Seismology and Geophysics

Seismology and geophysics are fields that study the earth and its phenomena, such as earthquakes and volcanoes. Read on to learn more, including what careers are available and what education and training you will need for employment.

Are Seismology and Geophysics for Me?

Career Overview

Geophysicists use math, chemistry and other physical sciences to examine the traits of the earth, including land features, surface waters, the atmosphere and gravitational forces. Seismology is a specialized area of geophysics that focuses on earthquake detection and analysis through the use of specialized instruments. Geophysicists conduct many field studies and often spend time away from their offices. Job duties that are typical of this profession include locating natural resources, conducting field surveys, utilizing sophisticated equipment, taking various measurements, collecting samples, analyzing data and preparing reports.

Employment Outlook

You can find geophysics careers in resource exploration, geophysical engineering, university research and data processing, just to name a few of the possibilities. Depending on your job preference, you can work for public or private industries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 16% increase in employment opportunities for geophysicists from 2012-2022 ( The most job openings were found in the oil and gas industry as of 2012, and geophysicists with master's degrees are expected to have the best opportunities. Geophysicists made a median annual income of $91,920 in 2013, per the BLS.

How Can I Work in Seismology and Geophysics?


An undergraduate degree in geophysics or a related field such as geology, geochemistry, physics or biology might be sufficient for some entry-level positions in this field. Through a bachelor's degree program in geophysics, you'll gain a solid background in the earth sciences. Coursework might cover topics like planetary habitation and sustainability, eruption predicting and geodynamics. If you want to concentrate on seismology, you can take classes in plate tectonics, crustal geophysics and reflection seismology.

A master's degree will qualify you for the majority of positions related to the geophysics profession, but if you wish to work in research or teaching, you'll typically need to complete a doctoral program. A graduate degree program provides you the opportunity to specialize. You might choose to concentrate on ice sheet surveying, deep ocean sedimentary processes, interior earth studies or equipment development. If your forte is seismic studies, you could focus on using seismic waves to discover underground water resources or to detect natural hazards. In order to graduate, you'll be required to produce an original thesis or dissertation that contributes to the field. You may also be expected to present your research at conferences or other formal meetings.


You might need a license to work directly for the public in some states, so it is a good idea to find out the requirements of the state you wish to work in. Certification is not normally required, but it can increase your job prospects. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists offers the Petroleum Geophysicist designation, which can be a beneficial credential if you decide to work in that industry.

Required Skills

Working on a team with other scientists is common for geophysicists and seismologists, so good communication skills are essential. Critical thinking and problem solving abilities will also help you succeed in this field.

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