If you are looking for the best affordable Bachelor’s in Geochemistry and Petrology degrees, you have come to the right place. Geochemists are scientists who study, research and analyze samples of minerals, rock, soil, and other natural materials of the Earth. They are also responsible for monitoring the Earth’s composition to compile information on the structure, nature, and age of specific geological locations. Similarly, petrologists look at the structure, composition, history, and overall distribution of rocks to determine how to best extract natural resources and valuable minerals from them. Although bachelor’s degrees in geochemistry and petrology are available, most geochemists use these programs as a stepping stone to graduate-level study and seek employment in the areas of education, research, and consulting.
To provide our readers with the most comprehensive list of the best affordable bachelor’s degrees in geochemistry and petrology, we awarded points to the following schools based on the average cost of attendance, student-to-faculty ratios, and graduation rates. Whether you have a specific occupation in mind or you would simply like to learn more about the field as well as the degrees you would need to earn to find employment, the following list will serve as a great starting point. To get our initial list of schools, we searched for the term “geochemistry and petrology bachelor’s degree” using the College Navigator tool at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Since our search produced 15 results, we did not need to narrow down our list any further. We did, however, double-check the information provided by the NCES with each school’s website to ensure accuracy. We then awarded points based on the following methodology.
Average Cost of Attendance
We understand the temptation to want to select the cheapest program on the list to save money. This is, after all, a ranking based on affordability. However, it is just as important to make sure that the program you choose meets your other academic and professional needs as well. For instance, does the school provide the degree you would like to pursue, offer a specialization in which you are interested, or allow for opportunities for hands-on learning or research? Think of the following programs from a “big picture” perspective and think of tuition as only one piece of the puzzle. For this ranking, we awarded points based on the cost of one academic year of study for an in-state student using data supplied by the NCES and each school’s website. We also provided costs for out-of-state students, though these figures were not taken into consideration when awarding points.
Under $7,500: 5 points
$7,500 to $15,000: 3 points
$15,001 and above: 1 point
Next, we used each school’s student-to-faculty ratio from NCES to learn more about the class sizes at the following institutions. Although there is no steadfast rule, in most cases, we have found that colleges with low student-to-faculty ratios tend to enroll fewer students and, therefore, provide smaller class sizes. As a result, students may be more likely to benefit from opportunities for individualized studies, close relationships with faculty and peers, and one-on-one mentoring with their professors. While some students may prefer larger classes in which they can blend into the background, smaller institutions may provide greater accountability. There are benefits and drawbacks to each, but for this ranking, we awarded the most points to colleges and universities with the lowest student-to-faculty ratios.
10:1 or less: 3 points
11:1 to 15:1: 2 points
Greater than 15:1: 1 point
While knowing a school’s acceptance rate can help determine the likelihood of being admitted into a program, understanding an institution’s graduation rate can be useful for knowing how many students successfully leave that program. In other words, schools with high graduation rates are keeping their students satisfied with their academic progress, so they remain enrolled and ultimately graduate with their degrees. On the other hand, institutions with low graduation rates may not be offering a positive educational experience, so students leave and finish their degrees at another institution. Students can disenroll for any number of reasons, but some of the most common causes include unaffordable programs, inexperienced or uncaring faculty members, or a lack of or nonexistent academic support. Therefore, we determined that schools with the highest graduation rates from NCES would receive the most points based on the ranges below.
More than 50 percent: 3 points
Between 30 percent and 50 percent: 2 points
Less than 30 percent: 1 point
Ranking Top 15 Best AffordableBachelor’s in Geochemistry and Petrology Degrees
15. University of Houston-Downtown
The University of Houston-Downtown is a public university and a member of the University of Houston System. Founded in 1974, UHD is the second-largest institution of higher learning by enrollment in Houston and serves more than 14,400 students across four academic colleges. Students looking for a cheap geochemistry and petrology degree can pursue a Bachelor’s in Geosciences with a geochemistry focus. The low-cost 120-hour curriculum features core geology courses in petrology, structural geology, paleontology, and mineralogy as well as plate tectonics, geologic field methods, and sedimentology and stratigraphy. The geochemistry concentration covers biogeochemistry, inorganic geochemistry, and the atmospheres of planets. Graduates are prepared for both graduate-level study in geochemistry or geology as well as for careers in earth science-related industries that require knowledge of geochemistry-related issues.
