Bachelor of Science in Earth Sciences

This is an archived copy of the 2016-2017 bulletin. To access the most recent version of the bulletin, please visit Any changes will appear on our errata page.

The Bachelor of Science in Earth Sciences is designed for students intending to prepare for direct entry into a career as a professional in industry or government, or for graduate school in any of the Earth sciences, such as geology, oceanography, and meteorology. Courses in the BS degree’s Earth Sciences Core, supported by courses in the Basic Science and Math Foundation, give students a strong understanding of the structure and behavior of Earth’s systems (geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere) and the physical process through which they interact. The Earth Sciences Core courses teach not only interdisciplinary science concepts but also skills in quantitative problem solving, field work, and writing and oral communication, which are directly applicable to both graduate school and a career.

Students will develop disciplinary depth by selecting one of the three emphases: Geology, Hydrology, or Oceans, Weather & Climate.

Earth Science (B.S.) — 69 – 70 units

Basic Science and Math Foundation (17 units)

CHEM 115General Chemistry I: Essential Concepts of Chemistry5
MATH 226Calculus I4
PHYS 111
PHYS 112
General Physics I
and General Physics I Laboratory
or PHYS 220
PHYS 222
General Physics with Calculus I
and General Physics with Calculus I Laboratory
PHYS 121
PHYS 122
General Physics II
and General Physics II Laboratory
or PHYS 240
PHYS 242
General Physics with Calculus III
and General Physics with Calculus III Laboratory

Earth Sciences Core (14 units)

ERTH 205Techniques in Earth Sciences2
ERTH 400Earth Systems I3
ERTH 500Earth Systems II3
ERTH 505Quantitative Methods in Earth Sciences3
ERTH 600GWEarth's Climate History - GWAR3

Culminating Experience (4 – 5 units)

ERTH 690Earth Sciences Capstone Presentation1
and one of the following options:
ERTH 695Senior Project3
or an honors thesis consisting of:
ERTH 697
ERTH 698
Undergraduate Research
and Senior Thesis
or (for Geology emphasis and Hydrology emphasis only):
Field Geology or equivalent (at another institution)4

Emphasis (34 units)

Students must select one of the following emphases

Geology Emphasis

The Geology emphasis provides students with an in-depth understanding of the solid Earth and process that shape it and skills to conduct field investigations of geologic problems. Students who complete these emphasis requirements will be prepared for graduate school in geology or to enter the workforce directly as a professional geologist. The coursework prepares students to pass the Association of State Board Geology (ASBOG) exam to be a licensed the professional geologist.

Required Courses (22 – 23 units)
ERTH 210Physical Geology4
ERTH 420Mineralogy and Petrology I4
ERTH 510Structural Geology4
ERTH 515Sedimentology and Stratigraphy4
ERTH 620Field Methods in Geology2
ERTH 522Geochemistry4-5
or CHEM 215
CHEM 216
General Chemistry II: Quantitative Applications of Chemistry Concepts
and General Chemistry II Laboratory: Quantitative Applications of Chemistry Concepts
Electives (11 - 12 units)

Select additional Geology emphasis electives upon advisement

Hydrology Emphasis

The Hydrology emphasis provides students with in-depth understanding of the behavior of water on and beneath Earth’s surface, how water shapes the solid earth, and environmental problems associated with water. Students who complete these emphasis requirements will be prepared for graduate school in hydrology or to enter the workforce directly as a professional hydrologist.

Requirements (21 - 22 units)
Select one of the following:3-4
Physical Geology
Environmental Geology
California Water
ERTH 430Fluid Dynamics in Earth Systems3
ERTH 425Geomorphology4
ERTH 442Surface Water Hydrology4
ERTH 444Hydrogeology4
ERTH 544Groundwater Contamination3
Electives (13 units)

Select additional Hydrology emphasis electives upon advisement

Ocean, Weather & Climate Emphasis (34 units)

The Ocean, Weather & Climate emphasis provides students with an understanding of the structure and behavior of oceans, the atmosphere, and climate, and the physical processes that shape and change them. Students who complete these emphasis requirements will be prepared for graduate school work in Earth sciences disciplines such as oceanography, meteorology, or climate science, or to enter the workforce directly.

ERTH 260Physical Processes in the Atmosphere4
plus five courses chosen from among the following seven options:
ERTH 335Global Warming3
or ERTH 360 California Weather Events
or ERTH 365 Extreme Weather in a Warming World
ERTH 430Fluid Dynamics in Earth Systems3
ERTH 434Coastal Processes3
ERTH 465Weather Analysis and Forecasting I4
ERTH 470Physical Oceanography4
ERTH 535Planetary Climate Change4
MATH 227Calculus II4

plus additional Ocean, Weather, and Climate emphasis electives, selected upon advisement, needed to reach 34 units. (May include courses from the list above not selected to meet emphasis requirements.)

General Education Requirements

Requirement Course Level Units Area Designation
Oral Communication LD 3 A1
Written English Communication I LD 3 A2
Critical Thinking LD 3 A3
Written English Communication II LD 3 A4
Physical Science LD 3 B1
Life Science LD 3 B2
Lab Science LD 1 B3
Mathematics/Quantitative Reasoning LD 3 B4
Arts LD 3 C1
Arts or Humanities LD 3 C1 or C2
Humanities: Literature LD 3 C3
Social Sciences LD 3 D1
Social Sciences: US History LD 3 D2
Social Sciences: US & CA Governement LD 3 D3
Lifelong Learning and Self-Development (LLD) LD or UD 3 E
Physical and/or Life Science UD 3 UD-B
Arts and/or Humanities UD 3 UD-C
Social Sciences UD 3 UD-D
SF State Studies
Courses certified as meeting the SF State Studies requirements may be upper or lower division in General Education (GE), in a major or minor, or may be an elective.
American Ethnic and Racial Minorities (AERM) LD or UD 3
Environmental Sustainability (ES) LD or UD 3
Global Perspectives (GP) LD or UD 3
Social Justice (SJ) LD or UD 3

Note: LD = lower division; UD = upper division.

