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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.

World-class faculty

As a student in Carleton University’s Department of Earth Sciences, you will be studying with first-class Canadian scientists. Carleton professors are internationally recognized for their expertise.

Prime laboratory facilities and equipment

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.

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.

First-year experience

Carleton introduces you to issues of contemporary science in Seminar in Science (NSCI 1000), a first-year seminar course. 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 the analytical and communication skills needed for success in the world of science.


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.

The workplace

A Bachelor of Science degree in Earth Sciences will provide you with the basic knowledge and experience for a wide range of employment opportunities. Many of our Earth Sciences students have found careers as mine supervisors, as researchers in a wide range of government, industrial and environmental laboratories, and as teachers.

Areas of potential work and study include:

■ Economic Geology

Economic geologists search for mineral and hydrocarbon deposits of economic value today and for the future. Knowledge of the Earth contributes to the cost-effective identification, exploration and development of new energy and mineral resources.

■ Paleontology

Paleontologists use fossils to study the evolution of organisms, their extinction patterns and their responses to paleoecological change, to better understand ancient paleoenvironments and enhance current environmental policies and practices.

■ Geophysics

Geophysicists use remote sensing methods such as seismic, magnetic, electric and gravimetric imaging to investigate the structure and processes of Earth’s subsurface. Geophysical models and techniques are used to explore for mineral, water and oil resources; to mitigate against earthquakes; and to select sites for dams and bridges.

■ Isotope Geology

Isotope Geology is a powerful tool for understanding topics as diverse as the evolution of unicellular organisms or the evolution of the solar system. Isotope geochemists study the nature and timing of physical and chemical processes within the Earth, environmental geoscience, and the interaction between the biosphere and geosphere.

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