USGS Astrogeology course recommendations

The USGS in Flagstaff and throughout the nation offers work in:

  • systems administration
  • software development
  • web development

The USGS looks for courses in:


Alumni of mathematics report that in addition to calculus, linear algebra, and numerical analysis, their course work in operations research, applied mathematics, and statistics have assisted them in their work.

Our specific recommendation for additional course work would be a minor in math, including Calculus III, Linear Algebra, Numerical Analysis, and Differential Equations.

Geography and Remote Sensing

A large part of what the USGS does is directly or indirectly related to mapping and remotely sensed images, and understanding mapping technologies, geographic coordinate systems, GIS, and remote sensing is incredibly useful to computer scientists.


We recommend the following general geography classes: Map and Image Interpretation and Physical Geography.

Remote Sensing

We recommend Remote Sensing I, II, and III offered by the geography department and the Digital Signal Processing and Image Processing courses offered by the electrical engineering department.


We recommend at least a working knowledge of GIS, including the geography department’s Intro to GIS and Applications in GIS.

A deeper understanding of databases, particularly geospatial databases, is particularly useful to programmers developing systems for cartography, image processing of remotely sensed data, and other applications dealing with geospatial datasets.

Sciences – We recommend strong natural sciences in:

  • Physical and/or planetary geology – understanding the basic concepts and vocabulary is useful in working with geologists. (Planetary geology is useful specifically for those working with astrogeologists. Chemistry supplements mineralogy and rock composition. Hydrology is beneficial to those working with scientists in Water Resources.)
  • Environment science – understanding of the environment and ecology are generally useful in working with scientists in biological resources, water resources, and fields of research involving atmosphere, weather, human impacts, etc.
  • Plant taxonomy, zoology – basic knowledge of plants and animals useful in working with scientists in biological resources.  
  • physics—having a grasp on optics is useful for those working with satellite, sonar, aerial, and space mission imagery. Basic astronomy is useful for those working with astrogeologists.