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Difference Between Geologist & Geographer

The words 'geologist' and 'geographer' both share the same prefix that means 'earth'. As you might expect, both geologists and geographers are involved with studying the earth. Although the job titles sound similar, each career has distinct responsibilities.

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Comparing Geologists to Geographers

Geologists and geographers both study and analyze the earth, but in different ways. Geologists study things below the crust of the earth and the makeup of the earth itself, while geographers study phenomena above the crust of the earth and the human impact.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary Job Growth (2014-2024)**
Geologists Bachelor's Degree $58,467 (2017)* 10% (for all geoscientists except geographers and hydrologists)
Geographers Bachelor's Degree $74,260 (2016)** -2%

Sources: *PayScale.com; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Geologists vs. Geographers

Geologists work with things that are found in the earth such as rocks, sediment and strata. They analyze the contents of the ground and how to take advantage of the features of the earth, like useful mineral and oil deposits. Meanwhile, geographers study phenomena above the ground and how the features of the planet - ranging from climate to landforms like mountains - affect humanity.

Geologists

In order to accurately study the earth, geologists need a background in geoscience, which incorporates study of geology as well as related physical sciences, like chemistry. A geologist will divide their time between working in an office, where they might analyze data and write up reports of their findings, and working in a laboratory, where they would conduct tests on things like rock and mineral samples. Much of their time is also spent outside performing field studies, sometimes in very remote areas. Because of this, they'll need general outdoor skills and stamina in addition to other job skills such as critical thinking ability, problem-solving skills and communication skills for writing reports.

Job responsibilities of a geologist include:

  • Investigating sites and taking samples
  • Studying how features of the earth developed
  • Sharing their findings with other scientists
  • Using tools like x-rays on samples
  • Operating GIS software

Geographers

Geographers relate many aspects of human life to the land, such as how a language, disease or particular industry develops in a certain location. While researching things like climate, natural resources and landforms, geographers are often found out in the field. Creating maps to better view their data is a large part of their job, and they may use tools like GIS and GPS software. Because of this, computer skills and analytical skills are important for the job. Since geographers must write up reports and share their research findings, like many other scientists, they also need communication and writing skills.

Job responsibilities of a geographer include:

  • Conducting surveys and interviews to collect data
  • Advising the government and organizations on things like planning roads, based on their maps and data
  • Using remote sensing equipment
  • Studying population density in different regions

Related Careers

If you are interested in the job of a geologist, you might also want to find out about becoming a seismologist, which is a related geoscience career that focuses on earthquakes. Those who are interested in becoming a geographer could also be interested in being a meteorologist, since they study climate as well, but with a more specific focus on the weather.

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