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How Do I Become a Geodesist?

C. Mitchell
C. Mitchell

To become a geodesist, you usually must obtain a university degree in geodesy, Earth sciences or engineering, and you must have a passion for surveying the Earth and monitoring its changes. Most geodesist jobs require only a bachelor’s degree, but they often require extensive coursework in geodetics. This usually means that you will need to start planning your career early and look to attend a university that has an emphasis on this sort of Earth science. Graduate work is always an asset, as is on-the-job training.

Geodesist requirements vary from employer to employer, but you will almost always need specific geodesy training. This usually is acquired through education — a degree in geodesy is the most direct route — but often can be demonstrated through a combination of coursework and field experience. It usually is easiest to become a geodesist by planning your career the moment you begin your academic studies.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

Only a handful of universities offer specific geodesist training. Institutes of technology and engineering-focused schools usually are the best bets, but be sure to shop around. Visit campuses if you can, and talk to admissions officers about geodetics degrees and course offerings. Prospective students are often able to sit in on classes and meet with professors. Take advantage of these opportunities if you can, because choosing the right school and getting a solid education is the first and often most essential step to becoming a geodesist.

Gaining experience while in school is another good way to get started down the path to become a geodesist. Look for field study trips that you can join during the summer, or ask around for internships in land surveying agencies and corporations. Your professors or career counselors might have ideas of where to start searching for these opportunities, and many of them are advertised in geodesist industry publications, both in print and online.

Summer jobs will help you bolster your résumé and give you a taste for the field. You can become a geodesist in a great variety of settings. Most of these scientists work for local or national governments, conducting land surveys, coordinating and syncing global positioning systems and using satellites to understand land movements and predict natural disasters. Others work for private corporations and nonprofit research organizations. Even with a specific degree, it can be difficult to know where to start; with a bit of field experience, you will get a better sense of what you enjoy.

Graduate work is rarely required to become a geodesist on a basic, information-gathering level. To advance in most geodesist careers, however, the majority of scientists pursue doctorate-level work. A doctorate in geodesy will allow you much greater latitude in the work you do and the research you perform, and it also will qualify you as an expert. Expert geodesists are often recruited by top corporations and agencies to provide advice and recommendations at a very high level.

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