Crossroads, a fork, divergent paths….

Or whatever you want to call it. No matter the word or phrase used, I find myself at this strange intersection in my undergrad training. Either I can continue pursuing the Geology B.S. or I can switch to the Earth Science B.S. Both programs have their pros and cons and I’ve spent most of summer thinking about which way to go.

Here’s a breakdown of my quandary:

Pros of Geology B.S.

  • Better employment opportunity upon completion
  •  More rigorous from the quantitative skills development standpoint
  • Coursework is better suited towards grad school

Cons of Geology B.S.

  • Course load is not flexible in terms of being able to take classes that actually interest me
  • Upper level courses will ultimately take me out of the meteorite lab due to work load
  • Most upper level courses do not pertain to what I ultimately want to do
  • GPA killer. The way the course work is structured means I’m taking numerical modeling courses at the same time as vector calculus and linear algebra. I’m not dumb, but taking multiple math courses in one term has never proven beneficial for me.

Pros of Earth Science B.S.

  • Greater flexibility in taking courses that pertain to what I want to study. i.e., some organic chemistry, physical chemistry, geo chemistry
  • More time honing my research chops in the meteorite lab and getting stuff published
  • Graduate faster
  • Allows me to structure the program in a way that I’m not juggling calculus and MATLAB courses all at the same time.

Cons of Earth Science B.S.

  • If not planned out properly, won’t be as academically rigorous as Geology B.S.
  • More generalized than Geology B.S. which may not lead to as great of employment opportunities should I need a back up plan.

Things get further complicated when I consider my graduate school options. Ideally, I’d do my grad work at PSU and continue working in the meteorite lab there. However, to get into the PSU geology grad program requires that I take the upper level undergrad geology courses. Those are all MATLAB based, and as I noted above, means that I won’t be in the meteorite lab working with my space rocks.

Other grad programs don’t seem to be as course specific as PSU. They mostly look at your general science background such as physics, chemistry and math.  But those are Space Science/Planetary Science grad programs and not Geology grad programs, so it’s not the best comparison.  But it’s what I have to work with so far.

At this point, I feel like I should end this post with the all familiar Twitter hashtag, #firstworldproblems. I should be grateful that I have such choices before me because neither path is a bad one. Each comes with their own road blocks and bridges, which if managed properly, can lead to a great career.

But it’s the uncertainty of the path that scares the hell out of me.

I felt this post should end on something a little humorous.


3 thoughts on “Crossroads, a fork, divergent paths….

  1. The second option includes a “graduate faster” line item. How would it be instead to take that path, but plan out the course to also include and extra semester or extra year to add in those upper division courses to increase the odds of getting the grad school course you want. Just because your school has two specific programs doesn’t mean you can’t assemble something that better suits your needs from both of them. Talk to your lab supervisor and work out a plan that gives you what you need for the goals you have.

  2. As an employer in the geosciences, I definitely prefer geology degrees over the earth sciences. For my work, the extra upper level courses aren’t the make-or-break, but the extra years in a more geology-focused learning is better. I’ve seen both and, as you say, they have pluses and minuses but geo degrees are better in the field due to a longer, practical application of the fundamentals… That said, the suggestion above is a good one. If you can tack on solid geology upper level classes to an ES is a way that demonstrates your learning potential/knowledge base, then a good employer should be able to see past the ES label.

  3. How interesting that Adam was going through a similar dilema with his major. A conversation with his advisor helped him make his decision. Although, you getting a lot of great feedback here, as well.

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