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Difference Between Geologist & Geophysicist

Geologists and geophysicists often have a great deal of crossover study within their professions. This article discusses the differences between these two geoscientific careers, as well as some interesting financial statistics.

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Comparing Geologists to Geophysicists

Geologists are geoscientists who study mostly in the field on the materials that make up our planet. Geophysicists are also geoscientists who study the earth more often in laboratory settings. Below is a comparison of these positions and some statistics on salaries and job growth.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary* (2017) Job Growth** (2014-2024)
Geologists Bachelor's Degree $58,559 10% (geoscientists, except hydrologists and geographers)
Geophysicists Bachelor's Degree $88,581 10% (geoscientists, except hydrologists and geographers)

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

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Responsibilities of Geologists vs. Geophysicists

Geologists and geophysicists are both geoscientists, or scientists who study the planet and its structure. Both have an expertise in what the earth is made of and how the different parts work together. Geologists use a variety of field testing materials to analyze the planet's magnetic system, the rock formations, gravity, minerals and more. Geophysicists, depending on whom they work for, may spend more time in a lab going over statistics to help energy companies find oil and gas, or help states plan for earthquakes. Although a bachelor's degree is sufficient for entry-level jobs, many positions in both of these geoscience areas require a master's degree or Ph.D.

Geologists

Geology is the study of the earth - its crust, core, and all the materials that make up the planet. Geologists research the world's surface and core in person to determine the effects of things like climate on the firmament, both in the past and the present. They travel to earthquake and volcano sites to determine causes, study the after effects, and look for any possible warning signs. These experts may be hired by mining companies to go into areas to aid in finding valuable minerals or seek new oil sources.

Job responsibilities of a geologist include:

  • Collecting data from geological sites for different studies
  • Overseeing work being done at active geological sites
  • Communicating with site employees, government regulators, and other scientists
  • Presenting investigations, findings and data to diverse groups

Geophysicists

Geophysicists, for the most part, could be called laboratory geologists. These scientists do many of the same things as geologists but do not travel as much to actual study sites. Geophysicists collect data from a variety of sources and scientists and spend time in labs analyzing that material to prove geological theories or make geologic finds, like valuable minerals. They may work on areas involving environmental problems, suitable construction sites, or discovering more about the planet's past.

Job responsibilities of a geophysicist include:

  • Using computer software for 3-D visualization of geological sites
  • Using calculations to determine possible digs and other sites
  • Creating and reviewing geoscience contracts
  • Verifying various data, tests and evaluations to assess viability of study

Related Careers

A related career might include anthropology, as geologists study the past of the planet, and anthropologists study the origins of humans. Geophysicists, who spend many hours poring over geological data, could find themselves looking in detail at weather and climate data in the alternate career of a meteorologist.

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