Geology Consultant: Education Requirements and Job Description
A geology consultant is someone who works on a project-to-project basis as a specialist in a particular area of geology, such as petroleum geology, environmental geology or hydrology. Geology consultants hold at least a bachelor's degree in geology or one of the geosciences, though a master's degree is a common educational qualification.
Education Requirements for a Geology Consultant
Geology consultants generally need a bachelor's degree in geology or a related field. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), geoscientists with master's degrees have the best opportunities for work in consulting firms (www.bls.gov).
Typical course topics in a geology degree program include the origin and distribution of rock layers, structures and classification of rock, sedimentary deposits, make-up and historical composition of entire geological systems, crystals and minerals, and geographic information systems (GIS). At the master's level, students conduct advanced study and analysis of geological subjects, such as volcanology, applied petroleum geology, structural geology, hydrothermal geochemistry or seismic activity. Master's degree programs could also include a capstone project, field work and seminars in such topics as geologic engineering.
According to the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists, 31 U.S. states require geologists to be licensed as of June 2011 (www.aegweb.org). Of these states, 29 belong to the National Association of State Boards of Geology (ASBOG), which offers a standardized test for professional geologists (www.asbog.org). Typical requirements for registration as a professional geologist include a 4-year degree in geology and another four years of relevant work experience, according to ASBOG. While ASBOG might offer state-approved testing, licensure and eligibility requirements are issued by a state licensing board.
Voluntary certification is also available for geologists, especially in certain specialized areas of the field. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) offers coal geologist, petroleum geologist, and petroleum geophysicist certification. Additionally, the American Institute of Hydrology (AIH), offers voluntary certifications in several branches of hydrology, which is an area of geology.
Job Description for a Geology Consultant
Geology consultants work with elements of the Earth, including its structure, composition and geological processes. Consultants may be asked to look for the presence of a natural resource, such as water, oil, coal or geothermal heat. They may also be involved in efforts to preserve or restore the environment.
According to the AAPG, some of the consulting services geologists and geoscientists offer include performing regional and field studies, analyzing electrical well logs, studying and interpreting the effects of geophysical processes in the Earth's outer layers and determining the presence of oil and gas resources on a property. Additionally, the Geothermal Energy Association reported that geologists are often involved in the development of geothermal resources for the purposes of producing geothermal energy (www.geo-energy.org).
It is common for geology consultants to work in the field doing site investigations, and traveling to remote areas can be a component of their jobs. Geology consultants may do much of their work independently and interact directly with clients. Consulting firms may prefer to hire licensed geologists who have several years of experience and a master's degree.
In addition to having a solid grasp of how to perform geological analyses and interpretations, there are other skills that a geology consultant may need in order to be successful. Most employers require geology consultants to possess excellent written, verbal and presentation skills in order to produce reports, maps and technical documents and communicate effectively with clients. Project management experience is also desirable, along with good planning capabilities and organizational skills.
According to the BLS, there were 34,690 geoscientists employed in the U.S. in May 2013, not counting geographers or hydrologists. Of this group, 4,890 were providing services for technical or scientific consulting firms. At that time, the BLS reported that these consultants earned an annual average salary of $83,490. Additionally, the BLS noted that the highest paid geoscientists were found in Oklahoma and Texas.
The BLS also reported that 6,540 hydrologists were working in the U.S. in May 2013. About 1,580 of those worked for consulting firms. An average annual salary of $83,220 was estimated by the BLS for hydrology consultants. California companies and organizations employed the highest number of hydrologists, though the BLS reported that those working in New Jersey received the highest wages.
Job prospects for geoscientists - the BLS occupational category that includes geologists - and hydrologists appear to be bright. The BLS predicted a 16% increase in employment for geoscientists as a group from 2012-2022; this is faster than the average for all U.S. occupations. The anticipated increase in demand was primarily expected in energy, environmental and water management industries, though the BLS noted that more geoscientists would pursue consulting positions during this period.
Hydrologists can expect 10% job growth during the same period, which is about as fast as the average. Demand will derive from the need to monitor, access and manager global climate changes to water resources.
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