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Geology Degree Online Programs: Best Values 2020

Geology, geosciences, and earth science degrees aren’t easy to find online. This makes sense since they pose particular challenges, as they tend to be very hands-on subjects. However, some universities have found a way to offer a high-value online geology degree. This ranking of the top five online geology and earth sciences degrees mixes online bachelor’s and online master’s degrees in geology, geosciences, and earth science. The reason this ranking includes both bachelor’s and master’s degrees is because this is a field where training at both levels is often beneficial, and because there are few of these degrees offered online at either level. Therefore, combining them into one ranking made plenty of sense. We rated them based on affordability, 20-year net return on investment, and graduation rate. Details on the methodology can be found after the article, as can some answers to frequently asked questions. These best value geology degree programs online are listed from #5 to #1.

#5. Western Governors University

Online Geology Degree

WGU-Best Value Online Geology ProgramsWebsite
Rating: 6 Points

This online bachelor’s in earth science (science education) program is affordable and flexible. Depending on how many credits you can transfer in when you start it, can take between 16 and 48 months to complete. WGU charges by the semester instead of by the credit, which means if you manage to shave semesters off your degree you can save thousands of dollars. In this best value geology degree online, students will take courses like geology I & II; ecology and environmental science; and science, technology, and society.

  • Tuition: $6,450
  • 20yr Net ROI: N/A
  • Graduation Rate: 29%

#4. Penn State University-World Campus

Online Geology Degree

Penn State-Best Value Online Geology ProgramsWebsite
Rating: 11 Points

This online master of education in earth sciences from Penn State University requires a total of thirty credits. Students will take courses like plate tectonics and people: foundations of solid earth science; earth surface processes in the critical zone; contemporary controversies in earth science; overview of contemporary school curriculum; and special topics in earth science. This program comes in #4 in our ranking of best value geology programs online.

  • Tuition: $13,545
  • 20yr Net ROI: $391,000
  • Graduation Rate: 29%

#3. Southern New Hampshire University

Online Geology Degree

Southern New Hampshire University-Best Value Online Geology DegreesWebsite
Rating: 11 Points

The online bachelor’s in geoscience degree from SNHU offers concentrations in geospatial technology and natural resources and conservation. Graduates from this program have become geologists, geoscientists, environmental analysts, environmental protection specialists, and environmental scientists. The curriculum includes courses like geoscientific research methods, geostatistics and data analysis, geosciences methodologies, principles of geology, and leadership and ethics in the geosciences.

  • Tuition: $9,600
  • 20yr Net ROI: $213,000
  • Graduation Rate: 54%

#2. Texas A&M University

Online Geology Degree

Texas A&M-Best Value Online Geology ProgramsWebsite
Rating: 20 Points

Texas A&M University at College Station is one of the top 100 universities in the United States, according to U.S. News. In the university’s online master’s of geosciences program, students can choose between tracks of study in geographic information science and technology, petroleum data management, and ocean data science. It’s a non-thesis professional program designed specifically to cater to the needs of professionals in the petroleum industry. The degree can be completed in as few as 18 months and you’ll have your master’s in geology degree online.

  • Tuition: $18,144
  • 20yr Net ROI: $502,000
  • Graduation Rate: 82%

#1. University of Florida

Online Geology Degree

University of Florida-Best Value Online Geology DegreesWebsite
Rating: 23 Points

The University of Florida’s online programs are some of the best in the country. The bachelor of arts in geology is one of the only such degrees available in the United States online currently and is an incredible value. Students graduating from this program will be prepared to begin their professional lives as coastal geologists, mineralogists, volcanologists wellsite geologists, or geochemists. University of Florida is the #1 best value online degree in geology in this ranking.

  • Tuition: $6,360
  • 20yr Net ROI: $430,000
  • Graduation Rate: 90%

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the differences between geology, earth science, and geoscience degrees?

Geology focuses on the Earth. It is the most narrow of the three disciplines. Geology tends to focus on the physical materials that make up the Earth. Geologists study the formation of rocks, and the process by which soil is made. They also study fossils, and study the way the elements interact with the earth in the form of earthquakes, landslides, and volcanoes. Geologists are particularly interested in the study of these things as a way to learn about how the earth has changed throughout history, and extrapolating from that, what sorts of trends or events might change things in the future.

Geoscience is more broad. It encompasses study of the earth’s oceans, lakes and rivers. Geoscientists also study the atmosphere. Key to the geoscientist’s approach is an interdisciplinary mindset that closely ties them to other major domains in science like biology, chemistry, and physics.

