Difference Between Geologist & Paleontologist

Geologists and paleontologists follow somewhat similar education paths, yet have differing goals in the end. This article provides you with vital information on these geoscience careers as well as some job growth info too.

Comparing Mortgage Geologists to Paleontologists

Geologists are scientists who study the earth and its various processes and materials. Paleontologists are scientists that study ancient life on the planet through fossil remains. Below is a comparison of these two scientific geoscience fields along with some salary information as well.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary* (2017) Job Growth** (2014-2024)
Geologists Doctorate preferred $58,559 10% (for all geoscientists, except hydrologists and geographers)
Paleontologists Doctorate preferred $60,265 10% (for all geoscientists, except hydrologists and geographers)

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

Responsibilities of Geologiosts vs. Paleontologists

Geologists and paleontologists are scientists who both study certain systems of the planet Earth and its past. Both are interested in where we came from. Geologists show an interest in the rocks, formations, earth changes, and the effect of humans on the planet's ecosystems. Paleontologists study the ancient ways of life for animals and plants on the planet and the cultures who may have lived there as well.


Geologists study much more than just rocks. They may be found looking closely at such things as earthquakes, volcanoes, and major landslides; their causes and after-effects. They work to understand the Earth's firmament and its metals, energy sources, rocks and history. Geologists look to the planet's future by working to understand the material make-up. They want to see what makes the planet and how it may be altered by changes to the geology.

Job responsibilities of a geologist include:

  • Collecting data and research for geologic databases
  • Questioning findings for historical accuracy
  • Teaching at the university level
  • Presenting evidence and findings to community, scientific and government groups


Paleontologists study the fossils of the past to better understand the evolution of life on this planet. These scientists look at the fossil sites of dinosaurs and other ancient bones of extinct animals to discover more information about the history of humankind and animals. These fossils of fungi, bacteria, bone and plants tell a lot about our history, like what may have killed off certain animals, cultures or plants.

Job responsibilities of a paleontologist include:

  • Traveling to possible fossil sites to find samples of ancient beings
  • Guiding teams in finding sites, samples, or ancient bones
  • Taking samples of findings and sending them away for further research
  • Instructing and mentoring graduate assistants in the field

Related Careers

There are several career fields related to paleontology and geology. Geologists could seek possible employment as environmental engineers working with the planet to build structures that are not only pleasing to the eye but work with nature as well. Aspiring paleontologists could look at becoming anthropologists instead - studying human behavior and its origin.

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