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Digging Deeper: 7 Best Geology Courses for 2024

The best courses to learn geology, whether for personal interest or if you are considering a career in the resources field.

Ever marveled at towering mountains, vast canyons, or intricate rock formations and pondered their creation? Ever found yourself curious about the world millions of years ago?

I am Australian. While some people might think of Australia as boring geologically (no active volcanoes, few earthquakes, no glaciers, and low mountains), there is an array of features on show in this continent. A few years ago, I visited Uluru, the amazing monolith rising up from the flat center of Australia. Learning geology has helped me understand the processes that created this feature over millions of years.

Uluru in central Australia.

Geology is the bedrock of our understanding of Earth’s past and present. It encompasses concepts from plate tectonics and the evolution of life, to past Earth climates. It also transcends various scientific domains, linking to mineralogy, hydrology, chemistry, physics, and even astronomy. As you venture deeper into geology, you’ll realize its pivotal role in mineral and energy exploration. Understanding these interconnections is not only intriguing, but can also open career paths in the resource industry and beyond.

If you’re eager to delve into geology, whether for personal interest or a potential career in the resource field, this guide is for you. We’ve done the legwork, using Class Central, a search engine for online courses, and other sites to identify the top online geology courses. With over 260 geology courses and more than 3,200 people following Geology in our platform, we’ve collated ratings and reviews to narrow down the best choices for you.

Click on the shortcuts for more details:

Here are our top picks

Course Highlight Workload
Best Comprehensive Geology Course  (University of Illinois) 40 hrs
Best Short Geology Course (Udemy) 2.5 hrs
Best General Interest Course Relating to Geology (University of Alberta) 18 hrs
Best Courses About Rocks and Minerals (The Open University) WITH FREE CERTIFICATES 10 hrs + 14 hrs
Best Course Relating Geology to Resources (NPTEL) 40 hrs
Best Course Relating Geology to Energy (Stanford University) 30-60 hrs

Best Comprehensive Geology Course

Planet Earth…and You! is a professionally produced course brimming with geological information, focusing on earthquakes, plate tectonics, volcanoes, rocks and minerals, and energy. It has some of the most interesting assignments I’ve ever seen in an online course. You can look at features on Google Earth, discover the epicenter of an earthquake from seismology data, and find out how fast the tectonic plate you are on is moving. Don’t be fooled by the 4.4 star rating. It’s skewed by a 2-star rating because of issues in the first session of the course back in 2015, which were soon corrected.

Anonymous says: “Excellent Course for Geoscience students! Lab parts are so challenging and informative. I really enjoy (sic) this course…”

Course Planet Earth…and You!
Provider Coursera
University University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Instructor Stephen Marshak
Time Commitment 40 hrs
Class Central star rating 4.4
Cost Free audit
Quizzes/Assessment Items Free access; pay to submit
Certificate Paid

Best Short Geology Course

If you just want a quick introduction to geology, consider DJ Lake’s Geology: Earth Science for Everyone. It’s packed with clear explanations of complex scientific concepts in under 3 hours of videos, starting with Earth’s early history. The course focuses on big-picture ideas rather than rock and mineral identification, covering topics such as the formation of mountains, the existence of oceans, crystals, the age of the Earth, and the impact of geology on landscapes and natural events.

Review by Anonymous: “…I couldn’t be more satisfied with what I learned…”

Course Geology: Earth Science for Everyone
Provider Udemy
Level Beginner
Instructor DJ Lake
Time Commitment 2.5 hrs
Class Central star rating 5.0
Cost Free
Quizzes/Assessment Items No
Certificate No

Best General Interest Course Relating to Geology

David Hik, Mountains 101 co-instructor.

Mountains 101 teaches plenty of geology including how mountains are formed and degraded, glaciers, and the water cycle, alongside other subject areas including ecology, environmental science, and climate change. It even touches on cultural relationships with mountains around the world. And if you’re interested in hiking in the mountains, watch the weekly Tech Tips videos that cover hints from clothing and footwear to camping gear and backpacks. A well-deserving member of Class Central’s Best Courses of All Time list.

According to Fabio Dantas, “… after watching the course’s first video, I was hooked. First of all, the course is nothing like any other MOOC I have ever seen.”

