Skip to main content

Major Requirements

The EES major is designed to provide a solid grounding in the earth and environmental sciences while allowing flexibility in the particular focus. The major is organized into five parts, beginning with one of two introductory courses that serve as entry points.  The second part involves three core courses with labs that provide all majors with a common background. At least one core course must be completed before students may enroll in the more advanced focus courses of part three. Also, prior to taking any focus courses, students must complete a one-page course plan for parts three and four that explains their choice of advanced courses based on expressed goals and interests. The course plan should be designed in consultation with the faculty advisor and must be approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. In most cases, students will also declare the major at this time. The third part of the major defines a focus in the general areas of solid earth, earth surface, or environmental science. A brief description of each focus and a list of most relevant courses are given below. The fourth part follows the focus and allows three qualified electives to pursue depth in the focus or broaden to include another area of concentration. The fifth component of the major is a 1 credit hour seminar that serves as a capstone for senior students. In addition to the major, qualified students may elect to participate in the Honors program designed for highly motivated students who want to pursue research as undergraduates. Opportunities for research may be available to other students outside of the Honors program.

At least 37 credit hours toward the major are required as follows:

1, Introductory Course (3+1 credit hours each):                  Credit Hours:
              1510 and 1510L or 1030 and 1030L                             4

 2. Core Courses with Lab (3 or 4 credit hours each):
               2510, 2550, and 2580                                                   11
              (2550 was formerly 3250):

              Math Course:
              1100, 1201, or 1301                                                      3-4

Note: 1100, 1201, or 1301 are pre-requisite or co-requisite for 2550 and 2580.

Note: Math 1100 provides the basic calculus skills required for the EES major but does not qualify students for more advanced math courses at Vanderbilt. Math 1301 is recommended for students interested in taking additional math courses or calculus-based physics that may be suggested by some graduate programs. 

3. Focus Courses with Lab (4 credit hours each).

               Three of the following per the approved course plan:
              3220, 3260, 3280, 3310, 3330, or 3340                       12

4. Three Electives, at least two above 4000 level (3 or 4 credit hours each):

              An additional 3000-level course, 
              or 4420, 4550, 4600, 4650, 4680,
              4750, 4760, 4820, 4830, or 4891                               9-11

             Note: Does not include Directed and Independent Studies: 3841, 3842, 3851, or 3852

5. Senior Seminar:
                       4961                                                                    1

TOTAL:                                                                                  37-38  
                                                                                             (40-42 with Math 1100, 1201, 1301) 

Additional supporting science and math courses are highly recommened for the major.  Courses in Chemistry, Physics, Math and possibly Biological Sciences are recommended, and may be required for admittance into graduate school or for employment. Recommended selections include:

  • Chemistry I and II (1601/1601L and 1602/1602L)
  • Physics I and II (1601/1601L and 1602/1602L)
  • Calculus I and II (Math 1200/1201, 1300/1301, or higher)
  • Biological Sciences (1100/1100L, 1510/1510L, 1103, 2218, 2219, or 2238/2238L)

Options for area of focus

In-depth Earth & Environmental Sciences courses can be chosen so as to define a focus area within EES. Students should consult with their major adviser about choosing a focus area and associated course options. Students may also formulate an individualized focus area that may incorporate components of several areas to maintain breadth. All parts of the earth are interconnected, and students are encouraged to maintain some breadth in their plan to create a comprehensive understanding of the cycling of energy and materials through the earth’s spheres. Further descriptions of these focus options and recommended courses can be found in the EES major handbook on the EES department homepage.

Solid Earth Focus -- This focus area most closely reflects a traditional geology degree, focusing on the processes and history of the earth as recorded in its rocks, how those rocks are formed and how they change with changing conditions.  Focus and elective courses appropriate for solid earth include: 3260, 3340, 3330, 3220, 4420, 4550, 4600, 4830. 

Earth Surface Focus -- This focus area considers interactions between Earth’s land surface, oceans, and atmosphere, for example governing how rivers, mountains, coasts or the climate operate and evolve with time. Earth surface systems also define the planet’s critical zone that supports life and its ecosystems.  Focus and elective courses appropriate for earth surface systems include: 3330, 3220, 3280, 4420, 4600, 4550, 4650, 4680.

Environmental Focus -- This focus considers aspects of the hydrosphere, biosphere, atmosphere, and coupled human-environment systems, both present and past.  Life on earth impacts and is impacted by Earth’s environments, and is therefore central to this focus. Focus and elective courses most appropriate for environmental systems include: 3220, 3280, 3310, 4650, 4680, 4820, 489, 4750, 4760. 

Honors in Earth and Environmental Sciences

The EES Honors program provides research experience and mentoring in preparation for a career or graduate studies in earth and environmental sciences. Interested students should apply to the undergraduate adviser for entry into the Honors program fall semester, junior year. A grade point average of 3.3 or higher both cumulatively and in courses that count toward the EES major is required for admission to the Honors program. To apply, please fill out the survey found here.

Working closely with a faculty adviser, students in the Honors program complete a research project of interest to both the student and faculty member during the senior year. In order to graduate with honors in EES, a student must: (1) maintain a 3.3 grade point average both in the EES major and cumulatively; (2) complete the required courses for the EES major; (3) complete Senior Honors Seminar (4996, 4997) and Senior Honors Research (4998, 4999); (4) satisfactorily present the results of his/her research in written form as a senior thesis to two members of the faculty and orally to students and faculty of the department.