Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Overview
Geoscientists often work at field sites that are remote or far away. A large percent of geoscientists are employed by the government. A master’s degree is preferred by most employers. Research and college teaching positions often require a Ph.D. degree. There are excellent job opportunities that can be available for geoscientists with advanced degrees.
Nature of the Work for Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers
The work of the scientist involves studying the composition, structure and other physical aspects of the Earth, as well as the Earth’s past and present. Using sophisticated tools and instruments to analyze the earth’s composition are part of the geoscientist’s duties. The geoscientists can also look for natural resources such as groundwater, minerals, metals and petroleum. They can also work with environmental scientists to help in preserving and cleaning up the environment.
Geoscientists will usually work and study in other related geosciences, including geology and geophysics. Geologists study the composition and history of the earth trying to understand how rocks were formed. The geophysicist uses information from physics, mathematics and chemistry to study the Earth’s surface, but also study the internal part of the earth.
There are many subspecialties within the areas of geoscience. Petroleum geologists study and map the terrain of the ocean and land searching for oil and gas deposits. Engineering geologists use the principles of geology to study civil and environmental engineering. The engineering geologist can help in construction projects, environmental remediation and natural-hazard reduction projects. Mineralogists classify and study precious stones and minerals while studying the rocks surrounding the environment. Sedimentologists study the origin and distribution of sediments such as sand and mud searching for oil, gas, coal and other mineral deposits. The Paleontologist studies fossils found in the earth to determine the evolution of animal and plant life as well as the geologic history of the Earth. The Stratigrapher’s job is to examine the layers of formations of rocks to try to understand their environment that formed them. Volcanologists study volcanoes trying to understand what causes eruptions while trying to predict future eruptions and determining if any hazards are possible to humans. Glacial geologists study glacier’s physical properties as well as their movement of ice sheets. Geochemists study the distribution and nature of chemical elements in the earth’s materials and in the groundwater.
Geophysicists’ specialties are in the areas of geodesy, seismology, and magnetic geophysics. Studying the size of the Earth is the Geodesist’s specialty. He also studies the Earth’s shape, tides, polar motion and rotation. The seismologist studies the data from seismographs and other instruments that are used to detect earthquakes and their faults. Geomagnetists measure the magnetic field of the Earth while using information taken from past centuries to make models that try to explain the Earth’s origin. Paleomagnetists study and interpret fossils and their magnets in rocks and sediments.
Oceanographers use knowledge of geoscience to study the oceans of the world and coastal waters. Studying the motion and circulation of the ocean waters and their physical and chemical properties are also part of the oceanographer’s job. The Biological oceanographer is often known as a marine biologist and they study distributions and the migratory patterns of the sea life in the ocean.
Research positions in the Federal Government or in colleges and universities will often require the writing of grant proposals to continue the funding of their research. Consultant positions for geoscientists face the same demands and pressures to write proposals for grants so that they will have steady work in the future.
The geoscientists work the majority of the time in the field, identifying and examining geologic formations. They study the data collected by remote sensing instruments, and conduct geologic surveys. They use maps and instruments to measure the Earth’s gravity and magnetic field. The geoscientists often will use seismic signals that are caused from an earthquake to study energy waves of buried layers of rock. The geoscientists will examine chemical and physical properties of specimens in laboratories while also studying the fossil remains of animal and plant life
Some geoscientists will work inside of an office, but others will divide their time between field work and office work. Working in remote areas is common. There are some risks that are possible, especially for volcanologists. Traveling to remote areas by helicopter or 4 wheel drive vehicles is also common. Long and often irregular hours may also be part of the geoscientist’s occupation.
Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers
A master’s degree is generally required while a Ph.D is necessary in research work.
A bachelor’s degree is adequate for entry-level positions. Most research positions in private industries, as well as working for Federal Agencies require a master’s degree.
Most colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degrees in geoscience with coursework emphasizing geologic methods and topics such as mineralogy, paleontology, petrology and stratigraphy.
Many states require geoscientists to obtain licenses from a State licensing board if their services are offered directly to the public. Licensing can vary by state but usually requires a combination of education and experience along with a passing score on the exam.
Computer skills are necessary for geoscientists and the most sought after in the field will also have experience with computer modeling, data analysis, digital mapping, remote sensing, and GIS, or Geographic Information Systems. Some employers will look for candidates with field experience, so a summer internship is useful.
Good oral skills and written communication skills are important as well as the ability to work together as part of a team. The knowledge of a second language is also valuable as there is possible travel to a foreign country.
The ability to think logically, have analytical thinking, and have an inquisitive mind are all important to the prospective geoscientist. Good physical stamina is necessary for those involved in fieldwork.
Beginning geoscientists often begin their careers in field exploration, or as research assistants in laboratories or offices. Gaining experience can lead to promotion to team leader, program manager, or senior research. Working in management will require time spent on budgeting, scheduling and reporting to top executives.
Top 10 Most Popular Geological and Earth Sciences/Geosciences Schools
1. Georgia Institute of Technology, Main Campus (Atlanta, Georgia)
2. Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla, Missouri)
3. University of Pittsburgh, Main (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
4. Stanford University (Stanford, California)
5. Pennsylvania State University, Main Campus (University Park, Pennsylvania)
6. Princeton University (Princeton, New Jersey)
7. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (San Luis Obispo, California)
8. Dartmouth College (Hanover, New Hampshire)
9. Boston College (Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts)
10. Western Washington University (Bellingham, Washington)
Employment and Job Outlook for Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers
Number of People in Profession
Changing Employment (2008-2018)
Employment is projected to grow faster than average (increase 14 - 19%).
Job Opportunities & Competition
Very good to excellent job opportunities. Job openings may be more numerous than job seekers.
A large percent of geoscientists are employed in architectural, engineering, and related services with additional geoscientists employed by gas and oil extraction companies. State agencies and the Federal Government also employ geoscientists.
Employment for geoscientists is expected to grow faster than average. Graduates with master’s degree can expect to find excellent opportunities in their field. Employment demand will result from the need for energy, environmental protection, and water and land management.
Graduates with degrees in geoscience will have excellent opportunities in consulting firms and in the oil and gas industry. Retirement and those promoted to managerial positions will create new jobs as well.
The recession will impact jobs of geoscientists because there are plenty of jobs when prices are high, but become scarce when prices fall.
Earnings and Salary for Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers
Median annual wages of geoscientists are $81,220. The middle 50 percent earn between $56,280 and $117,040; the lowest 10 percent earn less than $43,140 and the highest 10 percent more than $161,260.
Annual Salary for Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers
On average, Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers earn $81,220 per year.
Hourly Wage for Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers
On average, Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers earn $39.05 per hour.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook