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Careers: Geology

Careers in geology

Geology graduates work in the United States and Canada as:

  • environmental geologists
  • hydrologists
  • petroleum geologists
  • geochemists
  • energy analysts
  • national park interpretive rangers
  • college professors

Alumni profiles

Career fields and course preparation

The following is a list of courses you should consider taking if you plan on going into certain fields in geology.

Petroleum industry

The following basic geology courses are extremely desirable: introductory geology, historical geology, sedimentary petrology and depositional environments, stratigraphy, structural geology, introductory geophysics, seismic stratigraphy, petroleum geology, geochemistry and field geology. Field geology can be taken during the summer from many other institutions.

Geophysics is currently a particularly good field to be in because at present there are 10 times as many geology students as geophysics students, yet the petroleum industry hires equal numbers of geophysicists and geologists.

Mining industry

The mining industry desires students with a strong physical science background and especially physical chemistry. Essential courses are petrology, petrography, structural geology, geochemistry, geophysics, field geology, and ore deposits. Courses in related fields such as engineering or economics are desirable.

Geoscience consulting firms

Consulting companies need geologists who have broad interests and diverse skills and who can readily retrain themselves to enter new fields as market demand changes. Specific courses are not as important as having a strong technical base in earth science, civil engineering, mathematics or chemistry. It is recommended that you attend events that expose you to a diversity of geology (e.g. field trips, seminars, and workshops). Of particular importance is a variety of summer employment experiences. Knowledge of field techniques (e.g. drilling, pumping tests, logging, water-quality monitoring, or geophysical applications) is especially important. Proficiency in stratigraphy and rock and soil description is also desirable, as is expertise in computer applications and statistics.

Of equal importance to your technical skills are your writing skills because consulting firms sell reports of their work. A clearly written and concise description of your results must be the end-product. Indeed, geoscience employers consistently emphasize the importance of both written and oral communication.

Federal government

The federal government (e.g. U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Agriculture, etc.)currently employs about 2600 geologists, 600 geophysicists, 2200 hydrologists, 500 mining engineers, and 500 petroleum engineers. The basic course requirements for consideration of a geologist for employment by the US government are six courses in geology (mineralogy, paleontology, stratigraphy, structural geology, petrology, and geomorphology) plus five courses in cartography and in the cognate sciences such as math, physics, chemistry, or biology.

State and local government

The five most important courses are: structural geology, field geology, petrology and petrography, stratigraphy, environmental geology, and cartography with GIS. Non-geological courses considered important include: chemistry or physics, English composition, economics or computer science, and calculus.