Branches of Geology: Definition & Examples

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branches of geology

Are you familiar with the different branches of Geology? Geology is the science that studies the Earth, its components, and its history. It is a broad and diverse field that has many branches that focus on different aspects of the Earth. To begin with, we will learn about Geology and its four major branches. We will also share the top colleges and universities both in India and abroad, offering degrees in the field, career scope, popular job profiles, and salary. Read on to know more!

DurationBachelors – 3-4 years
Masters – 1-2 years
Level of Study OfferedBachelors, Masters, Doctorate
Course TypePart-time, Full-time
Mode of StudyOnline, Offline
Average Tuition Fee (for international students)$10,000 to $30,000 per year  

Must Read: How to Become a Geologist in India: Salary, Jobs & More

What is Geology?

Geology is the science that studies the Earth, its components, and its history. In addition, it investigates how the Earth’s surface and interior are shaped by natural forces and processes, how the Earth’s systems interact with each other and with human activities, and how the Earth and its life forms have evolved over time. Geology also helps us to understand and manage the Earth’s resources, hazards, and environments. 

Main Branches of Geology

Being a broad and diverse field, Geology has many branches and applications. Further, let’s take a look at the four major branches of Geology along with some examples, namely: physical geology, historical geology, environmental geology, and economic geology.

Physical Geology

Physical geology is the branch of geology that studies the physical features and processes of the Earth. It investigates how the Earth’s surface and interior are shaped by natural forces such as plate tectonics, erosion, weathering, volcanism, earthquakes, etc. Physical geology also examines the properties and classification of earth materials such as minerals and rocks.

Some examples of physical geology topics are:

  • Geomorphology: the study of landforms and their formation.
  • Mineralogy: the study of minerals and their structure, composition, identification, and classification.
  • Petrology: the study of rocks and their origin, composition, texture, and classification.
  • Volcanology: the study of volcanoes and volcanic phenomena.
  • Seismology: the study of earthquakes and seismic waves.

Historical Geology

Historical geology is the branch of geology that studies the geological history of the Earth and its life forms. Additionally, it reconstructs the past events and changes that have occurred on the Earth’s surface and interior over billions of years. Historical geology also explores the origin, evolution, extinction, and distribution of life on Earth.

Some examples of historical geology topics are:

  • Stratigraphy: the study of rock layers (strata) and their correlation, dating, and interpretation.
  • Palaeontology: the study of fossils and ancient life forms.
  • Paleomagnetism: the study of the Earth’s magnetic field in the past and its implications for plate tectonics and continental drift.
  • Geochronology: the study of the age of rocks and geological events using various dating methods such as radiometric dating.

Also Read: BSc Geology: Syllabus, Eligibility, Colleges, Future Scope

Environmental Geology

Environmental geology is the branch of geology that studies the interactions between the Earth and human activities. It evaluates how human activities affect or are affected by the Earth’s systems such as the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and lithosphere. Environmental geology also provides solutions or recommendations for managing or protecting the Earth’s resources and environments.

Some examples of environmental geology topics are:

  • Hydrogeology: the study of groundwater flow, quality, quantity, and management.
  • Geochemistry: the study of chemical composition and reactions of earth materials and fluids.
  • Engineering geology: the study of geological factors that influence engineering projects such as dams, bridges, tunnels, buildings, etc.
  • Environmental impact assessment: the study of potential environmental impacts of proposed projects or activities.

Economic Geology

Economic geology is the branch of geology that studies the earth’s materials that have economic value or potential. It investigates the occurrence, distribution, extraction, and utilization of mineral and energy resources such as metals, gemstones, coal, oil, gas, etc. Economic geology also analyzes the economic feasibility and environmental implications of resource development and use.

Some examples of economic geology topics are:

  • Mining geology: the study of ore deposits and their exploration, mining, processing, and reclamation.
  • Petroleum geology: the study of oil and gas deposits and their exploration, drilling, production, and transportation.
  • Mineral economics: the study of supply, demand, price, and trade of mineral resources.
  • Exploration geology: the study of methods and techniques for finding new or undiscovered mineral or energy resources.

Also Read: BSc Geology Syllabus and Subjects

Branches of Geology: Top Colleges

There are many institutes in India and around the globe that provide top-notch courses in different branches of Geology. See the list below:

Colleges in India

Here is a list of the top colleges for Geology in India that offer courses in various branches of the discipline, along with their fees and world rankings:

College/UniversityDegrees OfferedCourse Fee
IIT KharagpurBSc, MScINR 25K-82K
Banaras Hindu UniversityBSc, MScINR 4K-6K
IIT DhanbadMSc, MPhil/PhD in ScienceINR 43K-47K
Annamalai UniversityBSc, MScINR 11K-37K
NIT RaipurMSc, MPhil/PhD in ScienceINR 28K-30K
Jadavpur UniversityBScINR 2.4K
IIT BhubaneshwarMSc, M.Phil/PhD in ScienceINR 43K-84K
University of HyderabadBSc, MScINR 10.7K
SPPU, PuneMSc, PG Diploma in ScienceINR 5.8K-21K

Courses Abroad

Moreover, for students who want to pursue their degree in any of the branches of geology abroad, here’s a list of the top 5 institutes around the world to study abroad:

UniversityCourseQS World Ranking 2023Tuition Fee
ETH Zurich Major in Geology
Master of Science in Earth Sciences
PhD in Earth Sciences 
9CHF 1,320-1,580
Harvard University Bachelor of Arts in Earth and Planetary Sciences
Master of Science in Earth and Environmental Sciences
PhD in Earth and Planetary Sciences 
5USD 22300- 55,891 
California Institute of Technology Bachelor of Science in Geology
Master of Science in Geological and Planetary Sciences
PhD in Geological and Planetary Sciences 
6USD 55,938 
University of California, Berkeley Bachelor of Arts in Earth and Planetary Science
Bachelor of Science in Geology
Master of Science in Geology
PhD in Geology 
27USD 33,245
University of Oxford Bachelor of Science in Earth Sciences
Master of Science in Earth Sciences
DPhil in Earth Sciences 
4£28,950 and £44,240

Also Read: MSc Geology II Course Details, Eligibility, Top Colleges

Branches of Geology: Scope, Job Profiles, Salary

After getting a degree in any of the branches of Geology, students can opt for a career in various fields, such as oil and gas, mining, geotechnical engineering, and environmental management. Some of the popular job roles that Geology graduates can expect are:

  1. Geologist
  2. Environmental consultant
  3. Geophysicist
  4. Hydrogeologist
  5. Geotechnical engineering

Additionally, listed below are some popular job profiles along with their salaries that graduates from any branches of geology can expect:

Job ProfileAverage Salary
Geologist $70,000 
Environmental Consultant$60,000 
Hydrogeologist $80,000 
Geotechnical engineer $75,000 


Q1. What are the main branches of geology?

Ans. Traditionally, Geology has two main branches: Physical Geology and Historical Geology.

Q2. What are the branches of geology and its meaning?

Ans. Given below are some of the different branches of geology and their purpose:
Mineralogy: Study of physical and chemical properties of minerals
Petrology: Study of characteristics and origin of rocks
Petrography: Lab analysis and microscopic investigation of rocks
Paleontology: Study of ancient life
Structural Geology: Study of deformation of rocks
Stratigraphy: Study of age relationships of rocks
Geomorphology: Study of landforms

Q3. What branch of geology is study of rocks?

Ans. Petrology is the branch of Geology that deals with the study of rocks.

We hope that this blog helped you discover the different branches of geology and their meanings. Lastly, for more informative content like this, stay tuned to Leverage Edu. Thank you for reading!

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