What is Geology?


Staff member
Jun 3, 2020
Definition of Geology
Geology is a word originated from ancient Greek, literally meaning "the study of Earth" or "Earth Science". Geology deals with the study of surface, internal structure, major components of Earth, and the processes responsible for their formation. In Layman's terms, Geology deals with almost all inorganic substances on the planet that are naturally formed. However, the subject touches the concepts of biology to deal with some branches like Paleontology which deal with the fossils. The other organic substances that are a subject matter of Geology include coal and fossil fuels.

What is Geology? Branches, career and jobs of Geology

Importance of Geology
Geology is an important field of Science as it deals with all the natural resources of the Earth. The subject helped us understand the naturally occurring materials and guided the civilization over several thousands of years. The cavemen found the conchoidal fracture of flint and chert and started using them as weapons for hunting. Later, flint helped the mankind to discover fire which helped the civilizations to develop. The discovery of metals lead the mankind into iron age and eventually lead to the modern discoveries. We can see how Geology has been a part of mankind since the early days of evolution. Nowadays, the mining, petroleum, jewelry, groundwater, building stones etc. industries depend upon the knowledge of Geology.

Branches of Geology
It may seem simple at first, but Geology is not just limited to the study of these specific things or to the planet Earth. The subject is vast and has kept expanding since its inception. So, there are innumerable branches for specialization. However, the mineral exploration, mining and petroleum are most preferred areas of specialization as they have higher scope of jobs. There are several concepts of Geology which are multi-disciplinary in their approach. So, they are taught in other fields of science and technology as well. For example, the core concepts of Geology are taught in Geophysics, Mining Engineering, Petroleum Engineering etc., the Paleontology is taught in Biology, and the Physical Geology is taught in Geography. We need a broad understanding of the subject to understand the connections of Geology with other disciplines. Moreover, the latest branches provide ample scope of research.

In order to break down the subject, let's discuss some of the popular branches of Geology.

Physical Geology deals with the study of the surface of the Earth and the processes responsible for it. The study of the formation & evolution of rocks, rivers, mountains, deserts etc is a part of the subject. The processes take place over millions of years and are difficult to recreate in lab conditions. So, Physical Geology is extensively studied in the field or through the remote sensing or satellite imagery.

Petrology is the study of rocks. This is the single largest branch of Geology and constitutes 3 branches: Igneous Petrology, Sedimentary Petrology and Metamorphic Petrology. These branches deal with 3 major kinds of rocks (based on the formation). The subject involves the study of rocks in the field and the identification & study of the rock specimens in the lab. Most Geologists will be able to easily recognize all well-known rocks as they spend more time for Petrology than any other branch of Geology.

Structural Geology is the study of the large scale and small scale structures in the rocks. They exhibit these structures due to the deformations. The structural Geology is of great economic importance as the mineral deposits and petroleum are mostly found in certain types of structures. So, the students of Mining & Petroleum Geology focus more on this subject while it's of equal importance to Geologists.

Mineralogy is the study of minerals which are constituents of the rocks with uniform chemical composition. The rocks are not homogeneous (well, most are not) and their properties greatly vary. So, we study the homogeneous components of the rocks, known as minerals. They make our work easy as without minerals, we would have a hard time even to identify rocks. Mineralogy involves the study of chemistry, crystal structure and physical properties. There is a specific sub-branch, Crystallography, dedicated to the study of the crystal structure of the Minerals as it is of great importance.

Hydrogeology is the study of the distribution and movement of the groundwater in subsurface of the Earth's crust. It is often referred to as Hydrology or Geohydrology. Several colleges offer courses in Hydrology as it has higher career options.

Field Geology is a specific branch often restricted to field work instead of class room teaching. Geology is a subject with most of the concepts involving natural rock formations which are difficult to explore within the class room. So, the field work is essential for the understanding of the concepts of Geology. Just to give you an example, your job opportunities will be close to zero if your college doesn't offer field work as a part of the curriculum. If you're considering to take a course in Geology, it's better to inquire about the colleges that offer field work.

There are several other branches of Geology and you can learn more about them in the forum. This thread only covers the basic concepts of Geology for complete beginners and the aspiring students.

Geology courses
Most of the courses in Geology deal with the comprehensive study of all topics. However, there are some specialized courses that teach specific subjects of importance or focus on some areas of interest like Mining Geology, Petroleum Geology, Mineral exploration etc. There are Bachelors, Masters and Ph.d. degrees in Geology which offer various kinds of specializations.

Geology Careers
The career opportunities in Geology are not limited to jobs, as the teaching and research field have enormous opportunities. The Geology jobs are spread across various industries and the role of a Geologist considerably changes from industry to industry. For example, the job of a Geologist in mining industry is completely different from that of a Hydrogeologist. Although it offers great opportunities for employment it also makes the early days of career difficult for a Geologist as the courses are not tailor-made for working in any specific industry. Moreover, the experience of one industry won't help in another industry as the roles and responsibilities change. So, it's better for students to focus on an industry of their interest and plan their career accordingly.

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