Earth Sciences
Location: Life Sciences Centre
1459 Oxford Street
Room 3006
P.O. Box 15000
Halifax, NS
B3H 4R2
Telephone: (902) 494-2358


Earth Science is a holistic discipline whose focus of study is the Earth System. It includes the geosciences which address the solid earth, but necessarily also extends to study of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, oceans and biosphere. Broadly, Earth scientists work to understand

  1. how the Earth System works;
  2. how it evolved to its current state;
  3. the processes for and distribution of Earth's physical resources such as fossil fuels, minerals, and water; and
  4. limits to and consequences of the use of physical resources by humans.

Examples of specific questions within Earth Sciences include: How was the Earth formed? What is its composition? Where do we look for oil? Where do we look for reliable water supplies? What are the relationships between glaciers, rivers, and climate, both now and in the deep past? To answer questions such as these, Earth scientists typically use methods from the foundation sciences -- physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics - along with discipline-specific methods and modern tools including computing and satellite mapping. Some Earth scientists also consider or draw expertise from the social sciences, particularly as humans collectively become a significant agent in modifying components of the Earth System.

Career paths

Earth Science is of tremendous importance to Canadians and can be an immensely satisfying profession. Earth scientists are employed in universities, government agencies, the oil, gas and mineral industries, environmental consulting, and beyond. The Earth Sciences department offers programs and courses designed to meet the needs of students with varying goals for her/his undergraduate education. In general, the following summary recommendations can be made:

  • To prepare to become a professional geoscientist, students should enroll in a 120 credit hour BSc or BA degree (Major, Honours or Combined) and meet the knowledge requirements for professional registration by following the Geoscience Knowledge and Experience handbook available at
  • To prepare for postgraduate study (MSc or PhD) in Earth Sciences or a related field, students should pursue a BSc Concentrated Honours in Earth Sciences or Combined Honours with a related subject, and consider meeting requirements of professional registration (above).
  • Students seeking an undergraduate preparation for Law, Education, or another professional program outside of Earth Sciences, or to complement another subject, should consider a BSc or BA Major or Double Major.
  • Electives courses and Minors: Earth Sciences is about understanding how the Earth 'works'. As such it makes an excellent general education subject. Several ERTH courses that may be suitable electives are listed below.

General interest courses

These courses are designed to be accessible to students who want to know something about the Earth, but whose major field of study is not Earth Sciences. For example, the course may be of interest to an economics student concerned with resources, a history student interested in the role played by Canada’s geological framework in the development of transportation, a biology student interested in faunal environments on the seafloor.

Courses without prerequisites
  • ERTH 1030.03: Introduction to Physical Geography
  • ERTH 1060.03: Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Natural Disasters
  • ERTH 1080.03: Geology I (lab course)
Courses with prerequisites

High School Preparation

Students in high school who plan a career in Earth Sciences, should have Advanced Math or Pre-calculus Math, plus Chemistry and Physics. Note that only Mathematics is required as a prerequisite, but the others are strongly recommended. A student should ideally aim to make up deficiencies in high school preparation in the first year at Dalhousie.

Degree Programs

The Department of Earth Sciences offers the following degree programs in Earth Sciences

  • BSc or BA (120 credit hour) Honours (Concentrated)*
  • BSc or BA (120 credit hour) Combined Honours*
  • BSc or BA (120 credit hour) Major*
  • BSc or BA (120 credit hour) Double Major*
  • BSc or BA (90 credit hour) Minor in Earth Sciences
  • Minor in Earth Sciences

* BSc Co-op option available
* May be combined with Minor programs from other disciplines

Departmental Requirements for these programs are described below. In addition to departmental requirements, students must satisfy the requirements outlined in the Academic Regulations and the College of Arts and Science Degree Requirements sections. Students are advised that a number of requirements differ for the BA and BSc degrees.

A student is governed by the academic regulations in place at the time of initial enrolment, as long as the degree is completed within the time permitted (10 years). Subsequent changes in regulations shall apply only if the student so elects. Student applying the old academic regulations should consult the calendar of the appropriate year.

Students should plan their programs of study carefully and are strongly encouraged to do so in consultation with an Earth Sciences undergraduate academic advisor.