First Time Student Roadmap (4 year)

Geology Emphasis

This 2016 - 2017 roadmap opens in a new tab.

Hydrology Emphasis

This 2016 - 2017 roadmap opens in a new tab.

Ocean, Weather & Climate Emphasis

This 2016 - 2017 roadmap opens in a new tab.

This degree program is an approved pathway (“similar” major) for students earning the ADT in Geology

California legislation SB 1440 (2009), mandated the creation of the Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT) to be awarded by the California Community Colleges. Two types of ADTs are awarded: Associate in Arts for Transfer (AA-T) and Associate in Science for Transfer (AS-T). Note: no specific degree is required for admission as an upper division student. However, the ADT includes specific guarantees related to admission and graduation, and is designed to clarify the transfer process and strengthen lower division preparation for the major.

An ADT totals sixty units and includes completion of all lower division GE and at least eighteen units in a specific major. Students pursuing an ADT are guaranteed admission to the CSU if minimum eligibility requirements are met, though not necessarily to the CSU campus of primary choice.

Upon verification that the ADT has been awarded prior to matriculation at SF State, students are guaranteed B.A. or B.S. completion in 60 units if pursuing a “similar” major after transfer. Determinations about “similar” majors at SF State are made by faculty in the discipline.

Degree completion in 60 units cannot be guaranteed when a student simultaneously pursues an additional major, a minor, certificate, or credential.

A sample advising roadmap for students who have earned an ADT and is continuing in this major at SF State is available on the Roadmaps tab and displays

  • How many lower division units required for the major have been completed upon entry based on award of a specific ADT;
  • Which lower division requirements are considered complete upon entry based on award of a specific ADT;
  • How to complete the remaining 60 units for the degree in four semesters.

Students who have earned an ADT should seek advising in the major department during the first semester of attendance.

General Advising Information for Transfer Students

  1. Before transfer, complete as many lower division requirements or electives for this major as possible.
  2. The following courses are not required for admission but are required for graduation. Students are strongly encouraged to complete these units before transfer; doing so will provide more flexibility in course selection after transfer.
    • a course in U.S. History
    • a course in U.S. & California government
    • a 2nd-semester course in written English composition

For information about satisfying the requirements described in (1) and (2) above at a California Community College (CCC), go to Check any geographically accessible CCCs; sometimes options include more than one college. Use ASSIST to determine

  • Which courses at a CCC satisfy any lower division major requirements for this major
  • Which courses at a CCC satisfy CSU GE, US History, and US & CA Government

Remedial courses are not transferable and do not apply to the minimum 60 units/90 quarters required for admission.

Additional units for courses that are repeated do not apply to the minimum 60 units required for upper division transfer (for example, if course was not passed on first attempt, or was taken to earn a better grade).

Before leaving the last California community college of attendance, obtain a summary of completion of lower division General Education units (IGETC or CSU GE Breadth). This is often referred to as a GE certification worksheet. SF State does not require delivery of this certification to Admissions, but students should retain this document for verifying degree progress after transfer.

Credit for Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or College-Level Examination Program courses: AP/IB/CLEP credit is not automatically transferred from the previous institution. Units are transferred only when an official score report is delivered to SF State. Credit is based on the academic year during which exams were taken. Refer to the University Bulletin in effect during the year of AP/IB/CLEP examination(s) for details regarding award of credit for AP/IB/CLEP.

Students pursuing majors in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines often defer 6-9 units of lower division general education in areas C and D until after transfer in order to focus on preparation courses for the major. (This advice does not apply to students pursuing associate degree completion before transfer.)

Transferring from institutions other than CCCs or CSUs

Review SF State's lower division General Education requirements. As described above, the four basic skills courses required for admission meet A1, A2, A3 and B4 in the SF State GE pattern. Courses that fulfill the remaining areas of SF State’s lower division GE pattern are available at most two-year and four-year colleges and universities.

Of the four required basic skills courses, a course in critical thinking (GE A3) may not be widely offered outside the CCC and CSU systems. Students should attempt to identify and take an appropriate course no later than the term of application to the CSU. Review more information about the A3 requirement here.

Identify and complete a 2nd-semester written English composition course before transfer. This is usually the next course after the typical “freshman comp” course, with a focus on writing, reading and critical analytical skills for academic purposes, and developing skills in composing, revising, and the use of rhetorical strategies.

Waiting until after transfer to take a single course at SF State that meets both US and CA/local government requirements may be an appropriate option, particularly if transferring from outside of California.

All students must meet the transfer eligibility requirements outlines below for admission. For more information, visit the Undergraduate Admissions section.

  • Complete 60 or more transferable semester units or 90 or more quarter units
  • Earn a college grade point average of 2.00 or better in all transferable courses. Non-local area residents may be held to a higher GPA standard.
  • Be in good standing at the last college or university attended
  • Complete 30 semester units (45 quarter units) of general education, including four basic skills courses:
    1. One course in oral communication (same as CSU GE area A1)
    2. One course in written composition (same as CSU GE area A2)
    3. One course in critical thinking (same as CSU GE area A3)
    4. One course in mathematics or quantitative reasoning, with intermediate algebra as a prerequisite (same as CSU GE area B4)
  • The four basic skills courses and minimum of 60 transferable semester units (90 quarter units) must be completed by the spring semester prior to fall admission, or by the fall semester prior to spring admission. Earn a "C" or better grade in each basic skills course.