Difference Between Geologist & Geotechnical Engineer

May 29, 2020

Comparing Geologists to Geotechnical Engineers

Geologists are students of the planet - its processes and make-up. Geotechnical engineers are civil engineers who utilize their knowledge of geology to aid in the design and construction of structures, depending on the mechanics of the surrounding geology. Below is a comparison and contrast of these two geological careers, as well as some financial information.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2020)* Job Growth (2018-2028)**
Geologist Bachelor's Degree minimum $58,730 6% (geoscientists)
Geotechnical Engineers Bachelor's Degree minimum $66,746 6% (civil engineers)

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

Responsibilities of Geologists vs. Geotechnical Engineers

Geoscience is a general term for a variety of specialized fields, including geologists who pay close attention to the earth's crust and core to discover our planet's past and how we fit into the environment of the future. Geotechnical engineers are engineers with a geological background whose expertise it is to use that knowledge to design buildings and structural foundations that adhere to the area's geological offerings. Both of these professionals have a strong background in soil, rock and groundwater studies, only for different reasons.


Geologists have a variety of functions that range from working as educators to geoscientists. These men and women spend time at geological sites running tests and surveys, collecting samples and performing ground assessments. They might be studying the area for a construction team or as researchers looking for earth science information. Often these scientists are looking at the relationship of humanity to the environment over centuries and eons by studying the rocks, formations, fossils and other materials.

Job responsibilities of a geologist include:

  • Collaborating with other geoscientists or environmental students
  • Investigating data and aerial photos for information
  • Preparing analysis reports
  • Presenting findings to students, clients or other experts

Geotechnical Engineers

Geotechnical engineers are experts at what can happen to the land to make it hazardous or become a problem when trying to build something on it. They might look at how climate affects things such as landslides, earthquakes or soil erosion. They might be hired by energy companies to help discover new oil or gas fields or information on areas where fracking might be possible. They are vital in the preparation of structures like railroad tracks, bridges, tunnels, or other roadways. Their knowledge of geology and engineering is very important to making sure things get built properly.

Job responsibilities of a geotechnical engineer include:

  • Consulting other geo and engineering professionals
  • Supervising on site construction of structures
  • Creating reports of pretesting as well as ongoing assessments
  • Ensuring environmental soundness of operations throughout projects

Related Careers

Those interested in these professions will find several excellent related careers available; for instance, individuals who are looking at geology might want to consider becoming a geochemist to seek out the secrets of how minerals in the earth mix and work together. Geotechnical engineers are key to building environmentally fit structures, and a similar profession might be that of mechanical engineering, where professionals can design and build a variety of useful machines and engines for different household products.

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