Geology is the branch of Science that focuses on the study of the Earth, its components, structure, processes, and behavior when subjected to different forces and factors. Geology, at the same time, has its own different branches given the broad fields of study and work that it covers. Geologists may specialize in environmental studies, geochemistry, geophysics, mineralogy, paleontology, and volcanology, just to name a few.
Geologists work mostly in two different settings. They can work indoors in offices and laboratories located in universities and companies dedicated to scientific research or as Professors in universities and other educational institutions. Outdoor work is also available to Geologists in the field, doing research, collecting data, and conducting experiments in different areas.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Geologists are required to complete.
- Investigating the composition, structure, and behavior of the Earth’s crust:
- Preparing, scheduling, and carrying out geological field studies;
- researching geological features and processes;
- collecting samples (e.g. soils, minerals, rocks, or fossils);
- measuring minerals in soils;
- locating possible deposits of natural gas, oil, and minerals;
- drilling and testing soils; and
- collecting and documenting data.
- Conducting the necessary analyses on the geological data collected from different sources (e.g. surveys, well logs, bore holes, or aerial photos):
- Using specialized computer software to interpret data;
- documenting findings; and
- presenting investigation results to colleagues in the form of reports.
- Investigating water movements over soil in order to provide the proper assessment and advice on waste management, route and site selection for construction, or restoration of contaminated sites.
- Designing and updating geological maps, cross-sectional diagrams, charts, and mining maps:
- Using specialized topographical tools to acquire measurements and design maps;
- writing and submitting reports on mineral extraction, land use, or resource management;
- monitoring mine structural integrity; and
- advising and liaising with mining teams.
- Identifying risks of possible natural disasters (e.g. mudslides, earthquakes, or volcanic eruptions) and advising governments on possible evacuations.
- Measuring behavior and characteristics of the Earth, including gravity and magnetic fields, and analyzing their effect on the planet’s crust.
- Collecting and examining fossils:
- Digging and searching for fossil deposits;
- extracting samples and fossils using specialized tools;
- examining samples and conducting analysis and carbon-dating tests to assess and collect all the information available (e.g. the fossil’s age and its geological period, when possible); and
- documenting findings in reports and papers.
- Sharing geological research findings by publishing papers, submitting information to government agencies and companies, holding professional conferences, and teaching geological science in universities:
- Liaising with other Geologists and Scientists in order to procure the further advancement of their branch of science and knowledge.
- Conducting theoretical and practical investigations.
- Studying the surface and subsurface of the Earth, its components, behavior, and history.
- Planning and participating in geological experiments and field studies.
- Conducting tests and drilling excavations.
- Measuring seismic, electromagnetic, and gravitational activities.
- Conducting the necessary analyses on the geological data collected from different sources.
- Designing topographical and geological maps.
- Providing advice and geological assessment to governments and construction companies.
- Monitoring seismic and volcanic activities.
- Liaising with colleagues and other Scientists to further advance scientific investigations.
The average Geologist salary in USA is $60,462 per year or $31 per hour. This is around 2.1 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $42,000 while most experienced workers make up to $85,000. These results are based on 175 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Outstanding understanding of geological studies and the scientific method:
- Having a general knowledge of other sciences (e.g. math, chemistry, and biology) so as to be able to understand and explain changes in soils, bones’ composition, etc.;
- conducting scientific experiments and research on geological data;
- collecting and sorting data and findings from experiments and research; and
- analyzing and documenting data.
- Strong computer and numerical skills:
- Handling specialized software to collect, sort, and interpret data.
- Excellent communication and interpersonal skills:
- Communicating clearly, both verbally and in writing, in order to create a clear and communicative environment with co-workers in the laboratory;
- being able to read and write technical reports and give presentations;
- liaising with other Geologists and Scientists; and
- being able to work cohesively as part of a team.
- Possessing enough physical strength and stamina to perform fieldwork.
- Analytical, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills:
- Identifying issues and resolving problems in a timely manner using critical thinking and good judgment;
- being precise and accurate in their analyses, since errors could invalidate their research; and
- determining if results and conclusions are based on sound science.
Job opportunities for Geologists are available in government offices and agencies, construction companies, mining and resource exploitation companies, environmental companies, and universities. Most employers require applicants to possess a university degree in Geology, Geochemistry, Geoscience, Geophysics, or other related branches of Earth Sciences. Further education is often required for advancements in this career path. Many Geologists seek and obtain a master’s or doctoral degree in their respective areas of study to increase their employment options. Additionally, schools and colleges are likely to require a teaching certificate or a Ph.D. to be able to work as a professor in their institutions.
Depending on the state where these professionals want to perform their job, Geologists need to have a license, especially when working directly with the public. There are 31 states that require licensure, as informed by the National Association of State Boards of Geology. Although requirements vary from state to state, aspirants usually need to have a degree, 3 to 5 years of experience, be approved by the local board of Geologists and to pass the National Association of State Boards of Geology exam.
Applicants with at least 2 years of previous work experience in the field are often sought after by employers. This experience can be obtained through internship programs at several universities, summer work, or work shadowing with an already accredited Geologist. Internship opportunities are available in several branches of Geology, including mining, petroleum exploitation, and environmental conservation research.
It is worth noting that Geologists do much of their work in the field. Traveling and working in an outdoor environment is a crucial and necessary part of the job in order to collect the required data and samples to conduct research and experiments. Additionally, they need to adapt to any kind of weather and natural scenario; therefore, having outdoor skills is beneficial.