Bachelor of Sciences in Geosciences With Geochemistry
In-State Tuition: $7,772
Out-of-State Tuition: $20,222
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 18:1
Graduation Rate: 20 percent
14. Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island
Brown University is a private Ivy League research university. Founded in 1764 as the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, it is the seventh-oldest institution of higher learning in the U.S. and one of nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution. Brown offers two cost-effective geochemistry and petrology degrees: a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Geology-Chemistry. The B.A. program is designed for students looking to apply chemical and physical principles toward an understanding of environmental and resource issues, Earth processes, and Earth history. The curriculum includes four basic supporting science courses and nine classes in the concentration. The B.S. program is designed for students interested in graduate-level study as well as careers in geochemistry and related fields. The curriculum includes five basic supporting science courses and 14 concentration courses, including an option in geochemistry/inorganic chemistry. A senior research thesis is required for graduation.
A.B. Degree in Geo/Chem
Sc.B. Degree in Geo/Chem
In-State Tuition: $57,112
Out-of-State Tuition: $57,112
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 6:1
Graduation Rate: 95 percent
13. University of Rochester
Rochester, New York
Established in 1850, the University of Rochester is a private research university and a top choice among undergraduates seeking a high-value geochemistry and petrology degree. Rochester provides a Bachelor of Science in Geological Sciences that includes three distinct tracks: geochemistry, geology, and geobiology. All students take core geology-based courses in areas such as structural geology, Earth materials, sedimentology and stratigraphy, the evolution of the Earth, and an introduction to the geological sciences. Specifically, the geochemistry track requires a course in petrology and three technical electives as well as two of the following four classes: Chemical Evolution of the Earth, Atmospheric Geochemistry, Environmental Geochemistry, and A Climate Change Perspective to Chemical Oceanography. All students must satisfy participate in field studies, and they are encouraged to undertake a research project that culminates in a thesis written during the senior year.
Geological Sciences (BS)
In-State Tuition: $55,040
Out-of-State Tuition: $55,040
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 10:1
Graduation Rate: 86 percent
12. California Institute of Technology
Founded in 1891, the California Institute of Technology is a private research university recognized for its strength in natural science and engineering degree programs. Caltech’s Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences (GPS) offers a top undergraduate program that provides students with thorough training in the geological and planetary sciences. It also integrates these studies with a core curriculum in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics that all students complete during their first years. Undergraduate students can pursue one of five options: geochemistry, geobiology, geophysics, geology, or planetary science. Undergraduates also have access to electives that allow them to explore and develop special interests in a variety of engineering and scientific fields. Students are encouraged to become actively involved in research which may include an emphasis on fieldwork. Specifically, research areas in the field of geochemistry may include mineralogy, isotope geochemistry, instrumentation development, environmental geochemistry, geochemistry/cosmochemistry, chemical petrology, and atmospheric chemistry.
In-State Tuition: $52,506
Out-of-State Tuition: $52,506
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 3:1
Graduation Rate: 92 percent
11. University of California-San Diego
San Diego, California
Founded in 1960, the University of California-San Diego is a public research university and the seventh-oldest of the 10 campuses that make up the University of California System. UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) offers a low-cost geochemistry and petrology degree in the form of a Bachelor of Science in Earth Sciences. The program is rigorous and interdisciplinary, consisting of core courses in paleobiology and the history of life, field methods, geochemistry, and geophysics. Students of this inexpensive university may choose from six customized career tracks: environmental geochemistry, solid Earth geochemistry, geophysics, geology, marine science/oceanography, and Earth sciences education. Areas of study within the geochemistry-focused tracks include inorganic and organic chemistry, isotope geochemistry, petrology, and the chemical principles of marine systems. Classes are typically small in size, and students benefit from personalized instruction. Field trips are a critical part of the program.
Earth Sciences (BS)
In-State Tuition: $14,451
Out-of-State Tuition: $44,205
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 19:1
Graduation Rate: 86 percent
10. Grand Valley State University
Students looking for a cost-effective geochemistry and petrology degree may consider attending Grand Valley State University, a public liberal arts university that was established as Grand Valley State College in 1960. GVSU offers a cheap Bachelor’s in Geology-Chemistry that prepares students to use a combination of chemistry and geology to find mineral and energy resources, solve problems related to the environment, and study the Earth. Areas of study include plate tectonics, physical and organic chemistry, instrumental analysis, geographic information systems, geochemistry, Earth history, quantitative analysis, and plate tectonics. The rigorous, broad curriculum includes research, classroom, laboratory, and field experiences to prepare graduates for a variety of geoscience-related careers.
