What Are Some Entry-Level Geologist Jobs?

Find out about the types of entry-level jobs you could pursue in geology. Read on to learn more about career options along with education and salary information. Schools offering Environmental Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Geologist?

Geologists study the rocks, soil and water of the Earth to research its past and predict its future, to locate sources of energy for extraction and to plan for environmental remediation. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

GEOLOGY ASSISTANT OIL & GAS EXTRACTION GEOLOGIST
Degree Required Master's degree Master's degree
Education Field of Study Geology Geology, specialty in oil & gas extraction
Key Skills Field surveys, sample collection, lab analysis, computer modeling, GPS, GIS, writing Land and ocean mapping, computer modeling, GPS, GIS
Licensure Required Some states require licensure; voluntary certifications available for some specialties Some states require licensure; voluntary certifications available
Job Growth (2012-2022) 16%* 16%*
Average Annual Salary (2013) $108,420*; 1 year experience: $51,048** $154,230*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com.

What Do Geologists Do?

Geologists learn about the physical and chemical structure and make-up of the Earth and its oceans through specialized fields of study, such as paleontology, oceanography, hydrology and environmental geology. They look at the Earth's physical past and present, and also try to predict its future, such as when earthquakes will occur and what the effects of climate change may be. Geologists work outdoors making on-site observations and taking measurements and in office or lab environments testing and analyzing samples or creating models of the Earth's processes. The purpose of their work varies from pure research to searching for oil and gas deposits to environmental remediation projects.

What Kind of Education Do I Need?

While there are a few jobs available to you if you hold a bachelor's degree, such as science technician, a Master of Science in Geology or a similar field is needed for most entry-level jobs. With it, you can apply for entry-level jobs in both the public and private sectors. If you want to lead research projects as a geologist, you will most likely need a doctoral degree.

Doing an internship in your area of interest while in school may give you an edge in getting your first job, since some employers may favor those with practical experience. Computer skills are also important, especially knowing how to do computer modeling and to use global positioning and geographic information systems, more commonly known as GPS and GIS.

Some states may require you to earn a state license. Depending on your specialty, you may also earn voluntary certification through a professional association.

What Entry-Level Jobs Could I Obtain?

Geologists often start out as assistants, taking surveys and collecting samples in the field or in a lab helping with tests and data analysis. If you're a good writer and communicator, you may be able to participate in writing grant proposals or research reports. As you gain experience and acquire leadership skills, career advancement, within a job title or through promotion, may be possible.

Nearly 25% of geologists work for the government at federal and state levels. Some are involved in atmospheric or oceanographic research, while others participate in the planning and management of natural resources. Other geologists work in private industry in such jobs as environmental remediation or mining exploration. Geologists are also employed in the oil and gas industry as petroleum geologists and sedimentologists, mapping land and ocean areas in search of deposits. Among other avenues of employment for geologists are paleontology, which is the study of fossils and engineering geology, which can play a role in large construction projects such as bridges.

What Could I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2013, the average annual wage for geoscientists, including geologists, was $108,420. Oil and gas extraction geologists, over the range from entry-level to experienced, earned an average of $154,230 (www.bls.gov). PayScale.com reported in September, 2014 that the average salary for geologists with one year of experience was $51,049. In addition, the BLS predicts that during the 2012-2022 decade, there will be 16% job growth for geoscientists in general, which is faster than the average for all occupations.

What Are Some Alternative Career Options?

If the education required turns you off to a job as a geologist, becoming a civil engineering technician lets you work with geology as it relates to transportation. You'll help with designing and planning public infrastructure as well as industrial or commercial developments. You can usually get this type of job with an ABET-accredited associate degree, but the earning potential is generally less than half of what geoscientists and geologists earn.

If it's not the educational requirements but you're looking for something more detailed and focused, becoming a cartographer or photogrammetrist might be more up your alley. A bachelor's degree program in the field is about all that's needed, and the median salary is a little higher than the civil engineering tech. In this job, you'd take your geographical research info to develop or revamp maps that are used for various reasons, like emergency response or regional planning.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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