Undergraduate Program of Study: Course Requirements

Geosciences Concentrations

Geoscience is a unique blend of lab experiments, field observation, data analysis, and computer modeling.  Courses in geosciences apply principles of biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics to real Earth problems, deal with length scales from global to atomic, and consider time scales from billions of years to less than a second.  The flexible academic program allows students to develop individualized courses of study.

Geosciences Prerequisite Requirements:

1. All concentrators are required to take either GEO 202 or GEO 203.

Students must take an additional introductory course selected from GEO 202, GEO 203, GEO 255 or a Geosciences Freshman Seminar prior to graduation (but not necessarily before declaring the concentration). Students with adequate preparation may substitute a GEO 300-level course for this second introductory class. Other introductory geosciences courses, such as GEO 102 and 103 are intended primarily for non-science concentrators and do not count toward a concentration in the geosciences.

General Requirements:

The following courses are required for graduation (with at most one pass/D/fail). AP credit may be used to place into a more advanced math or science course.

Mathematics: MAT 104 or MAT 175 or (with AP credit) one more advanced course in math.

Geosciences Core Science Requirements: There are three ways to satisfy this requirement:

  1. Recommended for students without AP credit: Students must complete two core science requirements at Princeton. Five acceptable course combinations to fulfill one core science requirement are: (a) PHY 103-104, (b) MAT 201-202, (c) CHM 201-202, (d) COS 126 & one of COS 226/ORF 309, (e) EEB 211, MOL 214.
  2. Recommended for students with or without AP credit: ISC 231-234.
  3. Recommended for students with AP credit: In lieu of the intro sequences, students with AP credit may choose to substitute a more advanced course to satisfy a core science requirement. For example, CHM 215, CHM 303 or CHM 305 could substitute for CHM 201-202. Permission from the UWC is required if you would like to pursue this option.

Students interested in graduate school are encouraged to take more than these minimum basic science requirements.

Departmental Requirements:

Concentrators are required to take seven upper-level geosciences courses (300 level or higher) not including GEO 503.

Upper Level Science Courses:
Up to two of the following classes may be substituted for GEO 300+ classes.  Students may substitute other advanced science courses not listed below with permission of the UWC:  APC 350, AST 204, AST 301, CHM 301, CHM 302, CHM 305, CHM 306, CEE 205, CEE 306, CEE 323, COS 323, EEB 324, EEB 355, ENV 302, MAE 221, MAE 222, MAE 223, MAE 305, MAE 306, MAT 323, MAT 325, MOL 342, MOL 345, PHY 208, PHY 301, PHY 304, and PHY 305. 

Students are urged to consult with the departmental representative or their junior or senior adviser before choosing departmental courses outside geosciences.  In general, the department is flexible about course selections and requirements; however, we must ensure a degree of coherency in the curriculum of each student. 

Junior Colloquium. This is a weekly luncheon meeting, convened during the fall term, to acquaint juniors with research and career opportunities.  This is mandatory for all geosciences majors (including those in the geological engineering program).

Department of Geosciences Field Trips

During Fall and Spring Break, the Department of Geosciences typical offers 1-3 field trips. Recent trips have visited France, Spain, Cyprus, Morocco, New Mexico, California, the Bahamas, and Australia. 


Departmental Tracks:


Study the geochemical and biological processes modifying Earth’s surface (atmosphere,soils, sediments, oceans). How do biogeochemical interactions modify the behavior of elements and molecules responsible for global climate change, ecological variations and toxicity, and bioaccumulation of anthropogenic contaminants.


Study the structure and evolution of Earth as a physical system, by theory, experiment, observation, and numerical simulation. The emphasis is on physical processes of global relevance including the history of Earth and life in the rock record. The quantitative concepts and techniques covered in class are also relevant to appied sciences and industry.


Study the coupled ocean and atmosphere system as it interacts with life to set the physical and chemical conditions of Earth’s surface. Students with backgrounds in subjects as diverse as chemistry, biology, physics, public policy, and economics with an interest in climate and global environmental conditions will find this track a challenging and relevant addition to their coursework.