Earth science is broader still. It encompasses and combines the disciplines of geology, oceanography, astronomy, and meteorology. It’s an interdisciplinary domain that seeks to combine the knowledge and study in these four areas to create a broader understanding of the workings of the earth as a whole.

Which one should I study?

The first thing you should know is that in most cases you will be wanting to earn at least a master’s degree. That said, any of them can be studied at the undergraduate level, and you should choose the approach that most interests you. All the options have some pros and cons.

Studying geology in undergrad will give you an in-depth understanding of the subject which you can then either continue at the graduate level, or use as a platform to transition into the broader domain of geoscience or earth science.

You can study earth science if you want a broader overview of all the subjects involved, and then continue with an earth science degree or transition to a more focused degree once you know where your interests lie. The undergraduate earth science degree can also make you a very flexible high school teacher if teaching is one of your goals.

Geoscience is a nice balance between the previous two degree degrees. It’s in-depth enough that transitioning to an earth science master’s degree or a geology master’s degree should both be great options for you. You could teach many different classes at the high school level if that’s what you want to do, or jump straight into industry or activism.

Are geology degrees online eligible for student financial aid?

Yes! Online students receive scholarships from universities just like traditional students do. Both master’s and bachelor’s degrees are eligible for federal grants and low-interest loans through FAFSA. One of the great things about choosing a school from our ranking is that they are all quite affordable. In many cases online college is far less expensive than traditional college, and even if you aren’t living at home, your financial aid can be used to pay your rent and even buy food and school supplies (which includes books, notebooks, pens, pencils, and even a computer).

Make sure you heavily research financial aid options and the ways financial aid can be used. Talk with your school’s financial aid office about the best options for somebody in your specific financial situation. Read up on all of the many financial aid instruments offered by FAFSA. Many students who don’t understand how they are paying for college end up with more debt when they graduate than those who are armed with the knowledge of how the system works when they start their college career.

Is a geology degree online respected?

There may be some lingering prejudices against online degrees in various fields or organizations. However there will also be organizations that see somebody with an online degree as a person with great self-management skills and dedication. Additionally, even though this ranking features but five schools, three of those schools are universities ranked in the top 100 national universities by U.S. News (Texas A&M, University of Florida, and Penn State). With so many respected universities offering high quality online programs, it is more common for employers to see applicants who completed their degree online. Online degrees are more accepted now than they were four years ago. And it stands to reason that four years from now, which is when you might be completing your bachelor’s degree, they will be even more valued.

Why did you choose the categories of tuition cost, 20 year net ROI, and graduation rate for this geology degrees online ranking?

This ranking looks at value for money. The ROI figure represents the average amount of money earned by graduates from that particular university beyond what they would have earned if they had not completed their college degree. The total 20 year net ROI is how much money will be earned over that period, with the amount an average high school graduate with no degree earns over that same period subtracted. The cost of going to university, and the additional time spent studying and not working is also factored into the final number. If you think of college as an investment. The 20 year net ROI is the average graduate’s profit over the 20 years after they graduate.

Tuition is a factor because in order to complete your degree you need to be able to afford it. Lower tuition means lower student debt. And student debt is a big stress factor both for students who have graduated and for students who are still attending university. Stress has been shown to impede students’ ability to study, so less stress means you get more out of your studies.

Graduation rate is another important factor. The higher a school’s graduation rate, the better the school is at ensuring students complete their degree. Not completing your degree is a serious setback because you end up with student debt to pay back, and no degree to help you start your career.

Methodology for Ranking Online Geology Degree Programs

We awarded points in the following way.

20 year net ROI (Return On Investment)

  • $50,000=1 Point
  • $100,000=2 Points
  • $150,000=3 Points
  • $200,000=4 Points
  • $250,000=5 Points
  • $300,000=6 Points
  • $350,000=7 Points
  • $400,000=8 Points
  • $500,000=9 Points

Graduation Rate

  • 50%=1 Point
  • 55%=2 Points
  • 60%=3 Points
  • 65%=4 Points
  • 70%=5 Points
  • 75%=6 Points
  • 80%=7 Points
  • 85%=8 Points
  • 90%=9 Points

Tuition

  • Under $5,000=7 Points
  • Under $10,000=6 Points
  • Under $15,000=5 Points
  • Under $20,000=4 Points
  • Under $25,000=3 Points
  • Under $30,000=2 Points
  • Under $35,000=1 Points

Sources:
College Navigator
Payscale.com

By CVO Staff
Updated September 2019

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