Earth Sciences


The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS) 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 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 six 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

Faculty and students answer questions such as: how did the Earth form? 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? How are other planets in our solar system different from Earth?

  • Lecture, lab, and field courses cover essential topics and provide unique opportunities to study geology, Earth system sciences, geophysics, geologic hazards, water resources, marine geophysics, surface processes, climate modeling, and planetary science. 
  • Opportunities to participate in research projects with faculty sponsors.

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 to complete all lower-division mathematics and science prerequisites prior to transfer and will benefit from completing the equivalents of the following courses 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. 

Students are encouraged to use ASSIST.ORG to determine course equivalencies. 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.


EPS students are encouraged to participate in the Education Abroad Program (EAP). EAP offers undergraduate students the opportunity to study at more than 100 host universities and colleges in over 43 countries as part of their regular UC academic program. Students receiving financial aid can apply their award to a program abroad. Students participating in EAP may petition to count up to two courses toward upper-division credit in the Earth and planetary sciences majors.


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

Awards, Honors, and Recognitions

Earth and planetary science faculty at UC Santa Cruz are very accomplished. Among our faculty there are:

3 National Academy of Sciences Members

7 Geological Society of America Fellows

4 AGU James B. Macelwane Medal Recipients

9 American Geophysical Union Fellows

5 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellows

3 American Academy of Arts and Sciences Members

Alumni Focus

The department offers an annual Career Panel where 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!

Department Website

General Catalog Information

For the complete Earth and planetary sciences program description, faculty list, and course descriptions please go to the UCSC catalog.

More Information

EPS Undergraduate Advising Office:
Earth and Planetary Sciences Building, Room A234A

University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95064
(831) 502-7070