What does a Geologist do?

Median Pay $89,850
Growth Rate 14%
Citation FederalPay.org and BLS.gov

A geologist tries to understand the Earth and many specialize in various areas of geology. They may spend time in the field collecting samples of the Earth and creating geological maps of the area they are assessing. They might also work in a lab, analyzing samples collected and using specialized geographic software to study the Earth.

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How to Become a Geologist

To become a geologist you’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree in geology or geoscience. During this time, you might also do field study work as part of your degree program so you can gain on-the-job experience. Many companies prefer a master’s degree or a blend of experience and education. If you were to continue onto your master’s degree, this would be your opportunity to focus on a specialized area of geology that interests you. You might take an internship at this point as well. For instance, the U.S. Geologic Survey has a graduate program for students to apply for.

Job Description of a Geologist

Since there are a variety of industries a geologist can work in, from engineering, mining, teaching, and research for government agencies to discover risks and hazards, the tasks a geologist performs on a daily basis often depends on the industry they work in. However, all geologists are there to learn about the Geology of the Earth. The purpose of that research just varies by industry.

Some geologists for example may work much of the time in the field, collecting rock samples to analyze an area’s value for mining or oil and gas companies. They may also collect samples for government or university research. They can also spend a majority of time working in a laboratory analyzing sample details such as their strength and microscopic details. Geologist may also work on the computer, in the field or in an office, using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and even 3-D modeling software. This enables them to analyze an area in greater detail and provide a depth of information in reports that are shared with others.

Accountant Job Posting

Let’s look at a job description posted by the Department of the Army, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This job announcement is looking for a person to perform the following responsibilities:

  • Plans, scopes and oversees subsurface investigations for assigned projects. Selects the most appropriate drilling and sampling techniques for materials to be encountered.
  • Assists higher graded geologists in performing design analysis and developing plans and specifications for projects.
  • Performs site reconnaissance on outcrops, stream beds, quarries, or other exposures to gather pertinent information in addition to reviewing published literature and geologic maps.

This position was posted to run 08/01/2018 until 07/31/2019 with a salary range of $33,394 to $87,933 per year on USAjobs.gov (link opens in a new tab). USAjobs.gov is an official website of the United States government and part of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Free Teacher and Student Resources

Tsinghua University offers a free Geology and Engineering Geology course on EdX.org (link opens in a new tab) with the option to pay a small fee receive a verified certificate upon completion of the course.

By taking this course, you’ll learn:

  • How the development of human civilization and geology are inextricable linked.
  • How to protect the Earth, and also effectively utilize natural resources.
  • The formation and evolution of the Earth.
  • An understanding of Geology Engineering, including natures of groundwater.
  • Basic knowledge of the earth’s geology.
  • Geological field investigation methods and techniques.

Victoria University offers a free course on EdX.org titled Antarctica: From Geology to Human History (link opens in a new tab) with the option to pay a small fee receive a verified certificate upon completion of the course.

By taking this course, you’ll learn:

  • Knowledge of the chronology of Antarctic geology and human activities.
  • The locations and significance of key geographic features of Ross Island and the Antarctic continent.
  • How research is undertaken in Antarctica, both today and at key points in history.
  • The role of Antarctic paleoclimate research in understanding present and future climate change including the impact on the Antarctic ice sheet volume and global sea levels.

Geologist Interview Career Video Transcript

Hi, my name is Angie Diefenback. I’m a geologist with the USGS Geological Survey, Cascades Volcano Observatory. I use various geospatial data sets in GIS (Geographic Information System Software) to study volcanic eruptions and their impact on society. The U.S. and it’s territories are home to about 170 active volcanos, which means that millions of our citizens are at risk from volcanic hazards.

Traditionally as geologists, we have looked at the physical base hazards of volcanos by mapping out where previous hazards have gone now we’re trying to look at what the society impacts are by seeing what is in those hazard zones. I take hazard assessments that were produced by the USGS and the hazard zones and put them into a GIS and basically just a mapping program and I overlay these boundaries on top of all this data and you will see what communities intersect these hazard boundaries, we can identify the number of people where police stations are, hospitals, fire stations, infrastructures such as major roads, pipelines, railroads, different transportation networks, business data, employees and the sales volume which will help us better assess the economic impact of the next eruption. Knowing the number and distribution of societal assets within hazard zones will help officials better prepare response strategies and it will help communities prepare for and recover from future volcanic eruptions.

Educator Resources

The Geological Society has free poster factsheets that you can download and print for your classroom along with geologic activity sheets and presentations (links open in a new tab). The U.S. Geological Survey also provides resources for K-College teachers.

Article Citations

Salary information is located on FederalPay.org and growth rate information was located on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

The Geological Society, Geology Career Pathways, What do Geologists do.

Videos: The career interview video is in the public domain from the U.S. Geological Survey.