What you need to know
Geologists study the materials, processes, and history of the Earth. They investigate how rocks were formed and what has happened to them since their formation.
Most geologists split their time between working indoors in offices and laboratories, and working outdoors. Doing research and investigations outdoors is commonly called fieldwork and can require irregular working hours and extensive travel to remote locations.
Some of the things a geologists might do:
- Plan and carry out field studies, in which they visit locations to collect samples and conduct surveys
- Analyze aerial photographs, well logs (detailed records of geologic formations found during drilling), rock samples, and other data sources to locate deposits of natural resources and estimate their size
- Conduct laboratory tests on samples collected in the field
- Make geologic maps and charts
- Prepare written scientific reports
- Present their findings to clients, colleagues, and other interested parties
- Communication skills: Geologists write reports and research papers. They must be able to present their findings clearly to other scientists and team members as well as clients or professionals who do not have a background in geology.
- Critical-thinking skills: Geologists base their findings on sound observation and careful evaluation of data.
- Outdoor skills: Geologists may spend significant time outdoors. Familiarity with camping and hiking and a general sense of comfort being outside for long periods is useful when performing fieldwork.
- Physical stamina: Geologists may need to hike to remote locations while carrying testing and sampling equipment when they conduct fieldwork.
- Problem-solving skills: Geologists work on complex projects filled with challenges. Evaluating statistical data and other forms of information in order to make judgments and inform the actions of other workers requires a special ability to perceive and address problems.
The average pay for all geoscientists, including geologists, in the United States ranges from $51,890 to $201,150 as of May 2020.
The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.
Employment of geoscientists is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.
The need for energy, environmental protection, and responsible land and resource management is projected to spur demand for geologists in the future.
Geologists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree for most entry-level positions. A geosciences degree is generally preferred by employers, although some geologists begin their careers with degrees in environmental science or engineering. Some geologist jobs require a master’s degree.
Some programs include training on specific software packages that will be useful to those seeking a career as a geologist. In addition to classroom and lab courses, most degree programs also include summer geology field camp courses that provide students with practical experience before graduating.
Discover some of the courses you will take pursuing a degree in Geology.