Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to the most commonly asked questions about our programs...

Geology, Earth Science, Geoscience...What is the difference?

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Learn about these terms

A degree in Earth Science or Geoscience is the first step to becoming a geoscientist and can lead to a wide range of possible careers related to understanding how our planet works – from mining projects looking for mineral resources, to landslide investigations as part of an engineering geology program or assessing groundwater due to contamination issues.

Learn more about studying Earth Science and Geoscience at VIU

Earth Science and Geoscience are essentially the same, and are broad terms encompassing the study of Planet Earth and its processes. The Earth Science Department at VIU offers a Minor in Earth Science that can be done as part of any BA or BSc Degree. Also, the Earth Science Department in conjunction with Geography Department offer a BSc Major in Geoscience. This is the most popular program that students take.

There are no prerequisites to entering the BSc Major in Geoscience Program at VIU, other than those required to enter VIU as a student. Some students enter directly into the program, while others take one or two first-year geology courses as electives when they come first to VIU, and like them and enter into the program that way.

Students who enter directly into the program can get it completed in 4 years. This typically requires some hard work taking five courses every semester and possibly one or two summer courses (commonly Math courses). There are some upper level geology courses that are only taught every two years, so careful planning is required.

Environmental geoscience is one of the main themes of VIU's Earth Science and Geoscience programs

  • This theme is reflected by:
    • The expertise of the faculty in the Earth Science and Geography Departments,
    • VIU’s regional setting on Coastal British Columbia and,
    • The on-going demand for this knowledge in the job market
  • A student who graduates with a BSc Major in Geoscience or a Minor in Earth Science from VIU will be qualified for a wide range of career opportunities in BC, Canada and around the world
  • Types of employment opportunities might include sectors such as: environmental monitoring and assessment, water resource evaluation and management, mine remediation, land development, forestry activities, natural hazard and terrain assessments, and other energy or engineering-related fields

The BSc Major in Geoscience has been around since 2013 and was developed in conjunction with the Engineers and Geoscientists BC (formerly APEGBC). Engineers and Geoscientists BC set the standards and licensing regulations for registration as a Professional Geoscientist (PGeo).

A Minor in Earth Science is designed to give students a solid foundation in the physical sciences and the flexibility to create individualized programs of study by combining it with other Minors or Majors such as Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Mathematics, and Computer Science. The Minor in Earth Sciences also complements studies in Anthropology, Business, Economics, Creative Writing, and Liberal Studies to create unique and varied career pathways.

The main objective of the BSc Major in Geoscience is to provide students with a broad foundation in geoscience, as well as expertise in specific areas of geoscience depending upon their specific interests. One of the main themes of the BSc Major is ‘Environmental Geoscience’ which qualifies VIU graduates for a wide range of career opportunities in sectors such as environmental monitoring, water resource evaluation and management, mineral exploration and mining, land development, forestry activities, and other energy or engineering-related fields.

Examples of Major/Minor Combinations

Engineers and Geoscientists BC set the standards and licensing regulations for registration as a Professional Geoscientist (PGeo) in the Province of BC.

Following the Geology or Environmental Geoscience syllabi course equivalent lists  will ensure you meet the educational requirements for registration as a Geoscientist-in-Training (GIT)  with Engineers and Geoscientists BC upon graduation. Once a practicing GIT, you will be eligible to start logging work experience to begin to fulfill the practical experience requirements of the license.

Yes. Program grids have been designed to help you structure your program to build a strong foundation for learning as you progress from year to year. Following these grids also allows for optimal efficiency in program completion.

Introductory courses in earth science will help develop a broad understanding of Earth, its history, and basic geological processes. Along with these, first year Math, English, and Chemistry are important to start building a strong foundation for higher level understanding. See Program Grids I and II for details.

Occasionally, however a lot of work goes into structuring the program to minimize these conflicts for our students. Strategic course planning using the VIU calendar and following the program grid can assist in avoiding conflicts.

Absolutely! Chemistry, physics, and math play a strong role in the world of geoscience. These courses are critical for developing a strong platform on which to build your geoscience knowledge base.

Leaving the basic building block courses to your final year is not a recommended practice. Firstly, chemistry, physics, and math play a strong role in the geosciences and thus the BSc Major in Geoscience program uses these courses a building blocks for deeper upper level understanding. Secondly, loading your final year with first year courses such as Math can have the effect of increasing your program length, increasing your final year course load, and aging your knowledge base at a critical time when you are preparing to apply to the workforce.

Yes. Field work is an important component of geoscience careers and hands-on learning is proven method for developing a deeper understanding of the material being taught thus most courses offered at VIU have a substantial field component.

Our VIU Earth Science professors are friendly and approachable. They are well-versed in all aspects of earth science and have strong knowledge base on the geology of our own Vancouver Island. Our professors believe in the power of hand-on learning and employ group projects and discussions as a major component of their teaching methods.

The cost of the BSc Major in Geoscience is equivalent to other degree programs offered at VIU however there are additional fees for the purchase of mandatory field gear and for field schools.

Extra fees accompany registration for field schools to help offset travel expenses. As well, certain field gear is considered mandatory as an earth science student and will need to be purchased early on in the program. Your professors will outline these costs well in advance to help you with budget planning.

Certain personal field gear is considered mandatory for the earth science programs and will need to be purchased early on in the program. You professors will outline the gear requirements and offer advice on what to look for and where to purchase it.

Yes. There are a number of upper level courses which are designed to give you practical work and research experience before you graduate. Talk with your professors about some of the opportunities available to you.

Absolutely! You will have multiple opportunities throughout your program, especially in upper level courses to gain research experience. Check out some of our past Student Research Projects.

Browse through the VIU Earth Science website and check out our Facebook and Flickr pages to learn more about the VIU Earth Science program.