Course Mountains 101
Provider Coursera
University University of Alberta
Level Beginner
Instructors Zac Robinson and David Hik
Time Commitment 18 hrs
Class Central star rating 4.9
Cost Free
Quizzes/Assessment Items Yes
Certificate Paid

Best Courses About Rocks and Minerals

If you just want to learn about rocks and minerals without a lot of detail about Earth’s geological history, these two text-based courses offered via OpenLearn are an excellent overview. They also offer a free Statement of Participation. The time commitment of 10 hours and 14 hours respectively is generous. I easily completed both courses within a couple of days.

Practising science: Reading the rocks and ecology explores many different types of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks and how they were formed, as well as briefly touching on ecology and fossils.

Course Practising science: Reading the rocks and ecology
Provider OpenLearn
University The Open University
Level Beginner
Time Commitment 14 hrs
Class Central star rating 4.0
Cost Free
Quizzes/Assessment Items No
Certificate Free

Minerals and the crystalline state explains the structure and formation of mineral crystals and gives learners access to a marvelous tool called The Digital Geology Kit that features images and properties of minerals, rocks, and fossils. Some parts may be tricky if you have zero knowledge of chemistry, but the concepts are explained well.

Course Minerals and the crystalline state
Provider OpenLearn
University The Open University
Level Intermediate
Time Commitment 18 hrs
Class Central star rating 5.0
Cost Free
Quizzes/Assessment Items No
Certificate Free

Best Course Relating Geology to Resources

Mining and industry are big business in the 21st century, so if you’re looking for a course that discusses not only natural geological structures, but also covers many aspects of subsurface exploration, engineering properties of soil and rocks, and groundwater issues, look no further than Engineering Geology. The final lecture teaches us how to identify various rocks and minerals.

Rayan Adi says: “This was a very immersive and interesting course…”

Course Engineering Geology
Provider YouTube
University NPTEL and Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur
Instructor Prof. Debasis Roy
Time Commitment 40 hrs
Class Central star rating 4.8
Cost Free
Quizzes/Assessment Items No
Certificate No

Best Course Relating Geology to Energy

Geoscientists, engineers, and research scientists interested in the petroleum or geothermal industry may benefit from this interdisciplinary course. Reservoir Geomechanics is created by StanfordOnline and available via edX. Learn about rock mechanics, structural geology, earthquake seismology, petroleum engineering, and geomechanical challenges in oil and gas exploitation. The course is classified as beginner-level, but you will need some basic geological understanding to get the most benefit.

Shahrzad Roshankhah is enthusiastic: “I definitely recommend this course to graduate students, post-docs, young faculty members, and professionals in geotechnical, geophysical, and petroleum engineering fields and to those from other disciplines who want to understand more about issues in fossil fuel extraction from design point of view.”

Course Reservoir Geomechanics
Provider edX
University StanfordOnline
Instructor Mark Zobach
Time Commitment 30-60 hrs
Class Central star rating 4.9
Cost Free audit
Quizzes/Assessment Items Yes, behind paywall
Certificate Paid

Why You Should Trust Us

Class Central, a Tripadvisor for online education, has helped 60 million learners find their next course. We’ve been combing through online education for more than a decade to aggregate a catalog of over 150,000 online courses and 200,000 reviews written by our users. And we’re online learners ourselves: combined, the Class Central team has completed over 400 online courses, including online degrees.

I’ve personally completed over 150 online courses in a variety of topics including geology.

How We Made Our Picks and Tested Them

Trying to find “the best” can be daunting, even for those of us who live and breathe online courses. Here’s how I approached this task.

First, I combed through Class Central’s Catalog and the internet to find a variety of free and paid open courses, some with certificates. You don’t need to enroll in a university to learn about geology.

I extracted information from course syllabi and reviews, and compiled their ratings, leveraging the Class Central database with its thousands of course ratings and reviews written by our users as well as available course provider ratings. I watched some course videos to sample courses I hadn’t already taken.

Then, I defined the scope for these recommendations. A geology course can cover various topics. I chose top courses from a range of sub-fields.

Ultimately, I used a combination of data and my own judgment to make these picks. I’m confident these recommendations will be a good way to learn geology.

Best Courses Guides. Start Learning, Stop Procrastinating.

Pat Bowden Profile Image

Pat Bowden

Online learning specialist, still learning after 200+ online courses completed since 2012. Class Central customer support and help since 2018. I am keen to help others make the most of online learning, so I set up a website:  www.onlinelearningsuccess.org

Comments 1

  1. sedra darwysh

    thank you, ms Bowden, <3
    your article helped a lot and I were thrilled when I found that most of the courses you recommended are FREE !!


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