MA in Geology

Fast-track your career with an advanced degree in the geosciences. Become a leader in assessing risks and developing solutions for natural hazards, resource distribution and climate change. Prepare for positions in environmental, natural resource, engineering and energy related corporations, as well as federal and state governmental agencies. 

UB's Department of Geology helps you enhance your education with high-impact experiential learning and extracurricular activities to develop the skills that employers demand. No matter where you go from here, you'll be equipped with the technical and soft skills necessary to make an immediate impact.

Infographic that says, 10 Skills Employers Want: Advocacy, Critical Thinking, Communication, Project Management, Diversity and Cultural Awareness, Leadership, Policy Analysis and Legal Literacy, Global Perspective, Financial Management, Teambuilding .

Be Career Ready

Employers often cite the skills profile of applicants as the most important factor in their recruitment and job offer decisions.

Here is how we help you develop 10 critical skills:

1. Data Collection and Analytics

Review data in detail, observe patterns, perform advanced calculations and draw logical conclusions; compile, analyze, and report data. Below are examples of student projects where they applied analytical skills to real-world issues:

  • “Determining surface roughness and shape of fast-moving glacier ice,” by Robert Wheelwright MA ’14. Today he is a cartographer with U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Rolla, Missouri. Robert performs LiDAR Quality assurance analysis on a variety of contracted, partnership, and contributed datasets; uses scientific judgment to assess Digital Elevation Model quality and calculated vertical accuracy to determine fitness for inclusion into the National Elevation Database; and works with LiDAR raw and classified point clouds.
  • “Nutrient gradients with implications for plant dispersal in wetland soils,” by Nicholl Root MA ’16. Nicholl is an Environmental Scientist at Kleinfelder, a diversified engineering, construction management, design and environmental professional services firm. Kleinfelder operates over 60 office locations in the United States, Canada, and Australia and employs over 1,800 people.
  • “A method to measure the release rate of TCE from sedimentary rock grains using a commercial purge,” by David Carlone, MA ’13. David is currently employed a Geologist at AECOM. AECOM designs, builds, finances and operates infrastructure assets for governments, businesses and organizations across the globe. A Fortune 500 firm, AECOM had revenue of approximately $20.2 billion during fiscal year 2018.

2. Communication

Improve your ability to author and present effective critical communication pieces through required class projects, research papers, poster presentations and articles. Interact with peers, researchers and industry experts at a myriad of professional and social events designed to strengthen your communication skills and expand your network.

Practice professional presentation skills in seminar classes before you take the stage at regional and national conferences. To support these activities, apply for the Reginald H. Pegrum Professional Development Award which provides partial financial support for the purpose of presenting research at professional meetings, or attending career workshops or short courses.

Participate in skill-building activities like the recent Science Communication Workshop sponsored by the UB College of Arts and Sciences.  Shane Hanlon, producer for the science-focused podcast, “The Story Collider,” led the workshop that discussed compelling ways to share science, including through social media. “The Story Collider,” which is nationally known, is dedicated to authentic personal stories about science. 

Connect with peers, faculty members, alumni and potential employers through the UB Geology Facebook page.

3. Field Skills

Experience the great outdoors and develop a true understanding of the applied nature of many geoscientist positions through numerous fieldwork opportunities. Some geoscientists spend significant time outdoors requiring the ability to hike and camp in remote locations, while others conduct fieldwork in urban areas.

Field skill development is incorporated throughout the curriculum. For example:

  • In Geological Field Training (GLY 507) students and faculty members participate in geologic field trips and mapping from a mobile base in the western United States. Mapping projects include crystalline rocks in New Mexico and areas of increasingly complex sedimentary structure in Utah and Wyoming.
  • Field Course in Tropical Marine Biology (GLY 512) is an intensive two-week field course in the Bahamas focusing on coral reef communities. Combining lectures, fieldwork, and laboratory analyses, students conduct in depth studies of Caribbean marine habitats.
  • In Hydrogeology (GLY 514) students gain hands-on experience with aquifer testing methods, using wells located on campus. They study the occurrence and movement of water in the shallow subsurface, and its importance to water resource development and environmental pollution. They also learn basic quantitative techniques for the prediction of water flow through porous and fractured geologic media.

There are numerous opportunities outside of coursework to develop important fieldwork skills. For example:

  • William Caffee, MA ’18, spent the 2016-2017 school year studying exposure dating methods on basaltic flows from Hawaii and Lunar Crater. He is currently working in Colorado, studying the Pinedale deglaciation.
  • Upon completion of the capstone project, “Use of hydrothermal alteration in landslide hazard assessment: Mammoth Mountain, California, USA” and graduation, Ludi Xiao, MA ’15, landed his current position at the Changjiang Institute of Surveying, Planning, Design and Research in the People’s Republic of China.

4. Leadership

Rise to the challenge by gaining experience and leadership skills in some of the hundreds of University at Buffalo extracurricular and governance organizations, civic groups and volunteer activities. For example:

  • Become active in the Graduate Geology Club, which is involved in a variety of activities including field trips, arranging and running tutorials for graduate students, cookouts, volunteering at local schools and events, safety training and social events like the annual Winter Party. 
  • Participate in visits to local K-12 schools. Geology is a required subject in New York State’s science curriculum, and UB’s geology students are a great resource and inspiration for young science scholars.
  • Join the organizing committee of the Penn Dixie Earth Science Day, co-sponsored by the Buffalo Association of Professional Geologists

5. Critical Thinking

Develop your ability to address complex problems through sound observation and careful evaluation of data. Apply concepts to challenging real-world problems and projects in Geology courses. For example:

In Environmental Geophysics Lab (GLY 520) gain hands-on experience in experimental design, acquisition, data processing and interpretation using several noninvasive, near surface geophysical imaging techniques, including: seismic reflection/refraction, microgravity, magnetics, electromagnetics, resistivity, and ground-penetrating radar.