In-State Tuition: $12,860
Out-of-State Tuition: $18,296
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 16:1
Graduation Rate: 66 percent
9. Western Michigan University
Founded in 1903 as Western State Normal School, Western Michigan University is a public research university and one of the best-value universities for a geochemistry and petrology degree. WMU’s Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences offers a top-value geochemistry major in which students apply the principles of geology and chemistry to the study of the Earth. The curriculum focuses on resource exploration, soils, climate change, pollution monitoring, and water quality as well as remediation, site assessment, pollution, and environmental contamination. Other areas of study include geologic problems, reactions, chemical principles, and the health effects of minerals. After completing the required foundation courses, undergraduates have the flexibility to select electives related to their specific areas of interest. Beyond the classroom, students at this economical university are encouraged to gain valuable field, research, and professional experience through WMU’s active student organizations: the student chapters of the Society of Exploration Geophysics, the American Associate of Petroleum Geologists, and the American Institute for Professional Geologists as well as the WMU Geology Club.
In-State Tuition: $12,094
Out-of-State Tuition: $29,552
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 16:1
Graduation Rate: 53 percent
8. Clarion University
Founded in 1867, Clarion University of Pennsylvania is a public institution of higher education and one of 14 universities that make up the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). Students looking for a high-value geochemistry and petrology degree can pursue a Bachelor’s in Chemistry with a concentration in geochemistry. The chemistry major provides rigorous preparation in the fields of biochemistry and chemistry in a setting that emphasizes hands-on experience with modern instrumentation and knowledge of current developments. Specifically, the geochemistry concentration provides an opportunity for students to supplement their chemistry expertise with additional classes in geology. The curriculum provides skills and knowledge of the processes, structure, and geologic composition of the Earth through coursework in petrology, hydrogeology, geomorphology, and physical geology.
B.S. Chemistry: Geochemistry Concentration
In-State Tuition: $11,149
Out-of-State Tuition: $16,028
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
Graduation Rate: 53 percent
7. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Commonly known as Virginia Tech, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University is a public research university and one of six senior military colleges in the U.S. Established in 1872 as Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College, Virginia Tech offers an inexpensive geochemistry and petrology degree through its Department of Geosciences. Students pursuing the low-cost Bachelor’s in Geosciences degree can choose from four options in geochemistry, geology, geoscience education, and geophysics. Specifically, the geochemistry option is designed to produce geochemists who understand the distribution of chemical compounds and elements in environmental systems and the Earth. Students are exposed to the geochemical methods and tools that can be used to interpret signatures of Earth processes. Other areas of study include the impacts of environmental contaminants, the cycling of nutrients, and synthetic or natural materials that threaten human health.
B.S. Degree in Geosciences
In-State Tuition: $13,691
Out-of-State Tuition: $32,835
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
Graduation Rate: 84 percent
6. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a public research university and the flagship institution of the 17-campus University of North Carolina System. Established in 1789 as the University of North Carolina, it is one of the three oldest public universities in the U.S. and the first public institution of higher education in North Carolina. Students pursuing UNC-Chapel Hill’s top-value Bachelor of Science in Geology can opt to concentrate in one of five areas: paleobiology, geophysics, geochemistry, environmental geology, or traditional geology. Students receive solid training in the field of earth science, enabling them to pursue careers as professional geologists, geochemists, and geoscientists. A Bachelor of Arts in Earth Systems is also available for those interested in the law, education, or environmental studies.
B.S. in Geochemistry
In-State Tuition: $9,018
Out-of-State Tuition: $36,000
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 13:1
Graduation Rate: 89 percent
5. SUNY New Paltz
New Paltz, New York
The State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz is a public institution of higher education that was established as New Paltz Classical School in 1828. A member of the SUNY System, New Paltz is also recognized as a low-cost university for a geochemistry and petrology degree. Students may pursue a top-value Bachelor of Science in Environmental Geochemical Science that focuses on the environmental aspects of chemistry and geology. Through research projects, laboratories, and formal courses, undergraduates develop their understanding of the chemical and geological processes that impact the environment and society. During the final year of the program, students engage in a senior research project under the supervision of an experienced regional scientist or faculty mentor. They then present their projects during an oral senior seminar in the final semester of the program.
