ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What are the Branches of Geology?

Updated on July 14, 2013
geologist at work
geologist at work | Source

If you are planning your career and are thinking of becoming a geologist, you may be wondering what are the different branches of geology.

As a geologist, you will need to have studied a little of each branch in order to get your degree.

Afterwards, you will probably find yourself specializing in just one or two branches of geology, as no-one could possibly spread themselves so wide that they become expert in every field.

Geology is a huge science.

It encompasses chemistry, physics, mathematics, history, geography, biology and engineering, and so you should have studied those subjects in school if you plan a career as a geologist.

At university, you will be expected to learn a little (quite a lot actually) about the following branches of geology.


Also known as historical geology, stratigraphy is a huge field that takes in the evidence collected by all other branches of geology.

Stratigraphy is the science that is at the heart of geology.

As the name suggest, it is about deciphering rock layers or stratification, laid down by millions of years of evolution.

Stratigraphy is further divided into the following spheres:

  • Lithological stratigraphy -
  • Biostratigraphy
  • Magnetostratigraphy
  • Archaeological stratigraphy
  • Chronostratigraphy

From studying these layers, geologists can tell the whole history of the earth since the planet was formed.


The study of fossils is known as palaeontology. This is where geology borders with biology.

Fossils are the footprints of previous life held within rocks.

Palaeontology is further subdivided into:

  • palaeobotany - the study of plant fossils
  • palaeozoology - the study of animal fossils

Fossils are of vital importance to geologist as they can use them to date rocks.


Physical geology or geomorphology deals with the study of landscape and erosion. While this broad subject also comes under geography, it is a vital importance to geologists.

Studying the landscape shows many marks that reveal the past geological history of the area.

The nature and structure of the rocks control the rate of erosion, both past, present and future.


Petrology is the study of rocks that concentrates on their age, composition, structure and distribution.

This is the science that will require you to look at rock samples under a microscope to determine the cellular structure and chemical composition.

Petrology is further sub-classed into:

  • Igneous petrology
  • Metamorphic petrology
  • Sedimentary petrology
  • Experimental petrology


Mineralogy is the study of minerals, their crystalline forms, chemistry and physical forms.

You will be required to learn how they are formed, where they come from and the conditions under which they are formed.

In addition, you will need to know where in the world they are found, and their uses in industry and commercial applications.

Structural geology

Structural geology, tectonics, is the study of rock structure.

It is the mechanics of geology, and is more concerned with how rocks are folded, deformed and broken, than with the rocks themselves.

Structural geologists can tell how rocks came to occupy their present positions, and where they came from (or were developed), originally.


As the name geophysics suggest, this is the study of applied physics as regards the interior of the planet.

By measuring gravity, seismic waves, electrical resistance and magnetism, geophysicists can analyse data to determine the physical structure of those deep areas in which man can never set foot.

Engineering Geology

Engineering geology is the application of geology to engineering problems.

Underground water supplies, bridges, dams, tunnels and major new road or above-ground structure building will require the expertise of a geology engineer.


Geochemistry encompasses the chemical composition of the crust of the planet.

The carbon-dating of rocks is the responsibility of the geochemist, as well as deciding on the likelihood of useful minerals and ores in rocks and subsoils, by the study of the types of plants and soils in the vicinity.


The study of water movements and distribution in the earth's crust.

Several branches of geology cross over, and the geohydrologist and geology engineer have similarities.

The building of dams, tunnels, underwater tunnels and bridges may require the expertise of the geohydrologist who has specific knowledge of how underwater streams flow as well as their underlying bedrock.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)