In Geologic Hazards and Risks (GLY 528) investigate volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides, hurricanes, large ocean waves and floods through case studies, quantitative risk assessment using probability analysis and construction of hazard maps. Prepare and present PowerPoint talks and posters on case examples. Use this knowledge to participate in a debate on a controversial topic or a simulated crisis.

6. Project Management

Complete a capstone project to showcase your ability to design, manage, operate and report on a geological study, as both technical and project management skills are typically required for professional employment. Example of successful capstone projects include:

  • "NORM in Black Shale and Fracking," by Andrew Rock MA '19, which focuses on naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM), the effects of fracking on them and what that means for human beings living in those areas
  • “A preliminary review of graptolites in cores 74-NY12 and 75-NY11,” by Jeffrey Folger, MA ’13. Jeffrey is currently a Project Manager with Amereco Engineering, Inc. in Valparaiso, Indiana

7. Teamwork

Learn the intricacies of teamwork through collaboration with classmates on applied group projects, research papers, academic competitions, in student organizations and volunteer opportunities in the community. For example:

  • Students Eric Farfalia, Max Van Kleek and Matt Zerkle teamed up to research the history and geology of the Seikan tunnel in Japan, and they conducted tunnel linear modeling in FLAC3d. The project culminated in their paper, "Characteristics and Challenges of the Seikan Tunnel"

Collaborate with faculty members on important community-based research projects. For example:

  • Elizabeth Lee, MA '18, worked with Joseph Gardella, SUNY Distinguished Professor, UB Department of Chemistry, for a summer on the Tonawanda Coke project, obtaining  permission to collect samples from people’s yards, and wrote a final report about her experience and research results. This aligned well with her interests in environmental contamination and cleanup. She is currently a Staff Professional at Geosyntec Consultants in Columbia, MD. 

Take advantage of opportunities to work with fellow students and faculty members in our specialized groups and labs. For example:

  • Focus on field, laboratory, and numerical studies within the field of environmental geology with the UB Water and Environment Group
  • Monitor Greenland and Antarctic ice sheet mass balance and ice dynamics; reconstruct past glacier and ice sheet changes in the Arctic with a broad geochronological toolkit; and reconstruct past Arctic hydroclimate and temperature change to determine the complex interplay between sea ice, climate, and ice sheets with the Climate Change Research Group
  • Use glacial and lacustrine records to study climate change in the Arctic in the glacier history/paleoclimate lab
  • Analyze rock samples from glacial terrains to date glacial features and determine ice sheet processes in the cosmogenic isotope lab
  • Analyze biological, chemical and physical properties of lake sediment to study arctic paleoclimate in the lake sediment lab

8. Professional Conduct

Gain insight into the demands and expectations of employers through credit-bearing and, in some cases, paid internships. Students displaying knowledge, professionalism and a solid work ethic are oftentimes offered full-time positions. Explore internships via UB’s Bullseye

Distinguish yourself and bolster your resume by earning a Professional Science Management Advanced Certificate which combines coursework in science, management and ethics to better prepare students for industry or further academic study.

Network with members of the Geology Alumni Board, an active group of professional geologists who serve as informal advisors and mentors to students, assisting with career advice, resume preparation and more.

Join the UB Department of Geology Alumni LinkedIn group and interact with its over 250 members.

Explore and participate in professional groups such as:

9. Global Perspective

Expand your world view and prepare to work in our interconnected global ecosystem. Students often participate in international field schools and study abroad experiences to further their understanding of geological theory and research are applied in different contexts.

Take advantage of opportunities to interact with global-minded scholars and students through department and university sponsored events. For example, Buffalo hosted The International Glaciological Society 2018 Symposium attracting researchers from universities around the world and members of the Applied Glaciology Foundation, US National Center for Atmospheric Research and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. For example, 

  • Robin Bell, President-Elect of the American Geophysical Union, who gave a sustainability lecture, “Building an Ethical Sustainable Future: From the Poles to Our Homes”

10. Independent Problem Solving

Proactively perceive and address problems; evaluate statistical data and other forms of information in order to make judgments and inform the actions of others. In addition to coursework assignments and projects, apply your independent problem solving skills to capstone projects; for example:

  • “Experimental investigation into the effect of contaminant concentration on dual mode sorption of TCE on Borden, Ontario aquifer source rocks,” by Amie Whitlock, MA ’14. Amy is currently a GIS Specialist at Arcadis, in Knoxville, Tennessee
  •  “Novel method for detecting sulfur hexafluoride sorption in materials with high organic carbon content,” by Timothy Holling, MA ’13. Timothy is currently a Math and Science Instructor at Sylvan Learning Academy in Modesto, California
What career is in your future?


* Petrologist
* Environmental Scientist
* Geologist
* Hydrologist
* Program Analyst
* Project Manager
* Seismologist
* Geoscientist
* Earth Science Teacher
* Geological Technician
* Soils Engineer
* Geological Surveyor
* Environmental Consultant
* Hazardous Waste Specialist

pie chart.

Industries where UB Department of Geology 2017 graduates accepted a job within the geosciences.

Salary bar graph.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for geoscientists was $89,850 in May 2017. Salaries vary based on industry, experience and location.

Young Alumni

Listed below are just a few of the UB Geology alumni who are making a difference in their profession and their communities. Along with all of the members of the Geology Alumni Advisory Board, UB Geology alumni are looking forward to helping you expand your professional network.

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