Becoming a Geologist: Job Description & Salary Info

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A geologist's average salary is around $105,000. Is it worth the education requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a geologist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Geologist

Geologists learn about the history of the earth along with the processes and materials associated with the earth. Both the average salary and job outlook for geologists are good, although fieldwork can be difficult for many geologists. Learn what the upsides and downs are to being a geologist by reading below.

PROS of Becoming a Geologist
Salary is above the national average ($105,000 or so annually)*
Employment growth is expected to be above average (16% from 2022 to 2022)*
Employee benefits when working for the government*
A bachelor's degree is all the education a geologist needs when starting out*

CONS of Becoming a Geologist
Traveling is required for fieldwork and can lead to remote areas*
Extended time can be spent away from home when out on fieldwork*
Irregular and extended hours can be necessary out in the field*
Additional requirements may be needed to gain state license in some states*

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

Career Description

As a geologist, you might work towards examining how a certain group of rocks formed. From that point, you might also explore what has happened to those rocks since the initial formation. Certain types of geologists perform other tasks, including consulting with construction crews on the best area to build. Some geologists even work at finding deposits of oils and gases. If you're not helping to find these resources, you might instead work towards protecting existing resources and land. Many geologists work in environmental preservation and protection.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is expecting a faster than average employment growth for geoscientists in the coming years. A projected 16% growth in employment is projected for geoscientists from 2012 to 2022. This is thought to be a result of a growing demand for environmental protection and energy. Resources and land have to be managed carefully, so geoscientists could be needed for consultant positions.

Salary Information

In May 2013, the BLS reported that geoscientists earned a mean hourly wage of about $52.00, which results in a mean yearly salary of about $105,000. Geoscientists who were in the top ten percent of wage estimates made upwards of $187,000. The states that paid geoscientists the highest on average were Texas, Oklahoma, Alaska, Colorado and Virginia, according to the BLS.

Occupational Requirements

Education and Training

A bachelor's degree in geosciences is typically considered to be the minimum amount of education that geologists should have. Other majors may also be considered acceptable as long as you've taken classes in geology. These majors might include computer science, physics, mathematics, engineering, biology and chemistry. You'll also want to take courses in structural geology, mineralogy and petrology. In certain states, geologists are required to get a license. The requirements for a license generally consist of possessing the necessary education and experience as well as passing an examination.

What Do Employers Want?

Previous field and laboratory experience is important to many employers who hire geologists. Ideally, you'll want to have acquired some work experience while earning your degree. Employers view geological mapping and data collecting experience as important traits for geologists to possess. You can learn what some real employers wanted in geologists in November 2012 by reading the job ad summaries below.

  • 40 hours of HAZWOPER training and a current 8-hour refresher are necessary for a South Carolina geologist job.
  • Five years of environmental consulting are necessary for a geologist opening in California.
  • An Ohio company is looking for a geologist who has worked previously in groundwater and soil investigation.
  • In Utah, a geologist position calls for applicants to have experience with remediation systems and environmental regulations.

How to Stand Out as a Geologist

As a geologist, computer knowledge is beneficial and can help you stand out from other geoscientists. By getting experience with digital mapping, data analysis and computer modeling, you'll be better prepared to enter into the field. These technological tools are used regularly by geologists. Understanding them thoroughly can give you an edge over someone who only has a limited knowledge of them. Additional education beyond a bachelor's degree can help set you apart as well. Research at the highest levels for geologists typically requires a doctorate degree.

Alternative Career Options

If you're interested in studying the atmosphere, climate and weather, you might want to look into being an atmospheric scientist. You can measure temperature and other qualities of the atmosphere through the use of computer models. By analyzing this data, you can try to predict weather patterns and report weather conditions. This can help people in areas that might be threatened by severe weather. Atmospheric scientists earned around $91,000 on average annually according to the BLS in May 2011. From 2010 to 2020, the BLS is projecting an 11% growth in employment for atmospheric scientists.

If you want to examine water instead of earth, you could consider being a hydrologist. You would measure properties of water like flow and volume in this career. Your research findings of samples can help determine the amount of pollution in an area and how the pollution impacts the region. The BLS is expecting an 18% employment growth from 2010 to 2020 for hydrologists. Hydrologists made roughly $79,000 on average in May 2011, according to the BLS.

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