How do I get Started in a Geology Career?

D. Jeffress

Geology is a very exciting career choice for many science-minded individuals. The prospect of studying such phenomena and processes as volcanoes, glaciers, plate tectonics, and fossil formation attracts many people to the field. Getting started in a geology career usually involves the completion of a master's or PhD program at an accredited university, spending up to two years in a postgraduate research position. An extensive written licensing test must be taken to obtain a geology career with a governmental agency, surveying company, or engineering firm.

At some point, a geologist will need experience working in the field.
At some point, a geologist will need experience working in the field.

A high school student who wishes to someday obtain a geology career can prepare by taking advanced courses in biological and earth sciences. High school science classes introduce students to the principles of research, evolution, natural processes and the scientific method. Students frequently meet with guidance counselors, who help them find the best geology schools and prepare admissions materials.

Geologists may study the formation of volcanoes.
Geologists may study the formation of volcanoes.

As college undergraduates, many hopeful scientists major in geology or earth science, where they can take classes in a number of different geology subjects. Students usually supplement their classroom studies with geology labs, where they learn about different scientific equipment and techniques. A student may choose to pursue summer internships with a research institution or engineering firm to gain experience in the field and better prepare for his or her eventual geology career.

Graduate geology students usually choose to focus on a subfield of study like mineralogy.
Graduate geology students usually choose to focus on a subfield of study like mineralogy.

Near the end of their undergraduate programs, most hopeful geologists apply to competitive post-baccalaureate geology schools. Master's and PhD programs generally consist of extensive classroom, field, and laboratory studies. Graduate students typically choose to focus on a specific geology subfield, such as glacier geography, marine geography, or mineralogy. Students nearing the end of their degree programs are usually required to organize complex research projects and construct lengthy theses or dissertations. They may asked to defend their findings in front of a panel of university professors and practicing geologists.

Upon completion of a master's degree or PhD, a graduate typically assumes a research position or fellowship at a private research institution, university, or engineering firm. Apprentices work as assistants to established scientists, learning how to conduct advanced research and field surveys, apply for grants, and write scientific papers. Some states, countries, and governmental organizations require new survey and engineering geologists to pass licensing exams, which test their general knowledge and their understanding of different laws and codes. After a one to two year fellowship, and the successful completion of a licensing test, a person is able to begin an independent geology career.

Advanced courses in the earth sciences help prepare for geology degrees and careers.
Advanced courses in the earth sciences help prepare for geology degrees and careers.

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