What Can I Do with a Geology Degree?

Although a bachelor's degree can prepare you for certain geologist jobs, earning a master's degree in geology can qualify you for specialized careers in the geosciences. With a degree in geology, you can find employment in the oil and mining industries, as well as with environmental firms and government agencies. If you are considering a career in geology, read on to find out what geologists do in the field. Schools offering Environmental Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Careers in Geology

Geologists study the Earth's processes, physical history and natural composition by examining natural matter, such as plant fossils, rocks, oceans, minerals and the atmosphere. Geology careers are often specialized, and job titles represent your area of expertise. For example, you may become a glacial geologist, specializing in glaciers, or a volcanologist with an expertise in volcanoes. Examples of other specialized job titles include petroleum geologist (oil and natural gas), hydrologist (water), mineralogist (minerals) and paleontologist (fossils).

Geologists often have a mixture of fieldwork, laboratory and office duties. For example, they may collect rock or ocean water samples from remote locations and then analyze them in the lab using technology such as electron microscopes. Geologists may also use remote sensing or radar equipment to explore beneath the Earth's surface. Responsibilities may include using data analysis and modeling software and creating scientific reports, maps and charts.

Important Facts About Geology Careers

Geoscience Mining and Geological Engineering
Median Salary (2014) $89,910 $90,160
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 10% growth 6% growth
Key Skills Critical thinking, outdoor, and interpersonal skills Logical-thinking, math, analytical, and decision-making skills
Similar Occupations Civil Engineer, Materials Scientist, Natural Sciences Manager Mechanical Engineer, Environmental Scientist, Architectural Manager

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational and Professional Requirements

A bachelor's degree in geology is the minimum requirement for some jobs; however, you will likely need a master's degree in geology for most entry-level geology occupations. For advanced teaching and research positions, you'll need a Ph.D.

Additionally, geologists offering their services to the public may need to earn a license in certain states. Requirements vary by state but include meeting minimum education requirements and proving knowledge and skills via one or more exams.

Factors That Influence Career Outlook

In general, candidates who have gained experience working in the field and in laboratories during their degree programs may have an advantage. Geologists who have a background in oil and gas exploration will likely have better opportunities in the job market, though economics can affect industry hiring practices. Ph.D.-holders who want academia jobs will have more competition.

What Geologists Do

At the core of the job, geologists help people adapt to Earth's processes, study natural resources, and analyze Earth's history.

Help People Adapt to Natural Earth Processes

When natural processes occur, such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, floods, tsunamis or hurricanes, geologists study the physical causes and results of such processes to help protect and prepare people for future events. As a geologist, you may study the results of a particular natural disaster, map out the damaged area and observe how future damages can be avoided.

Study Natural Resources

Geologists are often involved with locating, harvesting and preserving the Earth's natural resources. You could study oil, underground water, natural metals, natural gases and fossil fuels. Geologists involved with natural resources are often employed in the mining industry, working to analyze minerals and identify new mineral resources. Additionally, you could work as a geochemist, studying the chemical elements found in groundwater and soil.

Analyze Earth History

With a prominent concern for the Earth's climate change, geologists study the geological history of the Earth in an effort to make sense of climate changes and patterns. In the environmental protection industry, you could deal with water resource management and quality, agricultural sustainability and pollutants.

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