TMU to offer geoscience major in fall 2018

FILE PHOTO: The Master's University class of 2017 graduates sing a hymn at the start of commencement ceremonies at College of the Canyons on May 5, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal
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Beginning in fall 2018, The Master’s University (TMU) will offer a new degree program to its students: a Bachelor of Science in Geology.

Building on the university’s Biology and Physical Sciences program, the major will teach students how to investigate the history of earth, study the materials of which the earth is made and understand the internal structure of the planet and the forces acting upon it.

“We are excited about the fact that our faculty voted this fall to add a geosciences major to our science programs starting in fall of 2018,” said Joe Francis, dean of the TMU school of science, mathematics, technology and health.  “We have not added a science major in about 50 years to our program as both the biology and math programs were started in the late 1960s.”

More than two years ago, after the university received funding through the Centers of Excellence Research Grant Program, TMU began discussing a new degree programs it could offer to its students, according to TMU Assistant Professor of Biology and Geology Matt McLain.

“The department wanted to add a physical science major and they considered chemistry first but the problem with chemistry is you need a bunch of new labs which is expensive.  Then they considered physics, but it’s hard to get students into the program and to get them jobs after,” McLain said.  “With geology, you don’t need as much as space and it’s a really good market for jobs after graduation.  They hired me on to start heading us in that direction and this last fall we were approved to start the major.”

Students in the geoscience major will take the department’s core courses in biology and physics, but they will also take unique classes studying physical geology and the earth’s rocks, historical geology and the earth’s record and structural geology and the earth’s faults and folds.

TMU plans to continue its stance on origins in this degree program, where students study the creation story and interpret “science through faith rather than faith through science.”

“Whenever you deal with nature in any capacity, you’re looking at God’s handiwork and there’s a lot of things to think about there,” McLain said.  “With geology and environmental science there’s a lot of ideas about management of resources, figuring out where they should build and those kind of questions… There’s also thinking about being concerned for your neighbor.”

Outside of the classroom, students will complete labs and take field trips to locations like Vasquez Rocks, Sharktooth Hill, Death Valley, Yosemite, the La Brea Tar Pits, the Petrified Forest and Zion National Park.

“The adage goes that the best geologist is the one that studies the most rocks.  If you want to be a good geoscientist, you have to go out into the field,” McLain said.  “We plan to take all kinds of different field trips and visiting different sites around Southern California and Arizona and Nevada and Death Valley.”

Students will even have a chance to go on paleontology digs and look for dinosaur bones with a group in Wyoming.

This field trip will accompany one of the program’s emphasis in paleontology.  Additional emphases include geology and environmental sciences.

“We hope to add a planetary science emphasis within the geosciences major also,” Francis said.

Once students graduate with a degree in geology, they will have several career options that include research, the National Parks Service, oil and gas companies, mining companies and consulting jobs for builders.

Entry-level geologists with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $92,000 a year and increase their profit margin within the first 20 years of employment, according to

Outside of the personal and professional benefits of the program, McLain said he is looking forward to sharing his knowledge with students and informing the next generation of Christian geologists.

“People seem really excited about it and the students that I’ve met so far that are interested in this program are thrilled about it,” McLain said.  “In turn, it makes me really excited to see something like this go forward and see more Christians involved in the geological sciences and see people trained well so they can do good work and get a good education and think through what they’re seeing out in nature.”

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