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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the difference between Physical Geology (GEY 111) and the Physical Geography (GEO 111 and 112) courses?

Although there is some overlap in material between the classes and both count as GT-SC1 lab science courses, there are also numerous distinct differences that will make them appealing for different audiences.
The Physical Geology course includes a wider array of topics since it is a survey class dealing with an overview of many aspects of geology, including Earth’s composition, structure, internal and surface processes and features, geologic landforms, hazards, and resources – and changes that have happened over geologic time.  It is quite interdisciplinary (incorporating chemistry and some basic physics) and “science-y”.  Physical Geology is a common pre-requisite for many science and engineering courses/degrees, which usually do not accept geography for these requirements.

GEO 111 has a narrower focus, and deals mostly with surface landforms – what they’re made of, their characteristics, and how they appear on maps.  These subjects are also covered in GEY 111 (including topographic maps in lab), but in less detail/as only part of the course.  Geology also puts greater emphasis on the processes that create the landforms, while geography focuses more on spatial relationships.  GEO 112 deals with weather, climate, vegetation, and ecology – and therefore probably overlaps as much with meteorology and biology as it does with geology.  Most of its subjects are NOT covered in geology – EXCEPT for climate change (recent as well as past), the role of meteorology in earth processes such as weathering and coastal storm erosion, and environments such as glaciers and deserts that are strongly climate-dependent.  At many universities, geography traditionally is not considered a science for the purpose of distribution requirements, so if you’re planning on transferring to earn a Bachelor’s Degree, I would advise you to look into what is accepted by the program(s) you are interested in pursuing.

I’m looking for an easy science class to take.  Is geology a good option for that?

NO!  Geology involves math, terminology, and complex science concepts.  We teach at an appropriately rigorous level, and I have never had a student call our courses easy.  That said, only one of our courses (GEY 112) has pre-reqs beyond ENG 090, REA 090, and MAT 090, and the weekend classes have no pre-reqs at all.  If I had to pick, I’d say that the two new 3-credit classes (GEY 108 and ENV 110) would probably be the best option for an AA student who has a fear of science or hasn’t taken a college-level science course yet.  Moreover, geology does build upon observations and common-sense ideas and many students find it easy to relate to their everyday lives and surroundings.  It is less math-intensive than physics, and less computer-intensive than astronomy, for example.  And the lab work is not as “messy” as most biology or chemistry classes, if that is a concern (no dissections, smelly chemicals, safety goggles, etc.).   

Isn’t geology just about identifying minerals and rocks?

Most definitely not!  Although earth materials are certainly part of most geology courses, topics related to this are only about ¼ of the curriculum for Physical Geology (GEY 111), and considerably less for most of our other courses.  Environmental Geology (GEY 135) would be a good option for a full-semester lab-course for someone who is wary of rock ID.  Conversely, if someone is interested in this topic, GEY 116 and GEY 118 are great options in addition to GEY 111.

I want to learn all about dolphins and whales.  Should I take Oceanography?

Most definitely not, if that is your only or primary interest in the class.  It is NOT a marine biology class, and course content includes only about 15-20 minutes of class time on the subject of marine mammals.  The course is mostly about physical and geological oceanography, with only a little chemistry and biology.  A better course for a student with this specific interest might be General Zoology (BIO 220). 

What careers are available to geologists?

There are lots of great websites with info on this.  Here are a few: 

Take a look at these to get some idea of the range and types of careers available.  Fields include those related to natural resources (fossil fuels, water, soil, mining, etc.), hazards (earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, climate change, etc.), and land use/planning, but extend beyond these.  The possibilities are extensive, and job prospects are excellent right now.  However, nearly all of these jobs will require transferring to earn a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.

How can I find out more about geology degrees and careers (or the GEY/ENV/NRE courses offered at RRCC)?

If you have questions on these topics, please e-mail to set up an appointment and/or refer to other pages and links here on the geology portion of the RRCC website.