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A Guide to Earth Science Degrees Abroad

Does traveling around the world, getting better acquainted with our planet, or learning valuable skills while simultaneously immersing yourself in another culture sound like the experience you’ve been waiting for? The truth is that all of these can drive you to the same destination: earning international Earth science degrees! The field of Earth sciences is a wide range of –ographies and –ologies, ranging from the depths of the sea, the stars of the sky, the sandiest of deserts, and the windiest of rivers. With such an earthly subject, why stay in your home town when you can get up close and personal with Mother Nature while getting a degree abroad?

Why Earn Earth Science Degrees Abroad

The Earth is not flat, and your earth science degree shouldn’t be either. Take your field of study abroad and discover a whole series of global problems (and, more importantly, solutions!) that’ll not only develop your character, but also aid in future professional goals.

If you’re looking at pursuing a path in oceanography to find earth science degree jobs, why not be part of the solution to the deterioration of the Great Barrier Reef? Chances are, there’s a niche of earth sciences that most catches your attention, and a worldly playground just waiting for hand-on experiments. Instead of just reading about global phenomena in textbooks, get in the middle of the action and exercise an active part in current issues. Not only do relevant surroundings help with understanding natural topics, but they will challenge you with new mindsets from diverse student groups. There’s nothing that screams critical thinking as loud as possessing a global viewpoint.

With tectonic plates moving under our feet and wind currents above us, earning a degree in Earth science abroad offers an international experience that is, more and more, becoming a necessity in any job market. In such a competitive time for young workers, it’s great to be able to expand your scope of availability to encompass the whole world. Studying abroad automatically adds a bullet point onto your resume. Showing that you’re not afraid to step outside your comfort zone and that you can adapt to changing surroundings builds character, widens perspectives, and teaches open-mindedness. Can you say hired?! Or, rather, contratado?!


With so many specialties within Earth sciences, it may be difficult to choose a destination. Each country offers a different experience and is made up of unique challenges. First, think about what specific branch of earth sciences you’d like to study, then match it with a location and dig in!

To start a little “out of the box,” how about spending time amongst the Viking descendants in Iceland? If you’re searching for a pristine environment, you’re in luck: more than the 80% percent of the country is uninhabited. This untouched ecosystem gives Earth science majors the unique opportunity to work in the field of oceanography and discover all that Iceland has to offer! As a close neighbor, Norway also offers many field opportunities for the Earth science major. Whether you’re interested in clean energy or geological formations among the fjords, there’s top-notch universities specializing in many environmental subjects.

For something a bit more exotic, China now hosts many large corporations and Earth sciences is no stranger to their repertoire. As the country with the largest population, economy, and exporter of goods, there are plenty of opportunities for hands-on work, new friends, and jobs. This increase in commerce drastically affects the environment, which makes the the study of Earth sciences all the more sought after.

Prefer to hang out in the Shire with hobbits? New Zealand consists of two islands located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, hosting a variety of activities that are perfect for an Earth Science major, including, boarding down the Te Paki Sand Dunes or studying volcanology in the Taupo, which has 3 regularly active volcanoes. Similarly, Australia offers the endless Outback wilderness, the modernity of cosmopolitan cities, and globally-recognized degrees offered 100 percent in English.

Earth Science Degrees

Since Earth sciences stretch from the core of our planet to the ever expanding edges of the universe, it’s safe to say that that there is a program abroad that will help you reach your goals (and nab the earth science degree jobs of your dreams). Degree types will vary from each university, however, most schools offer undergraduate, graduate, and PhD programs.

Undergraduate degree programs, in general, are the easiest to find and apply for. These programs usually last from three to four years, although there are always those overachievers who go for that fifth year. Specific requirements and application time vary between universities, but the average program starts with a broad base and then narrows in focus throughout the program duration. An average Earth sciences program is are a triple threat (or treat?), consisting of lectures, lab work, and field work. So, better be ready to face all of the elements while out searching for the missing link!

Graduate degree programs typically last a year or two and allow students to focus on an area within Earth sciences that they wish to make their expertise. At this level, your degree will not likely be an Earth science degree, but rather an M.S. in meteorology, oceanology, geology, or volcanology. One of the biggest differences between an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree is the amount of time spent researching. After spending the first four university years with your nose in a book, the last two school years are usually spent in a more fun setting, such as exploring the ocean below or the stars above.

PhD programs are the at the top of the totem pole. Once you reach this level, you will be regarded as an expert in your field and capable of conducting research and analyzing data. If your dream is to become a professor at a university, then getting your doctorate is the path for you. Whatever your reason for pursuing a PhD, earning it abroad will teach a worldly view that can only benefit your professional career.

Benefits & Challenges

The greatest benefit to earning your degree abroad is the opportunity it will give you to observe phenomenon relevant to earth science first hand. I mean, would you prefer to study volcanology in Arizona, where there are no active volcanoes, or in New Zealand, where there are three frequently active volcanoes?

Many people who travel experience what is commonly referred to as culture shock. Not only are you trying to understand the basics of your degree, but you’re also learning the ropes of living in a new country with strange traditions (and a foreign language?) But if you want to do field research in the freezing waters near the Arctic Circle, you’d best get used to jumping head in!

However, another advantage of earning an entire degree abroad (as opposed to just spending a single semester abroad during college) is that you get to take full advantage of the chosen location’s climate patterns. It’s not very convenient to go dig for mineral extracts in the middle of an icy winter or to study hurricane patterns when skies are clear for the spring months. By spending an adequate amount of time abroad, there are higher chances for field work opportunities for that topic of earth science that most interest you.

Whatever the specialization, we pursue education to better understand ourselves and the world around us... and what better way than getting out into the field? International Earth science degrees present the freedom to study and work anywhere in the world. Get after it!

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A Guide To
Earth Science Degrees Abroad


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