What Is the Average Salary of a Geologist?

Research what it takes to become a geologist. Learn about job duties, salary, job outlook and education requirements to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Environmental Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Geologist?

Geologists are scientists who study the Earth's physical history and natural processes. They may also work to locate oil, gas or other types of geological deposits for scientific investigation or commercial use. Geologists may travel to various sites around the world to study rocks and how they were formed. They will look at these rocks and try to piece together what has occurred since their creation. Some geologists may specialize in stratified rock or minerals. Like most scientists, geologists present their findings in research papers and reports that can be presented to other scientists, the public, the government or other interested groups. Some geologists hold teaching positions at colleges or universities. The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Geologist Geology professor
Degree Required Bachelor's; master's may be preferred PhD
Education Field of Study Geology Geology
Key Skills Geological studies, geological engineering, resource location Teaching, research, writing grant proposals
Job Growth (2014-2024) 10%* 9%*
Average Annual Salary (2015) $105,720* $92,540*

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job Duties for Geologists

Professional geologists study physical aspects of the earth. For example, you might study various types of rocks to learn how and when they were formed. You could also study the natural processes of the earth or examine fossils to learn more about the evolution of certain species over time.

Many geologists specialize in a sub-field. For example, you might become a petroleum geologist - a scientist whose specific goal is to locate oil deposits. You might also work as a glacial geologist, engineering geologist or sedimentologist.

Potential Earnings

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), geologists belong to the occupation group geoscientists. This group in general earned an average annual salary of $105,720 in 2015. Some of the highest paying industries for geologists in that year included natural gas distribution and oil and gas extraction, while the top-paying states were Texas, the District of Columbia and Oklahoma. During the 2014-2024 decade, job growth in the geosciences is expected to be 10%, which is faster than average for all occupations.

During the same decade, job growth for postsecondary teachers of geology and other earth sciences is expected to be at 9%. In 2015, geology professors made an average salary of $92,540.

Finding a Job

You might work as a geology consultant for a private organization, such as an engineering firm or oil company. Government agencies may hire you to perform geological studies on certain tracts of land.

Some geologists work as university professors at a college or university. In such a post, your job duties might include teaching geology classes, writing grant proposals and conducting your own geological research for publication.

What Educational Programs Are Available?

If you're interested in becoming a geologist, you might start by earning a bachelor's degree in geology. A Bachelor of Science in Geology program should provide you with a fundamental understanding of chemistry, biology, physics and math. Through classroom lectures and laboratory sessions, you'll study core topics like physical geology, the history of the Earth, petrology, environmental geology and structural geology.

The BLS reports that many government agencies and private organizations may prefer to hire geologists who have a master's degree in geology. If you're interested in becoming a professor or holding a research position, you'll usually need to earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Geology.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Petroleum engineering is a similar job that requires a bachelor's degree. These engineers develop plans to harvest oil and/or gas from the Earth. Anthropologists and archeologists are also related positions, but require a master's degree. These scientists examine human culture and behavior by studying existing cultures and archaeological remains. Physicists and astronomers are alternative careers that require a doctoral or professional degree. They use complex laboratory equipment to study and test how different types of matter and energy interact.

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