Earth & Environmental Sciences

pdf icon Download PDF


The Earth and Environmental Sciences study the formation and evolution of the Earth, and how the heat deep inside the Earth continually reshapes our landscape. It studies how the Earth’s climate and environment have changed in the past and will continue to change. As an earth scientist, you will use the physical and biological sciences to study the dynamics of the Earth and understand how we can use its resources and how we affect its environment.

This study is growing increasingly urgent. The rising human population makes it more difficult to improve standards of living for all people. The demand for resources — energy, metals, fresh water, and fertile soil — is growing sharply. Exploration for new energy and mineral deposits depends on a workforce that understands the geological processes that form them. The extraction and utilization of these resources often can place the environment at risk, which jeopardizes human health and prosperity. At the same time, population growth and climate change affect the availability of fresh water, while natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, wildfires, droughts and floods have increasing impact.

The study of the Earth and its environment is highly interdisciplinary and draws heavily from related fields such as physics, chemistry, atmospheric science, oceanography, engineering, ecology, microbiology, botany, mathematics, statistics, and archeology.


Research Skills

Applying scientific method to real-life problems
Understanding the interactions between the earth and its environment
Collecting data in the field
Studying the interplay of short and long term processes

Analytical / Problem-Solving Skills

Analyzing data
Learning how to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity
Computer modeling of scientific data
Analyzing Internet information critically
Synthesizing information and building conceptual explanations

Project Development Skills

Integrating knowledge from multiple disciplines
Applying classroom knowledge to field projects
Finding solutions to complex problems
Working as a member of a team

Communication Skills

Presenting complex problems clearly
Using scientific language and reporting methods
Writing proposals and research reports
Designing effective presentations
Negotiating between conflicting viewpoints


Employers seek out individuals who can demonstrate excellent verbal and written communication skills, teamwork and interpersonal skills, initiative, and a strong work ethic. One way to develop such skills is through Geoclub, a student-run organization in the department, which coordinates K-12 outreach, student presentations of research, and recruitment events.

EES is strongly field based and offers several opportunities to develop field-based skills at our off-campus facility, Camp Davis, near Jackson, Wyoming, as well as through field trips to international (e.g., Scotland, New Zealand, Iceland) and national (e.g., California, Texas, Florida, Hawaii) destinations.  In addition, the department has a strong tradition of involving undergraduates in research projects with our faculty, which allows students to test out a career field and develop marketable skills.


The Earth and Environmental Sciences concentration prepares our students for highly adaptable and versatile careers in the energy, mining, and environmental consulting industries, as well as for employment in academia and government.  In addition, the degree provides a fertile foundation for careers in education, law, and business.

Many of our concentrators go on to graduate or professional school. The list below is a sample of careers undertaken by our graduates.


Seismologist open book icon
Volcanologist open book icon
Oceanographer open book icon
Paleontologist open book icon
Astronaut open book icon
Research scientist open book icon
Petroleum geologist

Analytical / Problem-Solving

Environmental consultant green leaf icon
Soil scientist
Environmental lawyer open book icongreen leaf icon
Professor open book icon
Water exploration scientist
Energy consultant green leaf icon
Nuclear waste specialist
Earthquake mitigation expert open book icon

Project Development

Environmental engineer open book icongreen leaf icon
Environmental planner green leaf icon
Urban planner open book icon
Curator open book icon
Eco tour guide green leaf icon
National park scientist green leaf icon
Landscape architect open book icongreen leaf icon


K-12 teacher
Politician, federal, state, and local government
Journalist / environmental writer
National park ranger green leaf icon
Nature center outreach coordinator green leaf icon

green leaf icon = Green Jobs
open book icon = Further Study Required

For more career information, see O*Net at


The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences offers a single, highly flexible concentration, with an Honors option. The degree requires two introductory-level earth science courses. One has an emphasis on the solid earth and the coupling between its interior and surface. The other has a focus on the interactions between the hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere. For the core curriculum, there is a set of eight courses from which at least four are selected. A field course at Camp Davis is also required. Three faculty members act as undergraduate advisors to help students make optimal use of the flexible nature of the concentration program.

The Department additionally offers minors in Earth Science, Environmental Geology, Oceanography and Paleontology. It also has a joint LSA-Engineering degree program in Earth System Science and a highly competitive fifth-year Master’s program.

Earth and Environmental Sciences
2534 C. C. Little Building
1100 North University Avenue

Newnan Advising Center
1255 Angell Hall


For more career information for Earth and Environmental Sciences students, see:

To begin connecting to professionals in fields that interest you, create your own LinkedIn account:

To identify internships or job opportunities, visit Handshake:

On-campus jobs (work-study and non work-study jobs) are listed at:

Maize Pages list hundreds of organizations for students to get involved in:

The Career Center
3200 Student Activities Building

The Career Guide series was developed by the University of Michigan Career Center, Division of Student Affairs, in cooperation with the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. ©2011 Regents of the University of Michigan