelor's degree in mining engineering, and the University of Houston offers one in petroleum engineering.

Basic Undergraduate Classes

A bachelor's degree usually takes four years and includes courses in math, sciences and basic engineering topics. For example, the University of Utah requires classes in linear algebra, statistics, three levels of calculus, chemistry and physics. In addition to class work, you'll take lab sections for physics and chemistry. Similar to other engineering majors, the program at Utah includes basic engineering requirements such as statics, engineering design, mechanics of materials, surveying and technical communication.

Geoscience and Field Requirements

A bachelor's degree program in geological engineering includes a wide array of geoscience classes, such as earth materials, mineralogy and petrology, geophysics, geological engineering, rock mechanics and geotechnical engineering. Field work is incorporated in a bachelor's degree program as part of the coursework. For example, at the Colorado School of Mines, geological engineering students take a six-week field course after the junior year, spending time in nearby canyons and mountain regions making observations and doing geologic mapping. As seniors, students receive class instruction in specialized topics such as minerals or petroleum. They then perform field work and complete design projects related to these specialty classes.

Master's Degrees

Although not required, a master's degree helps a geological engineer qualify for advancement or stand out among job applicants. A master's program may take one to two years and sometimes requires a thesis. The Colorado School of Mines, for example, offers a non-thesis program requiring 36 credit hours, including independent study. Master's degree students specialize in engineering geology and geotechnics, ground water and hydrogeology or mining geological engineering. A student with the required prerequisites can complete the program in one calendar year.

About the Author

Karen Farnen has been writing online since 2009. She has taught piano and English as a second language. Farnen has a Bachelor of Arts in French with a music minor from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master of Science in education and a Master of Arts in French from California State University-Fullerton.

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