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Become an Exploration Geologist: Education and Career Information

Research the requirements to become an exploration geologist through this lesson. Learn about the job description and see the step-by-step process to start a career in exploration geology. View article »

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  • 0:00 Exploration Geologists
  • 0:45 Earn a Bachelor's Degree
  • 1:44 Earn a License
  • 2:39 Earn a Graduate Degree

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Video Transcript

Exploration Geologists

Exploration geologists use geophysical techniques to analyze geographic locations in search of natural resources, like petroleum and minerals. They often work as consultants for oil and mining companies, conducting tests on soil and rock samples in mines or in fields near drilling sites. Work is split between working in offices and laboratories and working outdoors. The job requires extensive travel to remote sites, and workweeks are often long with irregular hours. As the need for energy and environmental protection grows, the demand for geoscientists is expected to increase in the coming years.

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; master's or doctoral degree may be required for advanced positions
Degree Field Geology or a closely related field
Experience Several years of geological experience, including fieldwork
Licensure Some states require geologists to hold a license
Key Skills Excellent oral and written communication abilities; strong analytical and problem-solving skills; ability to work as part of a team; familiarity with data, mapping, and modeling software; GIS, remote sensing equipment, electron microscopes and x-rays, ability to operate equipment used to ability to scan for natural resources and analyze rocks and other materials; good physical fitness
Salary $89,910 per year (2014 median salary for all geoscientists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2014)

Let's look at the specific steps involved in becoming an exploration geologist.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Aspiring exploration geologists can start out by earning a bachelor's degree in geology, which may include coursework in physical and environmental geology, mineralogy, and Earth materials. Data collection and analysis techniques are also usually taught. Geology programs typically involve basic training in physics, chemistry, and math, too. Since exploration geologists focus on finding natural resources, elective courses in petroleum engineering and earth science can be helpful.

Success Tip:

Gain hands-on experience. Students can practice geological concepts through internships and fieldwork. Interns may analyze samples, create computer models, and recommend locations for exploration. Many prospective geologists also participate in field camps, which allow undergraduates to collect data in remote regions and map the terrain.

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Step 2: Earn a License

Geological consultants in some areas must obtain a state license to practice. Applicants typically submit paperwork that demonstrates their experience and education and must complete either a state exam or the National Association of State Boards of Geology exam. For those who do not possess a degree in geology, certain states allow related degrees or extensive work experience to substitute.

Success Tip:

Fulfill continuing education requirements. Geologists may need to obtain continuing education credits to renew their licenses. Completing certificate programs or individual courses and lectures is generally accepted. Seminars, conventions, and workshops discussing advances in locating natural resources may fulfill state requirements. In addition, scholarly publications can contribute to license renewal requirements.

Step 3: Earn a Graduate Degree

An undergraduate degree is enough to start a career in geology, but moving beyond an entry-level position usually requires a graduate degree. Most master's degree programs take two to three years to complete and include coursework in geophysics, tectonics, and petroleum engineering, as well as extensive field research. High-level government jobs often require exploration geologists to possess a doctoral degree.

Success Tip:

Take on managerial or ownership roles. As this field expands, more opportunities will become available. After working for a company for several years, exploration geologists can start their own junior exploration company. For those who have been successful in their careers, it's also not uncommon to enter the consulting field and advise private landowners, government agencies, and mineral companies.

In summary, the steps to become an exploration geologist consist of earning a bachelor's degree in geology and gaining hands-on intern experience, earning a state license and fulfilling continuing education requirements, and earning a graduate degree and looking into advancement through managerial or ownership roles.

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