Bachelor of Science in Environmental Geochemical Science
In-State Tuition: $8,850
Out-of-State Tuition: $21,240
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 15:1
Graduation Rate: 76 percent
3. SUNY College at Oswego (tie)
Oswego, New York
The State University of New York (SUNY) at Oswego was founded in 1861 as the Oswego Primary Teachers Training School. Today, SUNY Oswego is a public college and a member of the SUNY System. Students seeking a best-value geochemistry and petrology degree can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Geochemistry that is offered jointly by the Chemistry Department and the Atmospheric and Geological Sciences Department. The curriculum covers physical chemistry, petrology, mineralogy, and structural, historical, and general geology. Students have opportunities to participate in research projects with faculty members around the country or participate in real-world, hands-on, field-based research via the school’s Geology Field Program. Facilities include a geology computer laboratory in the Shineman Center for Science, Engineering, and Innovation as well as a seismograph for recording earthquakes around the world and four full-sized laboratories.
Bachelor of Science in Geochemistry
In-State Tuition: $7,070
Out-of-State Tuition: $16,980
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
Graduation Rate: 64 percent
3. SUNY College at Geneseo (tie)
Geneseo, New York
The State University of New York (SUNY) College at Geneseo is a public institution of higher learning and a member of the SUNY System. Founded as the Wadsworth Normal and Training School in 1871, SUNY Geneseo offers an affordable Bachelor’s in Geochemistry that provides a background in chemistry and the geological sciences as well as related areas such as computer science, mathematics, and physics. Areas of study include petrology, mineralogy, historical and physical geology, and geochemistry. Students must complete 71 credits of study within the major, including a geology capstone seminar. This top-value program is provided through a joint effort by the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Geological Sciences. The interdisciplinary curriculum prepares students for graduate-level study as well as for professional careers in geochemistry or similar fields.
Geochemistry Program (B.A.)
In-State Tuition: $7,070
Out-of-State Tuition: $16,980
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 18:1
Graduation Rate: 81 percent
2. University of Nevada-Reno
The University of Nevada-Reno is a public research university and a top choice for undergraduates seeking an inexpensive degree in geochemistry and petrology. UNR offers a cheap Bachelor of Science in Geology that studies the Earth and its construction as well as the natural processes that shape it. Students can choose from more than 40 specializations, including concentrations in aqueous geochemistry, experimental geochemistry, and stable isotope geochemistry. To complement the curriculum, UNR offers state-of-the-art field instrumentation for magnetic, gravity, seismic, geologic, electrical, and rock properties studies. UNR is also home to one of the largest digitally recorded seismic networks in the world.
Bachelor of Science in Geology
In-State Tuition: $6,990
Out-of-State Tuition: $15,051
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 19:1
Graduation Rate: 58 percent
1. Lewis-Clark State College
Founded in 1893, Lewis-Clark State College is a public institution of higher education and our number one choice for an affordable degree in geochemistry and petrology. Through its School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, LCSC offers a top Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with emphasis options in chemistry and geochemistry. Specifically, the geochemistry emphasis combines a solid foundation in analytical chemistry with three-dimensional visualization skills, deductive thinking skills, and a fundamental understanding of Earth’s materials. Graduates who pursue this track are prepared for graduate-level studies in the environmental earth sciences as well as for careers in the geotechnical industry.
Chemistry – Chemistry or Geochemistry BA/BS
In-State Tuition: $6,982
Out-of-State Tuition: $19,978
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 12:1
Graduation Rate: 40 percent
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Career Options for a Bachelor’s in Geochemistry and Petrology Degree?
