Earth Sciences


The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences offers a bachelor of science (B.S.) degree program that is designed for students who intend to pursue professional careers in Earth and planetary sciences, engineering, policy, law, teaching, or business or who otherwise desire the broad, quantitative training available at UCSC. In addition to providing comprehensive preparation in the basic physical sciences, and particular breadth and depth in Earth and planetary sciences, the curriculum is structured to prepare students for the competitive graduate school and career marketplace.

Along with the standard Earth sciences major, we offer concentrations in environmental geology, ocean sciences, planetary sciences, and science education, and combined majors with environmental studies and anthropology are available. There is also a minor in Earth sciences.

The core of the major includes calculus, physics, chemistry, and a group of comprehensive Earth and planetary sciences courses. For the standard B.S., students then select at least four additional courses from a diverse list of upper-division electives, with at least two that involve significant laboratory or field data acquisition and analysis. These electives, often in combination with additional upper-division courses from E&PS or related departments, provide the student with expertise in one or more subdisciplines within Earth science.

Degrees Offered

  • B.A.
  • B.S.
  • M.S.
  • Minor
  • Ph.D.

Study and Research Opportunities

The Earth and Planetary Sciences Department teaches and conducts research in a wide array of topics.  Faculty and students seek to answer questions such as: how did the Earth form? How has it evolved since then? What is the history of life on Earth? How do mountain ranges form? What causes earthquakes? How do we prevent coastal erosion? What has been the Earth's climate in the past and how will it change in the future? How are other planets in our solar system different from Earth?

A variety of methods and tools are used to help address these questions. 

Information for First-Year Students (Freshmen)

High school students planning to major in Earth sciences at UC Santa Cruz should take the standard courses required for UC admission. In addition, they should have a strong background in high school mathematics, including algebra (two years), Euclidean geometry, trigonometry, and analytic (coordinate) geometry, as well as some background in high school chemistry, biology, environmental science, or physics.

Information for Transfers

Transfer students planning to major in Earth sciences are strongly recommended (but not required) to complete all lower-division mathematics and science prerequisites appropriate to their concentration of interest. For example, students planning to major in Earth sciences with a planetary science concentration should complete the equivalents of the following courses (including the associated laboratory components) prior to transfer: Mathematics 11A and 11B; Chemistry 1A/L,1B/M, and 1C/N; Physics 6A/L and 6B/M; and Earth Sciences 5/L, 10/L, or 20/L. 

Having this coursework completed prior to transfer allows students greater flexibility in scheduling and completing their UCSC Earth and Planetary Sciences courses.


Graduates of Earth and Planetary Sciences continue on to a variety of careers, such as:

  • Business and industry
  • Geological and environmental consulting
  • Governmental agencies at the federal, state, and local level
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Research at universities, governmental research institutions, or other scientific agencies
  • Graduate/professional school in areas such as science, engineering, teaching, law, public health, business.


The department has a wide range of laboratory and computational facilities. Please go to for more information.

Alumni Focus

The department offers an annual Career Panel where a dozen alumni come and discuss their varied careers after graduating from UCSC in Earth and Planetary Sciences. This event offers the opportunity to hear about different career paths, what it takes to succeed in each of them, and make new personal contacts with those who share your career path! This event happens in late October or early November and will be advertised to all majors. 

Department Website

More Information

EPS Undergraduate Advising Office:
Earth and Planetary Sciences Building, Room A232

University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95064
(831) 459-4089