Environmental geologists study the physical characteristics and composition of the earth and its natural resources. They perform field or lab work using a variety of tools and software to collect data and conduct research. Environmental geologists might work for engineering firms, oil and gas companies or government agencies. Some environmental geologists travel to collect data. Their work can be physically demanding and include long hours while in the field.
Career Skills & Info
Environmental geologists must be knowledgeable about federal and state environmental regulations and have good critical thinking, lab and writing skills. Between 2014 and 2024, geoscientists can expect a 10%, or faster-than-average, growth in jobs as projected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As of May 2015, geoscientists, excluding geographers and hydrologists, earned an average of $105,720 a year.
Step 1: Bachelor's Degree
Aspiring environmental geologists usually need a bachelor's degree in a geoscience-related major, like geology or environmental science. To qualify for employment, some employers may consider candidates who have a degree in another life or physical science, engineering or math if they've taken any courses in geology. Bachelor's degree programs in geoscience usually take about 4 years to complete. They include coursework and labs in physical geology, mineralogy and geophysics.
Here's some success tips:
- Gain field and lab experience. Some colleges offer summer programs and internships that can give students hands-on experience in the field and in laboratories while they work toward their degrees.
- Develop strong skills in computer modeling, data analysis and digital mapping. Employers typically look for candidates with excellent computer skills and knowledge of computer-drafting software.
Step 2: Employment
Hiring requirements for environmental geologists can range from 0-5 years of experience. New graduates in entry-level positions may perform site evaluations, gather and interpret data, draft site plans and write technical reports.
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Step 3: License
Environmental geologists in some states must have a professional license. Licensing requirements vary by state but often include a degree in the geological sciences, relevant work experience and personal references. Candidates for licensure must also pass the National Association of State Boards of Geology (ASBOG) exam. Those with an engineering degree may qualify for a Professional Engineering license after fulfilling their state's experience and exam requirements.
Here's another success tip:
- Become HAZWOPER certified. HAZWOPER, which stands for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response, is a 40-hour certification program offered through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Candidates for certification learn how to respond to and clean up hazardous material accidents and stay safe in hazardous situations. Some employers prefer applicants with this credential.
Step 4: Master's Degree
Environmental geologists with a master's degree in geology or a related field may enjoy a competitive edge when securing work or seeking advancement. A master's degree program may include advanced topics in environmental change, biodiversity, groundwater and the impact of pollution.
Remember, environmental geologists typically need a bachelor's degree in a geological science to qualify for an entry-level job in the field. The average salary for a geoscientist in May 2015 was $105,720 a year.