Careers and Resources for Geoscience Students

From John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Geologists work in a variety of settings which include:

  • natural resource companies (mineral and energy exploration)
  • environmental consulting companies
  • government agencies (e.g. USGS)
  • non-profit organizations
  • colleges/universities (technicians, lecturers, professors)

Many geologists do field work at least part of the time. Others spend their time in laboratories, classrooms or offices. All geologists prepare reports, do calculations and use computers. Although a bachelor's degree is required for entry level employment, many geologists earn masters and/or doctorate degrees. The advanced degrees provide a higher level of training, often in a geology specialty area such as paleontology, mineralogy, hydrology or volcanology. Advanced degrees will often qualify the geologist for supervisory positions, research assignments or teaching positions at the university level.

Of all the fields one can be employed in, the Geosciences are one of the few that are expected to continue to see growth in job opportunities over the next few years. Below you will find a list of many possible career directions you could take within the realm of the geosciences.

Atmospheric scientists study weather processes; the global dynamics of climate; solar radiation and its effects; and the role of atmospheric chemistry in ozone depletion, climate change, and pollution.

Economic geologists explore for and develop metallic and nonmetallic resources; they study mineral deposits and find environmentally safe ways to dispose of waste materials from mining activities.

Engineering geologists apply geological data, techniques, and principles to the study of rock and soil surficial materials and ground water; they investigate geologic factors that affect structures such as bridges, buildings, mines, airports, and dams.

Environmental geologists study the interaction between the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, biosphere, and human activities. They work to solve problems associated with pollution, waste management, urbanization, and natural hazards, such as flooding and erosion.

Geochemists use physical and inorganic chemistry to investigate the nature and distribution of major and trace elements in ground water and Earth materials; they use organic chemistry to study the composition of fossil fuel (coal, oil, and gas) deposits.

Geochronologists use the rates of decay of certain radioactive elements in rocks to determine their age and the time sequence of events in the history of the Earth.

Geologists study the materials, processes, products, physical nature, and history of the Earth.

Geomorphologists study Earth's landforms and landscapes in relation to the geologic and climatic processes and human activities, which form them.

Geophysicists apply the principles of physics to studies of the Earth's interior and investigate Earth's magnetic, electric, and gravitational fields.

Glacial geologists study the physical properties and movement of glaciers and ice sheets.

Hydrogeologists study the occurrence, movement, abundance, distribution, and quality of subsurface waters and related geologic aspects of surface waters.

Hydrologists are concerned with water from the moment of precipitation until it evaporates into the atmosphere or is discharged into the ocean; for example, they study river systems to predict the impacts of flooding.

Marine geologists investigate the ocean-floor and ocean-continent boundaries; they study ocean basins, continental shelves, and the coastal environments on continental borders.

Meteorologists study the atmosphere and atmospheric phenomena, including the weather.

Mineralogists study mineral formation, composition, and properties.

Oceanographers investigate the physical, chemical, biological, and geologic dynamics of oceans.

Paleoecologists study the function and distribution of ancient organisms and their relationships to their environment.

Paleontologists study fossils to understand past life forms and their changes through time and to reconstruct past environments.

Petroleum geologists are involved in exploration for and production of oil and natural gas resources.

Petrologists determine the origin and natural history of rocks by analyzing mineral composition and grain relationships.

Planetary geologists study planets and their moons in order to understand the evolution of the solar system.

Sedimentologists study the nature, origin, distribution, and alteration of sediments, such as sand, silt, and mud. Oil, gas, coal and many mineral deposits occur in such sediments.

Seismologists study earthquakes and analyze the behavior of earthquake waves to interpret the structure of the Earth.

Soil scientists study soils and their properties to determine how to sustain agricultural productivity and to detect and remediate contaminated soils.

Stratigraphers investigate the time and space relationships of rocks, on a local, regional, and global scale throughout geologic time -- especially the fossil and mineral content of layered rocks.

Structural geologists analyze Earth's forces by studying deformation, fracturing, and folding of the Earth's crust.

Volcanologists investigate volcanoes and volcanic phenomena to understand these natural hazards and predict eruptions.

Many universities offer scholarships in the geosciences through industry sponsorships. It is always wise to see what your school has available. In addition, there are other opportunities out there for students who are members of major geological organizations such as those listed below. Students get a membership discount, and more inexpensive tickets to conferences, field trips, and meetings, at which there is always an opportunity for networking with other geologists and even employment! Get yourself out there, find what you love, and get involved!

International Union of Geological Sciences

The IUGS is one of the largest and most active non-governmental scientific organizations in the world, and aims to promote development of the Earth sciences through the support of broad-based scientific studies relevant to the entire Earth system; to apply the results of these and other studies to preserving Earth's natural environment, using all natural resources wisely and improving the prosperity of nations and the quality of human life; and to strengthen public awareness of geology and advance geological education in the widest sense.

