Jump to content

Double Major in Geology and Geophysics: Worth it?

Recommended Posts



I will be graduating in May 2015 with a BS in Geophysics, and realized I only need a few more classes to get a BS in Geology as well (without delaying my graduation). I am trying to find out if this is something that's likely help with grad school applications (Masters programs), or if it will be largely ignored.



I have heard from company representatives that they like to see Geophysicists with extra Geology experience, but I am not sure if this applies to grad schools as well.



The other option would be a Minor in Math, Physics, both Math and Physics, or taking some PETE classes.




Undergrad Institution: (Big State School)
Major(s): BS Geophysics
Overall GPA: 3.0-3.2
Type of Student: (Domestic)

GRE Scores (revised):

(only studied the night before and will be retaking before applying)
Q: 158
V: 160
W: 3.5

Research Experience: None

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Leadership Awards

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: 

Physics and Calculus Tutor
Executive Officer Positions In Various Organizations for all 5 years


Applying to Where:

Wide variety of public and private schools

MS Geophysics



Thank you in advance for any advice or just your thoughts in general!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think what would be more helpful in your application, depending on the quality of program you want to attend, is upping your GRE score since your GPA is very low. That is if you want to have your graduate studies paid for through a TA/RA/GA

Edited by GeoDUDE!
Link to comment
Share on other sites



I think what would be more helpful in your application, depending on the quality of program you want to attend, is upping your GRE score since your GPA is very low. That is if you want to have your graduate studies paid for through a TA/RA/GA


Thank you for the advice!


My GPA is very low, and I am definitely hoping to improve my GRE scores this summer to try and compensate for that.

With 2 months of daily practice, I am hoping to get both Verbal and Quantitative scores above 165, and know I can do much better on the writing section. Lack of familiarity definitely hurt the first time around, but I was essentially taking it as a practice exam to help judge how much I need to prepare before I take it again in August.


If I take the minimum hours required for my BS in Geophysics in Fall and Spring next year, I will be taking 7 and 4 hours each semester respectively.


I need an 10 additional hours for a double major, 6 for a minor, or I could just take a variety of courses without trying to pursue a minor or double major.


Any thoughts on which option would look best to an admissions board?


I have also considered taking the physics GRE if I decide to not pursue a physics minor.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Eight, I'm going to give it to you as straight as possible. I am not saying what i'm about to tell you is absolute, but its absolutely what I needed someone to tell me when I applied to graduate school with a low gpa.


I'm not so sure geology departments would care; If you can't do one major well, why do two poorly? 


I am wondering, you want a thesis based MS, which means you must convince admissions committee of your ability to perform research, as well as last in graduate level classes. What evidence of this do you have? The competition, especially at top teir departments that have tons of industry connections (UT, CSM, ect..) will likely automatically reject your application. They will tell you to apply, but there will be more than enough 3.5 gpa, 160+ GRE with research experience to fill up all their spots. You simply, unless you have some connections, don't have a shot. What will really separate the other applicants from you isn't just their raw stats, but  because of their research experience, there letters of recommendation and statement of research(purpose) will be significantly more focus and apt.  Even if you do make it bast the initial rounds of rejections, no professor has seen you firsthand do research. This wouldn't be the be all end all, except that your stats are so low.


I am all for the idea that GPA does not indicate  research potential. I myself had a 3.06 (physics major) coming out of undergrad, and managed to net myself a fully funded MS in geology (geophysics). But its not at a top department, and it was followed by a lot of rejections to PhD programs. What was most impressive is that my undergrad advisor when to graduate school with my current advisor, and the recommendation was so strong after doing an REU at a top 5 earth science dept and presenting research at AGU that it made up for my clearly terrible GPA. 


All is not lost. What are you doing this summer? Is there a professor in your current department you can at least get some research done with? you don't need results, but it would greatly strengthen your letters, and you can talk about it in your statement of research.  You need to give the admissions committee a reason to admit you. The people at my not so well known department who get funding for their MS have an average GPA of 3.6. We are not currently ranked on US News and World report. 


There are skills you can develop. Programming is a strong skill, if you can learn a few languages and take a few data structures courses that might go a long way for your CV. Almost all geophysics projects these days require a lot of computer use. Few undergraduate earth science majors take any programming at all, let alone use excel proficiently. You probably can't get by using excel in graduate school. I would focus on Matlab, C++, Python, and fortran. That might 1) catch the eye of a professor, and 2) will greatly help you in your studies and land a job. 


As for the physics gre, I woudn't. Geoscience schools dont know how to read the physics GRE. Where as a physics department might look at a 50% on the physics gre from a domestic student favorably, would look awfully weak to someone who isnt familiar with the test. Unless you plan on scoring 85%+, I think it will be a net negative on your application, not positive since it isn't something they ask for. For reference, the physics GRE is something many study for months in advance. It is recommended that you senior level classical mechanics, 1 year of Electric and Magnetic fields (vector calc/ LA based), 1 semester of quantum mechanics, and 1 year of statistical mechanics (classical and modern). I'm skeptical a geophysics degree prepares you for that, but I could be wrong.


So TLDR: Choose what schools you apply to wisely. Don't completely avoid top departments, but realize you are likely throwing away your money. Figure out how to distinguish yourself in your application.  Focus on getting the best possible grades before hand.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would prioritize gaining some more practical experience of some sort during your remaining time, over taking on more course load. Especially so if you want to do any type of research in your MS program and/or future job. Getting research experience can really help to curb your low GRE. Yes, better GPA scores and another degree are great ... but not at the expense of having zero research experience. UGs with research experience really stand out. It not only will better your application, but will benefit you in the long term in really deciding if it's something you are interested in (research). 

Edited by Vader Was Framed
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it's worth it to have the geology background. From my experience, geophysicists should be geologists who specialize in geophysics, and not the new emergence of "geo" physicists who know nothing about geology. I'm not saying you're in this category, just continuing my point. The view I just stated is one I've heard echoed from all of the geophysics professors I've learned from, so to be able to cast yourself as having a geology background immediately gives you a huge edge.

Edited by Geologizer
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you all for the responses, and I'm sorry it took me so long to follow up.


My current GPA is actually lower than listed, but is consistently rising. (Nothing below A's and B's in Geology and Geophysics coursework). I am hoping a high major GPA and strong performance in my last 4 semesters of undergrad will help to reduce the bad taste of my overall GPA.


Working with professors has been one of my weaknesses so I am making a point to reach out to them more and hopefully get some quality recommendations.

I will be going on field camp this summer and hope this will help with that process as well.


I have significant experience with C and Matlab and am trying to improve my practical understanding outside of class.


Thank you for your thoughts on the PhysGre. I don't want to waste my time with something that is ultimately not likely to help me.


I am looking to for opportunities to shadow/intern for the second half of this summer in the O&G industry. Will this help to fill the hole my lack of research experience leaves?


Geologizer hit the nail on the head with what I'm hoping to accomplish by taking additional Geology classes and attending field camp. I don't want to be a physics major with "Geo" added to the front. I want to be more well rounded in the field and fully understand the Geology side of my studies.



Thank you again!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. See our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use