Paleontology Option

The paleontology option focuses on understanding fossils within their geologic context, while Montana's geology provides the opportunity for hands-on fieldwork. The paleontology option in the Department of Earth Sciences is designed for those students who have a strong interest in either invertebrate or vertebrate fossils (evolution, biology of ancient organisms, the environment in which the organism lived, and the changes the fossil has undergone since death). Students who study paleontology find employment with colleges and universities (e.g., teaching paleontology, earth sciences, comparative anatomy), natural history museums (e.g. fossil preparation, collection, curation, exhibit design, education), as scientific illustrators, writers, paleontology consultants for energy resource companies, and resource specialists for local, state, and federal land-management agencies or parks. Because students who study this option are trained in core geology courses, employment may be found in areas outside paleontology that require geologic expertise. Graduate training beyond the bachelor's degree is recommended for those seeking careers in the paleontology (normally a master's degree) or in teaching and/or research (typically a doctorate).This option combines training in geology and paleontology. The paleontology option builds on courses that form the core of the traditional geology option, while providing strong background in paleontology through four required courses (in addition to the paleontology field course) and three elective courses. All of the paleontology courses offered through the department provide upper division credits. These courses prepare the student for a variety of jobs and/or graduate school. Internships and summer field research experience are available to some students.

Freshman YearCredits
CHMY 141 - College Chemistry I
& CHMY 142 - College Chemistry I Lab
CHMY 143 - College Chemistry II
& CHMY 144 - College Chemistry II Lab
ERTH 101IN - Earth System Sciences4
GEO 211 - Earth History and Evolution3
M 171Q - Calculus I4
M 172 - Calculus II4
University Core and Electives4
Year Total: 27
Sophomore YearCredits
BIOB 170IN - Principles of Biological Diversity4
GPHY 284 - Intro to GIS Science & Cartog 3
PHSX 205 - College Physics I4
PHSX 207 - College Physics II4
University Core and Electives9
GEO 309 - Sedimentation and Stratigraphy4
GEO 419 - Field Paleontology (Summer between SO & JR Year)2
GEO 302 - Mineralogy and Optical Mineral4
Year Total: 34
Junior YearCredits
GEO 315 - Structural Geology4
STAT 332 - Statistics for Scientists and Engineers3
GEO 428 - Field Methods3
GPHY 384 - Adv GIS and Spatial Analysis3
University Core and Electives8
ERTH 303 - Weather and Climate3
Year Total: 24
Senior YearCredits
GEO 429R - Field Geology (Summer between JR & SR Year)**3
GEO 443 - Principles of Sedimentary Petrology 3
University Core and Electives21
Year Total: 27
Total Program Credits: 112

Required Upper Division Paleontology Course Electives:

GEO 310Invertebrate Paleontology3
GEO 330Paleontology Lab Techniques2
GEO 411Vertebrate Paleontology3
GEO 417Taphonomy: Fossil Preservation3
GEO 419Field Paleontology ***2

Required Elective Course Options:

Take TWO of the following required electives:6
Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy
Principles of Geomorphology
Igneous & Metamorphic Petrology
Climates of the Past, Present and Future
Dinosaur Paleontology
Museum Practices
Macroevolution/Fossil Record
Geochronology and Thermochronology
Undergraduate Research
Special Topics
Independent Study
Glacial Geology
Remote Sensing
Applied GIS & Spatial Analysis


Only GEO 491 courses that cover a specific paleontology topic are applicable.

A C- minimum is required in all curriculum courses to graduate by Regents' policy. This includes electives in the curriculum.

A minimum of 120 credits is required for graduation; 42 of these credits must be in courses numbered 300 or above.