Petroleum Geology

The Moncrief Petroleum Geology program is for geoscientists planning careers in the oil and gas industry, as well as careers in resource assessment and energy policy.

Western's Petroleum Geology Program launched in 2002, thanks to a $1 million endowment from Western alumnus Paul Rady, CEO of Antero Resources. Rady followed up in 2014 with another $1.5 million gift. Another $2.5 million in gifts from legendary oilman W.A. “Tex” Moncrief Jr. of Ft. Worth, Texas, in 2005 and 2007, established the "Moncrief Petroleum Geology Program." This further strengthened the program and demonstrates the significance of Western’s efforts within the industry. Interested students and sponsors can contact Dr. Elizabeth Petrie or Allen Stork for more information.

Job Prospects are Outstanding

  • About half of all geoscientists are set to retire during the next 10 years. Companies WILL replace them.
  • A hiring boom was experienced in the late 1970s and early '80s within the petroleum, mining, environmental, engineering, government and academic geology areas. As these individuals retire, job opportunities for college graduates are expanding.
  • In recent years, a hiring boom has brought career opportunities at all levels. This translates into a 10 percent to 20 percent rise in salaries for professional geologists with less than two years' experience. During the past 10 years, the number of people enrolling in geoscience programs has been steady, and according to AGI (American Geological Institute, only about 15 percent of those who enroll actually enter the geologic professional pipeline.  This means there are far fewer graduates than their are positions to fill.

Who Should Pursue a Degree in Geology?

Geology is fundamentally a field science. We collect information about natural systems and use this information to understand geologic process, to explore for natural resources and to guide environmental stewardship. Working as a geologist requires strong skills in spatial thinking, visualization and creativity, along with a sound foundation in the basic physics, chemistry and mathematics, all of which provide you with an ability to take large, sometimes fragmented datasets to understand natural processes.

In addition to the field aspects of our work, many professional geologists are model natural systems, requiring some interest in working with technology, computer programming, database management and geospatial database management. Good writing and skill at communicating complex ideas, both to your peers and to laymen, improves a geology major's chance of professional success.

In addition to this broad spectrum of skills, geologists, unlike many other scientists, must consider the importance of "deep" time. Many natural changes occur at very slow rates, often requiring a geologist to consider problems over time scales much larger than the human experience.

Wired for the 21st Century

The Petroleum Geology program is housed in Hurst Hall, one of the most technologically sophisticated science buildings in Colorado. Instruction occurs in the GIS/Petroleum Geology lab. The lab has thirteen student stations for highly interactive instruction and uses the most up-to-date industry software and data sets. In recent months, the petroleum industry has made investments in Western’s program totaling more than $1,000,000.

  • P.R.A. BasinMod: Petroleum systems modeling
  • GeoPlus Petra: Well log correlation, petrophysics and mapping
  • Seismic Micro Technologies Kingdom Suite: 2D/3D seismic interpretation and modeling
  • GLS LithoTect: Seismic depth conversion and cross-section balancing
  • GeoTools QuickDip: Statistical Curvature (SCAT) dipmeter analysis
  • Midland Valley 2D and 3D Move: Balanced cross-section modeling
  • N.G.A. GMSys: Interactive gravity and magnetics modeling
  • Schlumberger Petrel:  Subsurface 2D/3D analysis and modeling

The Moncrief Petroleum Geology program at Western:

  • Provides students a solid academic foundation.
  • Combines classroom and field study with current industry technology.
  • Fosters professional contact with industry geoscientists.
  • Promotes industry internships for early career reinforcement.
  • Mentors students toward relevant graduate programs.
  • Offers Western's Petroleum Geology Research Program, in which undergraduates engage in applied and fundamental research. Funding sources provide summer research experiences.

Why study Petroleum Geology at Western State Colorado University?

In addition to the strengths of the Moncrief Petroleum Geology Program, Western is amid an extraordinary natural laboratory. Students gain a strong background in basic geology, with an emphasis on critical thinking and visualization. The local outdoor environment provides a wide range of opportunities for unique field experiences and undergraduate research opportunities. Combined with a comprehensive technology experience, and our emphasis on written and oral communication, our students are generally highly qualified for entry-level work in industry or for continued study in graduate programs throughout the country.

Interested in the latest news on the state of salaries for geologic professionals?  The 2011 article by Larry Nation, AAPGs Communication Directory can be found at 2014 article by Vern Stefanic, managing editor of the AAPG EXPLORER can be found at

Next Steps

If you're interested in Western's Petroleum Geology Program, we invite you to take the next steps towards becoming a part of the Mountaineer family. 

Share your interest with friends and family: 
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  2. Get more information about the program.
  3. Schedule a campus visit so you can meet professors, see the beautiful Gunnison Valley, and find out if Western is the perfect school for you.
  4. Start the online application process - apply online now.
  5. Find scholarships, grants, or financial aid that match your interests and situation.


FOR REQUIRED COURSES AND DEGREE PLANS, VISIT THE OFFICIAL UNIVERSITY CATALOG. This is a list of courses offered by Western State Colorado University. To ensure the courses you need are offered during the current semester, please visit the current university catalog at To determined the courses required for your major, check the "Majors and Minors" tab for your area of study.

 GEOL 101 - PHYSICAL GEOLOGY (3 credits)

An introductory class that emphasizes the environmental aspects of geology. The course covers the basic principles of physical geology, such as minerals, rocks, plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, and origin of landscapes by mass wasting, rivers, glaciers, ground water, and near shore processes. Throughout this course, focus is on the effect of geology on human society through the study of geologic hazards, energy resources, and mineral resources.


