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Programs / Science / Earth Sciences

Program Summary

The Earth Sciences program at Carleton offers you the opportunity to study the Earth’s systems, incorporating knowledge from other sciences including physics, biology and chemistry. You will learn about processes (such as evolution, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, plate tectonics and mountain building, formation of hydrocarbon reservoirs and mineral deposits) influential in the Earth’s geologic past that establish our present and future global development. The program offers the opportunity to participate in hands-on field courses that can take you to sites throughout Ontario, across Canada and around the world.

Carleton University’s Department of Earth Sciences has a reputation as one of the foremost centres for solid earth sciences in Canada. We collaborate with the Geological Survey of Canada, the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Ontario Geological Survey, the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, Environment Canada and the University of Ottawa. You will have access to the extensive libraries of these institutions, as well as to lectures and seminars by their scientists and visiting researchers.

Carleton even has its own mineral. The mineral, named Carletonite, was discovered in 1969 at Mount St. Hilaire, Quebec, by a professor in the Earth Sciences department.

Hands-on learning

At Carleton, we know that your in-class studies form only a part of the background needed to become a professional earth scientist. While the detailed structure of a mountain chain or the variety of minerals in the Canadian Shield can be described in the classroom, hands-on experience in the field remains vital to your training.

The Department of Earth Sciences offers several field courses, as well as co-operative education. Our field courses take place annually in Ontario and the Maritimes. Through field camps, you will acquire experience in mapping techniques, measuring sections, recording data and geological interpretation.

Capstone field courses, with an equivalent in-class 0.5 credit, involve the study of geology at worldclass international locations; for example, recent field courses have taken place in Chile, Bahamas, Germany, Hawaii, Iceland, Antarctica, the Alps, Italy, Ireland and the southwest US. earthsci.carleton.ca/field-schools

Your education can extend into summer or co-op work experience with industry or government that includes geological field work, geophysical field work, or applied or theoretical research.

Earth Sciences scholarships

Students entering the first year of an Earth Sciences program with a minimum 90 per cent admission average and who are involved in extracurricular activities may apply for the Collins Prestige Scholarship. The scholarship is valued at full tuition in first, second, third and fourth years as long as the student maintains an A- standing. An application is required. Visit the Awards and Financial Aid Office website for more information.

Two or more Collins Memorial Entrance Scholarships, valued at $1,000 to $4,000, will be awarded to students entering the first year of an Earth Sciences program. The scholarship is awarded in addition to the Prestige or other Entrance scholarships. No application is required, and eligible students will automatically be considered.

Ottawa is an ideal place to study the earth sciences. Igneous and metamorphic rocks of the Gatineau Hills (across the Ottawa River in Quebec) are part of the resource-rich Canadian Shield formed in Precambrian times, and Paleozoic sedimentary rocks underlie Eastern Ontario.

Bachelor of Science (Honours)

Bachelor of Science (Major)

Bachelor of Science (General)

At Carleton, you have the option of taking a four-year Major or Honours degree, or a three-year General degree.

Honours degree programs

Carleton’s Honours program in Earth Sciences prepares you for a career in earth sciences or for graduate school. The program consists of 20.0 university credits, usually completed in four years. As an Honours student, you will need to maintain high grades and complete an independent research project in your final year.

In addition, Honours students may choose to add a concentration to their program in order to focus on a particular area of study.

Our concentration in Finance: Resource Valuation is designed for those who wish to pursue a professional career in the resource exploration and exploitation sectors, or in investment banking.

For those who wish to engage in focused study of the physics of the Earth’s structure and processes, we offer a concentration in Geophysics.

For students preparing for a career in industry, we offer a concentration in Resource Economics, in which you’ll acquire an important understanding of the economics of natural resources.

If you are interested in vertebrates such as dinosaurs, we offer a concentration in Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoecology, which includes a field course at sites where vertebrate fossils are excavated.

Major or General degree programs

The Major degree consists of 20.0 credits usually taken over four years, but does not include a research project in the final year; instead you’ll take additional geology courses at the fourth-year level. It provides professional training for employment in the mineral or oil and gas industries. It is generally not suitable for students considering graduate studies.

The General degree program consists of 15.0 credits usually taken over three years. It is ideal for those needing a general understanding of the earth sciences as background for a career in other areas such as business, resource management, environmental planning or teaching.

Combined degrees

If you have interests in more than one discipline, you may wish to consider a Combined Honours degree program. You may combine your studies in earth sciences with biology, chemistry, physical geography or geography. The combined program in geography can be completed with a formal concentration in Terrain Sciences. Combined Honours programs enable you to take an equal number of courses in each subject.

Many students enjoy the Combined Honours option because of the interdisciplinary nature of many outstanding problems in geology—these programs may lead to careers in, for example, geochemistry, geophysics and environmental geology.

Minor in Earth Sciences

The 4.0 credit Minor program in Earth Sciences: Earth Resources and Processes examines earth resources and the major geological processes that have shaped the planet’s geological history, including resource distribution and character. The Minor is available to students who are registered in degree programs other than those offered by the Department of Earth Sciences.

Co-op opportunities

If you are in the Honours program you may be admitted to our co-op program either directly from high school or at the beginning of your second year. This allows for profession-related employment during the course of your studies, but it will extend the time needed to complete the program. The concentration in Finance: Resource Valuation does not currently offer a co-op option.

Core courses and electives

A typical first year of study consists of 5.0 credits, including mathematics, earth sciences and chemistry. One additional credit is chosen from science and one from arts and social sciences.

In years two and three, courses are offered in mineralogy, petrology (the study of rocks), field methods, paleontology (the study of ancient life), geophysics, paleogeography (the history of changing landscape of geological basins and landmasses), hydrogeology, sedimentology and tectonics (the study of the deformation of the Earth’s crust to form continents, oceans and mountain belts). In your final year, you are provided with a more in-depth analysis of areas of earth sciences, and opportunities for research.

First-year experience

Carleton introduces you to issues of contemporary science in a first-year seminar course called Seminar in Science (NSCI 1000). You will attend six special lectures given by prominent Canadian researchers, as well as small group seminars led by a professor who acts as both your mentor and teacher. Through assignments, presentations and discussions, you will develop analytical and communication skills needed for success in the world of science.

The workplace

Carleton Earth Sciences graduates can be found:

  • supervising diamond or gold exploration with a large mining company;
  • interpreting geophysical and geological information to outline possible reservoirs of oil and gas;
  • assessing earthquake hazards for engineering and construction purposes;
  • studying fossil and modern organisms as indicators for environmental and climate change;
  • measuring the stability of land around proposed dam and reservoir sites;
  • helping to find suitable underground repositories for nuclear wastes; and
  • teaching or carrying out curiosity based research.

Graduate studies

Graduates of the Honours program may also be eligible to go on to graduate studies in a variety of earth sciences fields

Professional programs

The Major and Honours Earth Sciences programs satisfy current academic requirements for professional geoscience accreditation in Ontario.

What students are saying about Earth Sciences


Early on, I was exposed to the many different branches of the geosciences, such as palaeontology, economic geology and geophysics and more. I not only found the subject matter to be interesting and enjoyable, but also saw myself having a lifelong career in this field. The diversity in hands-on training and theory from qualified professors ensured that I graduated fully prepared to enter either the industry or continue with graduate studies. The world’s economy and future is heavily reliant on the progress and development in the Earth Sciences and the program at Carleton University provided me with the required knowledge and experience to ensure that I can contribute to this continuously growing field.
Michal Kolaj, Earth Sciences student