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What's the Difference between Geology and Environmental Science?

Collectively, both can be considered "earth science." Both fields of study overlap, so there may be no difference at all in some situations. In many cases, an environmental scientist or a geologist will have more specialized knowledge to solve a particular problem. Many job postings will ask for either a degree in geology or environmental science, but some will specifically ask for only a degree in geology or environmental science.

Geology is the study of the planet Earth: the materials of which it is made, the processes that act upon these materials, and the history of the planet and life forms since its origin. Geology considers the physical forces acting on the earth, the chemistry of its constituent materials, and the biology of its past inhabitants. Geology also includes the study of the interrelationships in the modern environment of humans and geological phenomena and focuses on such important concerns as how our global climate is changing and how that change will affect human activities.

Environmental Science is an interdisciplinary field of study that investigates the interrelationships in the modern environment of humans and natural phenomena and focuses on important modern concerns, like how our global climate is changing and how that change may affect human activities, how to maintain and improve vital natural resources like drinking water, and how to manage and balance the quality of the environment in the face of improving the quality of life in the United States and abroad.

Academically, geology majors take more coursework in the subspecialties in geology, while environmental science majors take more coursework in related disciplines of chemistry, biology, geography, and environmental planning and health. As a result, geology majors typically have a firm understanding of all aspects of earth systems and research, while environmental science majors have a firm understanding of the inter-relationships between geology, humans, and other sciences.

The course work completed as part of a degree is the most important difference that will dictate the skill set and possible job opportunities available to either major.