An introduction to identification of minerals and rocks and a discussion of their genesis followed by a study of landscapes formed by mass wasting, rivers, glaciers, ground water, and near shore processes. Many of these principles are observed on local field trips. Prerequisite or corequisite: GEOL 101.


A study of the interpretation of the geologic history, structure, and evolution of the Earth with emphasis on methods and concepts rather than factual information. Colorado geologic history and various principles are observed during three or four field trips. Topics and concepts such as geophysics, continental drift, and plate tectonics are integrated into discussions of Earth history. Prerequisites: GEOL 101 and GEOL 105.

 GEOL 302 - GEOSCIENCE WRITING (2 credits)

An introduction to the proper methods and accepted formats of written, graphical, and oral communication in the geological sciences. These skills are addressed through critical evaluation and discussion of the geological literature, by writing reports, review papers and research proposals, and giving oral presentations. Prerequisites: ENG 102 with a grade of "C-" or above and GEOL 201. Corequisite: GEOL 310.


An introduction to the study of minerals. Important topics include the crystallography, crystal chemistry, and optics of important rock and ore forming minerals. Emphasis is placed on the crystal chemistry and stability of major silicate mineral groups. The laboratory emphasizes the field identification of minerals and the application of optics to the identification of minerals in thin section. Prerequisites: GEOL 101, GEOL 105, MATH 141. Prerequisite or corequisite: CHEM 111 and CHEM 112.


A study of the deformation of the Earth's crust. The course begins with a study of the forces and movements within the crust which cause folding and faulting of rocks and a description of the resulting structures. These topics are followed by an analysis of the regional tectonic patterns of the Earth's surface and theories for their origin. Prerequisite: GEOL 201 with a minimum grade of "C-" and MATH 141.


An advanced undergraduate course in subsurface structural and stratigraphic methods pertinent to petroleum, groundwater, environmental, and tectonics investigations. The course applies traditional and computer-assisted techniques to subsurface problems. Students gain experience in integrating surface geology with subsurface well and geophysical data. Prerequisite: GEOL 310. Prerequisite or corequisite: GEOL 345.


An advanced undergraduate course in the theoretical and practical application of physics to geology. Lectures cover seismic, gravity, and magnetic theory. laboratory exercises and lecture problem sets emphasize the interpretation of real-world data, with application to problems in stratigraphy, structure, hydrology, environmental geology, mining, and oil and gas. Students gain proficiency in the use of several advanced analysis and modeling software packages. Prerequisite: GEOL 310. Prerequisites or corequisites: GEOL 345 and PHYS 170.

 GEOL 430 - HYDROGEOLOGY (3 credits)

A study of the occurrence, movement, and chemical properties of groundwater. Topics include the hydrologic cycle, surface-water hydrology, principles of ground water flow, and water chemistry. laboratory exercises focus on quantitative analysis and modeling of groundwater data. Prerequisites: GEOL 310, CHEM 111, and MATH 151. Prerequisite or corequisite: PHYS 170 or PHYS 200.

 GEOL 450 - FIELD GEOLOGY (4 credits)

An emphasis on field observation, proper geologic mapping techniques on both maps and aerial photos and interpretation and synthesis of field data into a report. Different geologic terrains in Colorado or other states are examined. Ideally, this course should be taken during the Summer semester, immediately prior to the senior year. Prerequisites: GEOL 310 and GEOL 345; or instructor permission.


A study of the physical and chemical processes responsible for the distribution of hydrocarbons and associated fluids in the Earth's crust and techniques for hydrocarbon exploration and resource assessment. Topics include the principle components of Petroleum Systems Analysis, including: the maturation, expulsion, and migration of hydrocarbons; hydrocarbon reservoirs; hydrocarbon seals; and structural, stratigraphic, and unconventional hydrocarbon traps. laboratories include geochemical modeling of source rocks, geophysical log analysis and correlation, seismic interpretation, computer mapping, and a regional field trip. Prerequisites: GEOL 310 and GEOL 345.


A study of sedimentary processes and environments, including the tectonic origin of sedimentary basins. This includes the most common terrestrial and marine depositional systems and their relationships. A strong emphasis is placed on field relations and research on the sedimentary rocks of Western Colorado and the Colorado Plateau. The course is topical in nature and requires individual and/or group research projects through the study of the geologic literature, the collection of geologic data in the field, and the presentation of results. Prerequisites: GEOL 310 and CHEM 113.

 GEOL 495 - GEOLOGY SEMINAR (1 credits)

A seminar where advanced undergraduate students can develop critical reading and thinking skill through discussion and presentation of research literature. Topics are chosen from the current research literature. A student may earn a maximum of four credits under this course title. Prerequisite: GEOL 305, GEOL 310, GEOL 320, or GEOL 345.


Scholarships associated with academic programs usually have a specific scholarship application form that can easily be obtained by contacting that academic program's office or visiting that academic program's web page. If you have any questions, please contact the Financial Aid office at 970.943.3085 or 800.876.5309.

 Moncrief Petroleum Geology Scholarship, Transfer Students

Moncrief Petroleum Geology Scholarship for Transfer Students is Available to:

Students transferring to Western State Colorado University, with an interest in working in the petroleum industry with a declared major in Geology. Completion of at least 45 credit hours, GPA of 3.25 or higher and an ACT composite of 25 or greater. Renewable for up to two years with continuing progress made toward a degree in Comprehensive or Petroleum Geology, full time status and a cumulative 3.0 GPA overall.

Scholarship Provided by:

W. A. Moncrief, Jr.

Amount: $1,500 a year for up to two years

Scholarship Recipient Selected by:

Western State Colorado University Geology faculty

Application: Geology faculty review geology majors for consideration. Contact the Department of Natural and Environmental Sciences for additional information. (970) 943-2015 - Hurst Hall 128

Find out more about Western's Geology Program at