What are the Different Geologist Careers?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 December 2018
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Geologists conduct field and laboratory research to learn about the physical and chemical composition of the Earth. They study the age, structure, and location of different types of rocks and soil to better understand natural processes. Geology is such a broad area of study that most scientists specialize in a particular subfield. An expert might research groundwater, ocean floors, or volcanoes, for example, or consult engineers on the safest places to build structures. Geologist careers can be found at universities, government agencies, engineering firms, and oil companies, among many other settings.

Research geologists conduct extensive observational surveys and laboratory analyses of rock samples to gather detailed data. Scientists perform narrow research studies in their areas of specialty to produce the most reliable results. For example, environmental geologists are concerned with climate change and various biological impacts on soil and water sources. Hydrogeologists investigate the location and nature of groundwater systems, and paleontologists study ancient rocks and fossils. Other geologist careers involve studying specific physical phenomena, such as volcanoes, earthquakes, the formation of mountains, and plate tectonics.

Most research geologist careers are found with government agencies, private research foundations, and universities. Before conducting field and laboratory studies, most scientists are required to submit grant proposals to the appropriate authorities or sponsors. Geologists document their findings in detailed project write-ups and publish their results in peer-reviewed journals. In addition to conducting independent research and writing reports, most geologists who work at universities teach courses related to their specialties.


Some scientists pursue geologist careers with oil companies and engineering firms. A petroleum geologist embarks on land and ocean expeditions with other marine experts to find new natural gas and oil deposits. He or she uses sophisticated equipment and expert geographic knowledge to predict the size of deposits and the most opportune places to drill. Engineering geologists survey land to make sure that it is stable enough to support buildings, tunnels, bridges, and roads. They also research data about geological activity in an area, such as mudslides and earthquakes, to make sure that it is a safe place to build.

An advanced degree from an accredited university is necessary to obtain most geologist careers. Scientists who conduct independent research at private firms and universities are typically required to hold doctoral degrees in their specialties. Many oil companies and engineering firms hire geologists who hold master's degrees. In addition to fulfilling educational requirements, a geologist who provides consultation for engineering, construction, drilling, or mining projects is usually expected to hold a specialized license or certification.



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