Geological Earth Sciences

Geological earth science, also known as geology or geoscience, is the study of earth's history, structure, functions and materials. Read this article for information about education requirements, job outlook and salary potential for this field.

Are Studies in Geological Earth Sciences for Me?

Career Overview

Earth science is a broad field of study concerned with understanding earth's physical processes and the relationships between living organisms and their environments. Geological earth science, or geology, is a branch of earth science focused on earth's structure and materials, such as rocks, soils and sediments, as well as processes that change them over time. Geologists often study earth's past through fossilized evidence, such as animal and plant remains, focusing on time frames of millions of years.

In this field, you could provide information essential to the search for natural resources, environmental preservation and mitigation of natural hazards, like landslides and earthquakes. To succeed in the field of geological earth sciences, you should enjoy mapping and analyzing data in laboratories, along with working at remote outdoor field sites.

Job Options

Careers in geology are commonly found within academia and government. Entry-level job opportunities include working as a geology technician or research assistant within a private, academic or government research facility. With an advanced degree, you could qualify for teaching or research positions within universities or government agencies at the state and federal levels. Geologists also work in the environmental, energy, mining and petroleum industries. You could work as a private consultant to industry, lending advice and expertise to natural resource companies, oil and gas corporations and environmental firms, for example.

Salary and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects about average employment growth for geoscientists and hydrologists during the period from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). Geologists should see growth of 16% and hydrologists, 10%. The BLS expected candidates with master's degrees to have particularly good job prospects, especially in consulting and the oil and gas industry. As of May 2013, the median annual salary for geoscientists was $91,920, per the BLS. Hydrologists earned $75,710 that same year.

How Can I Work in Geological Earth Sciences?

Education Requirements

You can pursue studies in geological earth sciences from the associate's to doctoral degree levels. A bachelor's degree in geology is the first step towards becoming a geologist and may be sufficient for some entry-level jobs. The master's degree, however, is generally considered the primary degree preferred among employers, according to the BLS.

The Master of Science in Geology generally requires two years of study and the completion of a researched thesis. Professional master's degree programs with non-thesis tracks are also available to working professionals interested in advancing their careers.

Doctoral Degrees

If you're interested in pursuing a career in research or college-level teaching, you need a doctoral degree. Geology doctoral degree programs are research-oriented and culminate in a dissertation paper about a concentrated area of study within the field. Specific specialties are varied, but may include glacial geology, paleontology, hydrogeology, mineralogy and environmental geology. Research in the field often addresses uncertainties about earth's processes and how new knowledge can benefit society.

Topics of Study

Core coursework of most geology programs includes statistics, mathematics, computer science, cartography and related earth science courses like hydrology. Upper-level courses cover topics in mineralogy, sedimentology, structural geology and volcanology, as well as remote sensing, plate tectonics and stratigraphy. Field and lab work are also important components of most program curricula. In many schools, you can complete an internship during the course of your studies to gain additional work-related experience.

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