Geochemists study the interaction of Earth’s natural compounds and minerals with the hydrosphere and atmosphere. There is a wealth of information buried in the mineral deposits, gases, and liquids of rock. It is the job of the geochemist and petrologist to understand this information and make informed decisions on a range of scientific and industrial research applications. While a bachelor’s degree in geochemistry and petrology may be sufficient for entry-level industry positions, a master’s degree is often preferred for advancement in industry and government as well as state survey work. Some career options that one might consider pursuing with a Bachelor’s in Geochemistry and Petrology include:
- Petrology Technician
- Geological Technician
- Petroleum Geologist
- Environmental Coordinator
- Environmental Health and Safety Specialist
As you can see, job opportunities are varied, but they are largely concentrated in the mineral and petroleum industries as well as in government and academia. In general, opportunities commensurate with education level. Most geochemists hold master’s degrees and are employed as consultants by mineral companies, government agencies, oil companies, environmental agencies, and private or public research institutes. Others may work in the field of education such as for museums or schools.
Those considering a career as a college professor or researcher are typically expected to have some field research experience as well as a doctoral degree. Beyond formal education, geochemists benefit from access to opportunities for professional development through organizations like the Association of Applied Geochemists and the Geochemical Society.
What is the Salary Potential for a Bachelor’s in Geochemistry and Petrology Degree?
Since there are many occupations that one can pursue with a bachelor’s degree in geochemistry and petrology, it is difficult to narrow down the salary potential to one specific number. Also, keep in mind that other factors affect earnings besides the job title; the level of education, years of experience in the field, concentration or specialization studied, the specific employer, and the location in which one intends to work all play a part in determining how much one can make in this field. Therefore, we turned to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for specific salary information about some of the most common careers.
To start, the BLS groups geochemists with geoscientists, who earned $91,130 per year as of May 2018. The highest 10 percent earned more than $187,990, and the lowest 10 percent earned less than $49,40. The median annual wages for geoscientists in the top industries in which they worked were:
- Quarrying, mining, and gas and oil extraction: $125,630
- Federal government, excluding the postal service: $99,850
- Engineering, architectural, and related services: $80,770
- State government, excluding hospitals and education: $73,500
- Private, local, and state professional schools, universities, and colleges: $71,090
Environmental scientists and specialists reported annual earnings of $71,130 as of May 2018. The highest 10 percent earned more than $124,620, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $42,520. The median annual wages for these professionals in the top industries in which they worked were:
- Federal government, excluding the postal service: $103,440
- Engineering services: $72,100
- Technical, scientific, and management consulting services: $70,000
- Local government, excluding hospitals and education: $67,500
- State government, excluding hospitals and education: $64,600
According to the BLS, geological and petroleum technicians brought home $53,300 per year as of May 2018. The top 10 percent earned more than $108,110, while the bottom 10 percent earned less than $28,020. High-paying industries for these occupations include the management of companies and enterprises, oil and gas extraction, support activities for mining, and technical, scientific, management consulting, and engineering services.
Related Resource: What is Geostatistics?
What Will You Learn About in a Bachelor’s in Geochemistry and Petrology Degree Program?
Since geochemistry is an interdisciplinary scientific field, many bachelor’s degrees are offered jointly through departments of geology and chemistry. However, the specific type of degree will depend on the school. For instance, some institutions might provide a traditional bachelor’s degree in geochemistry or petrology, while others may offer a bachelor’s in geoscience or geology degree with concentrations in geochemistry or petrology. Curriculum requirements will vary depending on the specific school and program, but most programs offer courses in areas such as:
- Aqueous Geochemistry
- Isotopic Geochemistry
- Physical Chemistry
- Geochemical Modeling
Other courses to expect include structural geology and petrology as well as computer science, engineering, mathematics, and other physical sciences. Many schools allow undergraduates to tailor their programs to their specific interests and professional goals. For instance, taking classes in environmentally-related areas such as sedimentology, hydrology, and toxicology can help prepare students for careers in environmental geochemistry. Nearly every program requires some form of fieldwork, internship, or hands-on practicum experience that allows students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to a real-world situation. Depending on the curriculum requirements, a thesis, research project, or capstone course may also be required for graduation.
While a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, geology, or geochemistry was sufficient for nearly every position in the past, today, an advanced degree in geochemistry offers graduates the best job prospects. Keep in mind that if a student wishes to go into research, postdoctoral work and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree will be required. Regardless of whether you are looking to enter the field immediately after earning your undergraduate geochemistry degree or you are using it as a stepping stone to advance your education to the graduate level, we hope that our list of the top 15 best affordable geochemistry and petrology degrees serves as a helpful starting point.
This concludes our ranking of the top 15 best affordable bachelor’s in geochemistry and petrology degrees.
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