American Geological Institute

The AGI is a nonprofit federation that represents more than 120,000 geologists, geophysicists, and other earth scientists. The AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice of shared interests, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in society's use of resources, resilience to natural hazards, and the health of the environment.

Geological Society of America

The GSA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of the geosciences, the dissemination of geoscience knowledge, and the promotion of geosciences in the service of society. The GSA aims to communicate the importance and relevance of the geosciences in a global context through education and public awareness.

United States Geological Survey

The USGS is a multi-disciplinary science organization that focuses on biology, geography, geology, geospatial information, and water. The USGS is dedicated to the timely, relevant, and impartial study of the landscape, natural resources, and natural hazards.

Geological Association of Canada

The GAC is a geoscience community, whose mission is to facilitate the scientific well-being and professional development of its members, the learned discussion of geoscience in Canada, and the advancement, dissemination and wise use of geoscience in public, professional and academic life.

Mineralogical Association of Canada

The MAC is non-profit scientific organization to promote and advance the knowledge of mineralogy and the allied disciplines of crystallography, petrology, geochemistry and mineral deposits.

American Geophysical Union

The AGU is a worldwide scientific community (academic, government, industry and other venues) that advances an understanding of Earth and space science that is used for the benefit of humanity. The AGU strives for global leadership in the communication of scientific knowledge and to promote the application of this knowledge (and scientific literacy) within and beyond the Earth and space science communities.

American Association of Petroleum Geologists

The AAPG is currently the world's largest professional geological society, with membership including geologists, geophysicists, CEOs, managers, consultants, students and academicians. The purpose of the AAPG is to foster scientific research, advance the science of geology, promote technology and inspire high professional conduct.

Society of Petroleum Engineers

The SPE is a society of professional excellence, not only comprising engineers, providing its members lifelong learning, and continuous personal and professional growth. The mission of the SPE is to collect, disseminate, and exchange technical knowledge concerning the exploration, development and production of oil and gas resources, and related technologies for the public benefit; and to provide opportunities for professionals to enhance their technical and professional competence.

National Association of Geoscience Teachers

The NAGT works to foster improvement in the teaching of the earth sciences at all levels of formal and informal instruction, to emphasize the cultural significance of the earth sciences and to disseminate knowledge in this field to the general public. NAGT supports both educators and students through a variety of awards including the Outstanding Earth Science Teacher award, the Neil Miner award, the James Shea award, summer field programs, and an Outstanding TA award.

National Earth Science Teachers Association

NESTA is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) educational organization made up of and governed by classroom teachers, whose mission is to facilitate and advance excellence in Earth and Space Science education. NESTA's purpose is the advancement, stimulation, extension, improvement, and coordination of Earth Science education at all educational levels.

Association for Women Geoscientists

The AWG exists to promote the professional development of its members, to provide geoscience outreach to girls, and to encourage women to become geoscientists. Additionally, the AWG strives to exchange educational, technical, and professional information and enhance the professional growth and advancement of women in the geosciences.

National Association for Black Geologists and Geophysicists

The NABGG is a non-profit organization with headquarters in Houston, Texas. Their objectives are to provide and encourage continuing education in the geosciences, to inform minority students of career opportunities which exist in the geosciences, and to encourage minority student by providing financial aid, counseling, assistance in obtaining meaningful summer and permanent employment.

National Speleological Society

The NSS exists to study, explore, and conserve cave and karst resources; protect access to caves; encourage responsible management of caves and their unique environments; and promote responsible caving. In addition, the NSS provides grants to support cave/karst conservation research and education projects.

Society of Vertebrate Paleontologists

The SVP is organized exclusively for educational and scientific purposes, with the objectives of advancing the science of vertebrate paleontology and serving the common interests of all persons concerned with the history, evolution, comparative anatomy, and taxonomy of vertebrate animals, as well as field occurrence, collection, and study of fossil vertebrates and the stratigraphy of the beds in which they are found. The SVP is also concerned with the conservation and preservation of fossil sites.

National Geographic Society

The NGS is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, the promotion of environmental and historical conservation, and it has supported the efforts of enterprising grantees and groundbreaking explorers. National Geographic's programs support critical scientific research, geographic exploration, and environmental and cultural conservation worldwide through a variety of grants and programs available to all.

Bureau of Land Management

The BLM is responsible for carrying out a variety of programs for the management and conservation of resources, as well as subsurface mineral estate on United States public lands, including: energy and minerals; timber; forage; recreation; wild horse and burro herds; fish and wildlife habitat; wilderness areas; and archaeological, paleontological, and historical sites. The mission of the BLM is sustaining the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

National Science Foundation

The NSF is an independent federal agency "to promote the progress of science…” they are the funding source for approximately 20% percent of all federally supported basic college research in many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences. Funding is issued through limited-term (usually ~3 years) grants, with about 10,000 new awards honored a year.