Bachelor of Science in Earth Sciences

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, fieldwork, and writing and oral communication, which are directly applicable to both graduate school and a career.

Students develop disciplinary depth by selecting an emphases area: Geology; Hydrology; or Oceans, Weather, and Climate

Program Learning Outcomes

1. Scientific principles and methods - graduates will be able to:

  • apply the scientific method to solve problems in the Earth sciences, which includes making observations, asking scientific questions, forming and testing hypotheses, and analyzing and evaluating the results.
  • collect, analyze, and interpret observations, and use field and laboratory equipment and data analysis software appropriate to their area of emphasis in the Earth sciences.
  • explain that all observations contain uncertainty, be able to quantitatively evaluate this uncertainty, and assess the implications of that uncertainty.
  • retrieve, use, and critically interpret the scientific literature.
  • create and interpret graphical representations of data.
  • create, manipulate, and interpret mathematical representations of Earth systems.

2. Process-level understanding - graduates will be able to:

  • demonstrate a qualitative understanding of the processes driving the major Earth systems, including within the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, and Earth’s energy budget, as well as the fluxes of mass and energy within and between Earth systems, such as plate tectonics and climate system.
  • demonstrate a quantitative understanding of the processes driving the Earth systems in their area of emphasis.
  • demonstrate an understanding of the widely varying temporal and spatial scales of surface, subsurface, and deep-Earth processes that control changes in the Earth systems.

3. Application to societal issues - graduates will be able to:

  • use scientific principles and the understanding of physical processes to interpret the societal implications arising from anthropogenic and environmental change, such as natural hazards, resource management, and climate change.
  • Give an informed critique of the scientific data and literature underlying current policy discussions that relate to their emphasis area.

4. Communication - graduates will be able to:

  • collaborate effectively
  • effectively communicate scientific information in a variety of oral, visual, and written formats.
  • accurately and effectively record and document data, evidence, and findings.

Earth Science (B.S.) — 68-70 units

Basic Science and Math Foundation (16 units)

CHEM 115General Chemistry I4
MATH 226Calculus I4
Select One Physics Sequence:8
General Physics I
and General Physics I Laboratory
and General Physics II
and General Physics II Laboratory
General Physics with Calculus I
and General Physics with Calculus I Laboratory
and 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:3-4
Senior Project
Undergraduate Research
and Senior Thesis
Field Geology or equivalent (at another institution, Geology emphasis and Hydrology emphasis only)

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 units)
CHEM 215General Chemistry II4
ERTH 210Physical Geology4
ERTH 420Mineralogy and Petrology I4
ERTH 510Structural Geology4
ERTH 515Sedimentology and Stratigraphy4
ERTH 620Field Methods in Geology2
Electives (11–12 units)

Select (upon advisement) additional Geology emphasis electives needed to reach 34 units.

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 (18-19 units)
Select one of the following:3-4
Physical Geology
Environmental Geology
California Water
ERTH 425Geomorphology4
ERTH 442/GEOG 342Surface Water Hydrology4
ERTH 444Hydrogeology4
ERTH 544Groundwater Contamination3
Electives (15-16 units)

Select (upon advisement) additional Hydrology emphasis electives needed to reach 34 units. (May include courses from the list above not selected to meet emphasis requirements.)

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
and five courses selected from the following:
Global Warming
California Weather Events
Extreme Weather in a Warming World
Coastal Processes
Weather Analysis and Forecasting I
Physical Oceanography
Planetary Climate Change
Calculus II

Select (upon advisement) additional Ocean, Weather, and Climate emphasis electives 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 LD 3 A2
Critical Thinking LD 3 A3
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
Humanities LD 3 C2
Arts or Humanities LD 3 C1 or C2
Social Sciences LD 3 D1
Social Sciences: US History LD 3 D2
Lifelong Learning and Self-Development (LLD) LD 3 E
Ethnic Studies LD 3 F
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), a major or minor, or an elective.
American Ethnic and Racial Minorities LD or UD 3 AERM
Environmental Sustainability LD or UD 3 ES
Global Perspectives LD or UD 3 GP
Social Justice LD or UD 3 SJ

Note: LD = Lower-Division; UD = Upper-Division.

First-Time Student Roadmap (4 Year)

The roadmaps presented in this Bulletin are intended as suggested plans of study and do not replace meeting with an advisor. For a more personalized roadmap, please use the Degree Planner tool found in your Student Center.

First-Time Student Roadmap

SF State Scholars

The San Francisco State Scholars program provides undergraduate students with an accelerated pathway to a graduate degree. Students in this program pursue a bachelor’s and master’s degree simultaneously. This program allows students to earn graduate credit while in their junior and/or senior year, reducing the number of semesters required for completion of a master’s degree.

SF State Scholars Roadmap

Transfer Student Roadmap (2 Year)

For students with an AS-T in Geology.
Geology Emphasis GEOL ADT Roadmap

For students with an AS-T in Geology.
Hydrology Emphasis GEOL ADT Roadmap

For students with an AS-T in Geology.
Ocean, Weather & Climate GEOL ADT Roadmap

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 60 units and in most cases includes completion of all lower-division General Education requirements and at least 18 units in a specific major. (The Biology, Chemistry, and Environmental Science AS-T degrees defer 3 units in lower-division GE area C and 3 units in lower-division GE area D until after transfer.) 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 continue in a "similar" major at SF State is available on the Roadmaps tab on the degree requirements page for the major. The roadmap displays:

  • How many lower-division units required for the major have been completed upon entry based on the award of a specific ADT;
  • Which lower-division requirements are considered complete upon entry based on the 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

For information about satisfying the requirements described in (1) and (2) above at a California Community College (CCC), please visit 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 requirements.

Remedial courses are not transferable and do not apply to the minimum 60 semester units/90 quarter units 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 a course was not passed on the 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 the 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 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. Note that, as described below, 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 (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. To review more information about the A3 requirement, please visit

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.