Initial Publication Date: May 8, 2013

The Earth Science degree program at UC, San Diego

Information for this profile was provided by Geoffrey Cook, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California-San Diego. Information is also available on the program website. Students in this program are pursuing a bachelors degree.

Program Design & Assessment


Earth Science at UCSD is somewhat unique, as it is an undergraduate program offered through what is known as a primarily graduate-oriented entity (Scripps Institution of Oceanography). Students learn the traditional "geology" curriculum as well as having access to more earth-systems oriented coursework in geophysics, oceanography, climatology, and environmental science.

Strengths of this program

We have a relatively small number of majors for being such a large university (~60 Earth science majors), which is a benefit (smaller class sizes); the student to faculty ratio is small; our students have access to world-class research faculty/facilities and consequently the opportunities for inclusion in research endeavors is high.

Types of students served

Earth science majors preparing for careers in geoscience or those who intend to pursue graduate work; Earth Science minors taking classes primarily to augment other interests or academic majors (ex. Structural or environmental engineering majors minoring in geoscience); students in the Marine Science minor or Marine Biology major (new in 2012) taking introductory Earth classes to fulfill requirements in their respective programs. Physics majors with a specialization in Earth Science; Environmental Systems (ESYS) majors take almost all of our classes for their academic program, yet, although SIO faculty teach nearly 90% of the curriculum for ESYS the program is "housed" in a different school/department.

The goals of this program are as follows:

Students graduating with a degree in Earth Science at UCSD should be able to:

1) Recognize common rocks and minerals in hand sample and thin section.

2) Read topographic and geological maps and air-photos.

3) Make and analyze geological and geophysical measurements and interpret geological features in the field

4) Understand the origin, structure and history of the Earth and how the Earth System works.

The learning goals were informed by the following resources:

The California Board for Geologists and Geophysicists administer examinations for becoming a licensed Professional Geologist. Our curriculum satisfies the academic course requirements recommended as preparation for students to take the license exam.

How program goals are assessed

We have quasi-regular program reviews (5-7 years) administered by the Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education and the Undergraduate Council. Inter-program and department-level meetings, self assessments, and reviews are conducted. Also, we conduct discussions and interviews with students and alumni.

Design features that allow goals to be met

We have some design features that allow goals to be met, but we could improve in this area greatly. The Director and Associate Director of SIO Undergraduate majors oversee requirements which are endorsed by the faculty and have been approved by CEP. The Director or Associate Director act on all requests/petitions for all variations of requirements. SIO collects student feedback on all courses. This material is reviewed by the Director. Until recently, our program was quite small and specialized. It has been sustainable up until now, but we are realizing that we are ill-equipped to deal with growth. New faculty hires are helping, but we have a great deal of work to do in order to define where we want to go with the major and how we will self-assess our success in meeting goals. Part of my motivation for attending this workshop is that I want to take home strategies that can assist us in getting a majority of the faculty and administrative staff on the same page.

Alumni Careers

Graduation rate

Approximately 8-20 per year

Careers pursued by our alumni

Students have found work in environmental consulting, mineral exploration, and geo-technical disciplines; some attend graduate school (M.S. and PhD programs) at other institutions; in recent years a fairly large number of students have entered the contiguous B.S./M.S program in Earth Science through SIO; very few have found employment in the petroleum industry; some have entered K-14 teaching positions.

Courses and Sequencing

Diagram of course sequencing and requirements