Undergraduate Programs

Sam Walker

Why You Should Major in Geology at UA

“So, you just look at rocks, right?” As a geology student, I receive this question quite often, and while some people dislike this question, I tend to embrace it. The person asking is technically correct — geologists do look at rocks and lots of them. It’s why we get up in the morning. It’s why we drive slowly past freshly exposed roadcuts on the highway. Most importantly, it’s why we go to work with grins on our faces. However, geologists do a lot more than just look at rocks. In the following, I hope to enlighten you on the joys of geology, and why you should consider it as a major.

What made you choose Geology?

When I came to UA, I wasn’t entirely sure of what I wanted to do. I started in Environmental Sciences but found myself in entry-level GEO 101 as part of the core requirements. I quickly discovered that being a geologist is the job I’ve always dreamed of. Working outdoors in beautiful places, studying the inner workings of our planet, helping other people - the everyday tasks of a geologist matched up perfectly with my own aspirations. I switched into geology halfway through my first semester and have been a geology student ever since.

What can you do with a Geology degree?

A better question would be what CAN’T you do with a Geology degree. Geologists work in a variety of fields: oil and gas, environmental consulting, mining, engineering, geohazards, academia, and many more. Each of these fields holds great importance to our society. Geologists are responsible for the gas you put in your car, the freshwater you drink, the phone in your hand (yes, gold is used in iPhones), and the interstates on which you travel. The bottom line is this: if you enjoy helping other people, working outside, being part of a team, and impacting the world, start studying Geology.

What have you done with your education?

My studies have opened up a wealth of opportunities to develop myself professionally and socially. These opportunities include working with engineers at an environmental consulting firm, working for the Geological Survey of Alabama, presenting work to oil executives in Houston, TX for the Imperial Barrel Award (an international Geology competition), and, most recently, conducting research for the Department of Energy in Oregon. Studying Geology has allowed me to experience beautiful landscapes across the country, including the base of the Rocky Mountains in New Mexico and the Cascade Range in Oregon and Washington.

What is your favorite part of studying Geology?

The places I’ve been and the people I’ve met are definitely my favorite parts of studying geology. Not many other careers let you travel the world and study Earth’s gorgeous features. Studying geology has allowed me to see places I otherwise wouldn’t have. The best part of traveling to look at rocks, however, is the people you do it with. Geology is a small, tightly knit community of people who love what they do. Thus, non-friendly geologists are few and far in between. Given its interdisciplinary nature, geology relies heavily on other sciences. Geologists work with engineers, biologists, chemists, paleontologists, and other scientists. We know that being successful involves being part of a team.

I hope this letter provides more context as to what geology is and what geologists do. More importantly, I hope I’ve left you with a bit of inspiration, and, at the very least, a new perspective on the importance of studying geology.

Sam Walker

Sam Walker

Graduate Teaching Assistant