Career Development

What Does a Geologist Do?

Find out what a geologist does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a geologist.

Geologists study the Earth and its processes. They look at how rocks, minerals, and other materials were formed, how they are changing over time, and how they interact with living things. Geologists use this knowledge to explore for natural resources, assess the risk of earthquakes or other geological hazards, and more.

Geologists may specialize in a particular area of focus, such as geochemistry, geophysics, paleontology, hydrology, etc.

Geologist Job Duties

Geologists have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Conducting research on topics related to geology such as plate tectonics, geomorphology, or mining engineering
  • Presenting scientific findings to the public and other scientists at conferences
  • Conducting field work such as collecting rock samples, taking photographs of rocks, topography, and other features for analysis back in the lab
  • Evaluating data from seismic surveys, core samples, and other sources that help reveal information about the Earth’s interior structure
  • Studying the composition of rocks, minerals, and soils to determine their origin and age
  • Conducting geological surveys of an area to identify mineral resources
  • Collecting data about earthquakes, volcanoes, and other geologic phenomena that can affect human settlements and natural resources
  • Creating maps detailing seismic activity, rock types, and other features of interest
  • Identifying new sources of energy such as oil and gas deposits and mineral deposits that can be mined for profit

Geologist Salary & Outlook

Geologists’ salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of work they do. Those who work in the oil and gas industry typically make more money than those who work for government agencies or environmental consulting firms.

  • Median Annual Salary: $85,000 ($40.87/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $163,000 ($78.37/hour)

The employment of geologists is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade.

Demand for geologic services will stem from the need to understand the environmental impacts of human activities and to ensure the sustainability of natural resources. In addition, demand will continue to come from the need to evaluate the potential effects of climate change on the environment.

Related: Geologist Interview Questions and Answers

Geologist Job Requirements

A geologist typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: Geologists typically need a bachelor’s degree in geology, earth science or a related field. Many aspiring geologists choose to pursue a master’s degree in geology or earth science to increase their job opportunities and earning potential.

Geology programs include coursework in geology, physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and statistics. They also include fieldwork, where students get hands-on experience in geology by working with professionals in the field.

Training & Experience: Geologists receive most of their training through internships and entry-level positions. During an internship, a student gains hands-on experience in the field. They work under the supervision of a practicing geologist to learn the skills necessary to enter the field.

Entry-level geologists receive on-the-job training to learn the specific skills and requirements of their role. They often shadow a more experienced employee to learn the daily tasks of the job.

Certifications & Licenses: Geologists who want to work in the oil and gas industry need to earn licensure requirements in the state in which they plan to work. The requirements vary from state to state, so it’s best to review the standards before applying.

Geologist Skills

Geologists need the following skills in order to be successful:

Technical skills: Geologists need technical skills to use and understand the tools and technology used in their profession. They need to know how to use software and programs to interpret data and create models and maps. They also need to know how to use and repair equipment like computers, laptops, GPS devices and other tools used in the field.

Communication skills: Geologists often work in teams with other geologists and other professionals, so communication skills are important for them to be successful in their careers. They also often need to communicate complex geological information to non-geologists, so they need to be able to explain their ideas in an easy-to-understand way.

Problem-solving skills: Geologists use their problem-solving skills to find solutions to geological issues. They may need to find ways to prevent landslides, find ways to prevent contamination of water sources or find ways to prevent cave-ins.

Attention to detail: Geologists need to have excellent attention to detail to ensure they record their observations accurately. They also need to pay attention to the details of their work to ensure they complete all necessary tasks. For example, they need to make sure they record the correct information about the samples they take and the locations where they take them.

Fieldwork skills: Fieldwork skills are the practical skills geologists use when they’re working in the field. These skills include the ability to navigate terrain, conduct geological surveys and record data. Fieldwork skills are important for geologists to have because they’re often working in the field when they’re gathering data for their projects.

Geologist Work Environment

Geologists work both in the field and in the office. They spend a great deal of time outdoors, often in remote locations, conducting field studies and collecting samples. They also spend time in the laboratory, analyzing their samples and conducting research. Geologists who work in the petroleum industry may travel to oil and gas fields around the world to assess the potential for new discoveries. Some geologists work in environmental consulting and must travel to various sites to assess environmental impact or to monitor environmental remediation efforts. Many geologists work a standard 40-hour week, although they may be required to work overtime during field studies or when deadlines are approaching.

Geologist Trends

Here are three trends influencing how geologists work. Geologists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Diversity in the Workplace

The need for more diversity in the workplace is a trend that is quickly gaining traction, as businesses are beginning to realize the benefits of having a more diverse workforce.

Geologists can capitalize on this trend by becoming more familiar with the cultural differences that exist between different regions and countries. This will allow them to better communicate with clients and coworkers from different backgrounds. In addition, geologists can also work to promote diversity within their own companies by encouraging other employees to be more open-minded about different cultures.

The Importance of Data Analysis

As data becomes increasingly important, so too does the need for professionals who can analyze it. This is especially true in the business world, where data analysis is used to make decisions about everything from product development to marketing campaigns.

Geologists can capitalize on this trend by learning how to use data analysis tools and techniques. By doing so, they can become more valuable members of teams and help to drive success for their organizations.

A Greater Focus on Environmental Sustainability

As society becomes more environmentally conscious, businesses are starting to focus on sustainability as a core value. This means that geologists who are able to understand and manage environmental risks will be in high demand.

In order to take advantage of this trend, geologists should develop skills in areas such as risk assessment and mitigation. They should also be able to communicate effectively with stakeholders about the importance of sustainability.

How to Become a Geologist

A geologist career path can be very rewarding, but it’s important to consider the many different areas of specialization within the field. You could choose to focus on mineralogy, petrology, or geochemistry; study the formation and evolution of Earth’s crust; or investigate the relationship between geology and other sciences, such as biology and chemistry.

No matter which area you choose, it’s essential that you have a strong foundation in math and science. You should also be able to think critically and creatively, so that you can come up with new ideas and solutions to problems.

Advancement Prospects

Geologists can advance their careers by taking on additional responsibilities, such as field work or management roles. They may also move into related fields, such as environmental science or engineering. With experience, geologists can become research scientists or consultants. Some geologists may also choose to teach at the college level.

Geologist Job Description Example

At [CompanyX], we are searching for a highly skilled and experienced geologist to join our team. The ideal candidate will have a strong background in geology, with experience in conducting research and field work. They will be responsible for conducting geological surveys, collecting samples, and conducting analysis to determine the composition and structure of the earth’s crust. Additionally, they will be responsible for preparing reports and presentations on their findings. The successful candidate will be an excellent communicator with strong writing and presentation skills. They will be able to work independently and be self-motivated, with the ability to take initiative and solve problems.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Conduct fieldwork to collect data and samples for analysis, often in remote locations
  • Analyze geological data using specialized computer software
  • Prepare reports detailing their findings
  • Present research at conferences or in other forums
  • Collaborate with other scientists to solve complex problems
  • Teach classes at the college level
  • Write scientific papers for publication
  • Serve on committees or working groups
  • Advise government officials on issues related to geology
  • Work with environmental consultants to assess the impact of proposed developments
  • Manage staff and budgets
  • Plan and oversee field projects

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree in geology, environmental science, or related field
  • 5+ years of experience as a professional geologist
  • Experience with geological mapping and surveying
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office, ArcGIS, and AutoCAD
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Master’s degree in geology or related field
  • 10+ years of experience as a professional geologist
  • Experience working in the mining or oil and gas industry
  • Registered Professional Geologist (RPG) designation
  • Familiarity with other software programs, including Petra, Leapfrog, and Surpac


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