Geologist: Educational Requirements for Entering the Field of Geology

Aug 20, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a geologist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about geologist education, training, job duties and licensing to find out if this is the career for you.

Geologists study the Earth to gain an understanding of how it was formed and the structural changes currently happening. Doing so allows them to predict what may happen to the planet in the future. Bachelor's degrees in the discipline are common, but master's and doctorate degrees are also available.

Essential Information

A branch of geosciences, geology is the study of the materials that compose the Earth's crust. Geologists analyze rocks, formations and other geologic structures in order to understand how the Earth has changed and evolved over time.

What education is needed to become a geologist? Though some private companies only require a bachelor's degree, more specialized positions usually require a master's or doctorate degree.

Required Education Bachelor's degree (for private industry jobs), master's or doctorate (for more specialized positions)
Other Requirements Some states require geologists to be licensed or registered
Projected Job Growth (2016-2026) 14% for geoscientists, except hydrologists and geographers*
Median Salary (2018) $91,130 for geoscientists, except hydrologists and geographers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to Become a Geologist

To become a geologist, one must obtain a college degree in geology. Specific geologist degree requirements depend on the employer. Some geologists working for private industries may only be required to have a bachelor's degree. Specialized positions, such as consulting for companies in the oil industry or professorships in the geosciences, generally require a master's or doctoral degree.

How long does it take to become a geologist? Students can expect to spend around 4 years pursuing a bachelor's degree in geology, with an additional 2-6 years of graduate study to obtain a master's or doctoral degree.

Bachelor's Degree Program in Geology

Students preparing for a career as a geologist may enroll in a bachelor's degree program in geology, earth sciences or a related scientific field. These programs generally begin with fundamental courses in science and mathematics. Courses may then progress to specific topics in science including geology, mineralogy, thermal physics and petrology. Programs typically include laboratory courses that may introduce students to using scientific tools, like microscopes, to analyze rocks, sediments and fossils.

Graduate Programs in Geology

Graduate programs cover concepts in plate tectonics, petrogenesis and other advanced geological topics. These programs often include field study and research projects in geophysics, soil physics or geochemistry. Students at this level may also choose to specialize in specific areas like environmental geology. Special topics may include measuring the effects of gravity on soil or analyzing soil sediments to ascertain information about a particular area of geological history.

Geology Career Information

Geologists study the materials that make up the Earth, allowing them to work in a number of industries ranging from excavation to education. Oil and gas exploration companies may use geologists to estimate the difficulty of drilling through the Earth to reach a petroleum reservoir. A mining company may employ exploration geologists to find the location of mineral deposits. Geologists may also teach students from primary school to college. Other careers may include working as an environmental geologist for a governmental agency charged with protecting the environment and natural resources.

Licensing and Registration

Some states may require geologists to hold a professional license or be registered. In South Carolina, according to the state legislature, law mandates geologists in public practice must be registered. According to the Washington State Legislature, geologists must be licensed to practice in the state.

To become registered, according to the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited school, have a minimum of five years experience in the field, receive approval from the South Carolina Board of Registration for Geologists and pass the National Association of State Boards of Geology (ASBOG) exam. According to the Washington State Department of Licensing, requirements to become licensed include holding an approved college degree, having at least five years of professional experience in the field, providing personal references and passing the ASBOG exam.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that geoscientists could expect a 14% growth in the field from 2016 to 2026. Opportunities should be best for those with graduate degrees. Geoscientists (except hydrologists and geographers) made a median salary of $91,130 per year as of May 2018.

Geologists study the Earth, including minerals, processes, formation, and overall history. A bachelor's degree is usually required and an advanced degree is required for specialized positions.

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