Earth and Planetary Sciences Major Requirements (B.A.)

(Also see Requirements for a Bachelor's Degree.)

The Bachelor of Arts in Earth and Planetary Sciences is for undergraduates interested in the study of the physical, chemical, and biological processes that shape the Earth and the other planets, drawing on the disciplines of geology, geochemistry, geophysics, hydrology, ecology, geobiology, oceanography, and atmospheric science.

Students should design a specific plan of appropriate courses in consultation with their advisor and the EPS Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS). Those who wish to be majors may proceed directly to the introductory courses at the 200-level, but depending on the student’s background, it may be appropriate initially to take a freshman seminar or 100-level course designed for the non-major. Our courses provide a broad educational base in the Earth, planetary, and environmental sciences and enable exploration of a set of electives at the 300- and 400-level, depending on the area of interest. Students who plan to attend graduate school are strongly encouraged to engage in undergraduate research and complete a senior thesis under the supervision of a department faculty member.

The department requires a total of 9-11 credits at the 100-level or above and 12 credits at the 300-level or above in Earth, planetary, and environmental sciences (numbered, as well as science and math foundation courses from other departments. No more than one environmental studies course numbered can be counted as an EPS elective for the major.  All courses must be taken for a letter grade, and students must earn a grade of C- or better to apply the course to the major.

Major Requirements

EPS Core Courses
AS.270.224Oceans & Atmospheres3
AS.270.220The Dynamic Earth: An Introduction to Geology3
AS.270.221The Dynamic Earth Laboratory2
EPS Elective Courses 1
One course at the 100-level or above (1-3 credits)1-3
Four courses at the 300-level or above (at least 3 credits each)12
Other Science & Math Courses
AS.030.101Introductory Chemistry I3
AS.110.106Calculus I (Biology and Social Sciences)4
or AS.110.108 Calculus I (Physical Sciences & Engineering)
AS.110.107Calculus II (For Biological and Social Science)4
or AS.110.109 Calculus II (For Physical Sciences and Engineering)
or AS.110.113 Honors Single Variable Calculus
AS.171.101General Physics: Physical Science Major I4
or AS.171.103 General Physics I for Biological Science Majors
or AS.171.107 General Physics for Physical Sciences Majors (AL)
AS.171.102General Physics: Physical Science Major II4
or AS.171.104 General Physics/Biology Majors II
or AS.171.108 General Physics for Physical Science Majors (AL)
Total Credits40-42

Only one environmental studies course numbered may apply towards the EPS major. Courses taken at another institution that are not directly equivalent to a JHU course may not apply towards these EPS elective course requirements without permission of the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Other courses recommended to enrich the educational background of the major:

AS.030.102Introductory Chemistry II3
AS.020.151General Biology I3
AS.020.152General Biology II3
Laboratory courses in the natural sciences
EN.553.291Linear Algebra and Differential Equations4
Courses in Environmental Studies ( and/or Environmental Engineering (

Sample Program of Study

First Year
First SemesterCreditsSecond SemesterCredits
 9 7
Second Year
First SemesterCreditsSecond SemesterCredits
 7 7
Third Year
First SemesterCreditsSecond SemesterCredits
 3 3
Fourth Year
First SemesterCreditsSecond SemesterCredits
 3 3
Total Credits 42

 Honors in the Major

To earn honors in the major, students must meet the following criteria:

  • Earn a GPA of 3.50 or higher in the major requirements by the end of the senior year.
  • Complete a total of 6 credits of AS.270.510 Senior Thesis taken over two or more semesters.  A grade of B or better must be earned for the first 3 credits to register for additional thesis credits.  A grade of B+ or better must be earned in the final semester in order to qualify for honors.
  • Complete a senior thesis research project rated very good or excellent by the student’s thesis committee.
  • Present the results of the thesis orally in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.