Geologist Career Information with Education Requirements

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

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Someone who's interested and concerned with Earth's natural resources may want to look into a career as a geologist. They can study myriad things and be employed in a variety of industries. Geologists need at least a bachelor's in geology, or master's degree if they seek higher positions; mandatory licensure varies by state. A generous salary can also be expected.

Essential Information

Geologists study Earth's structures and materials, as well as the processes that affect them over time. Education requirements vary according to a candidate's career path, but a bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement to work as a geologist. Upper-level research and teaching positions in geology require a graduate degree. Some geologist positions may require a license, depending on the state.

Required Education Bachelor's degree at minimum; master's degree or doctorate for research and/or teaching
Licensure Required in some states for geologists who offer public services
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 10% for all geoscientists (except geographers and hydrologists)
Median Salary (2015)* $89,700 for all geoscientists (except geographers and hydrologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Information for Geologists

Geologists prepare and study maps of the Earth and analyze geological data to understand how past changes on Earth may influence its future. Their work involves collecting water and soil samples in the field, analyzing fossil data in laboratories and preparing scientific reports in offices. Many career paths are available to geologists, and career outlooks vary among different sectors.

Career Options

Most geologists choose an area of focus, such as mineralogy, volcanology, hydrology or oceanography. Employment opportunities are available in the oil and gas, mineral, environment, government and education sectors.

Those working in the oil and gas or mineral industries help mining companies locate and extract natural resources and ensure safe waste disposal. Environmental geologists may work for private companies or consulting firms to help manage water resources, for instance. State or federal government agencies, such as the U.S. Geological Survey or Department of Energy, employ geologists for research and problem-solving assignments. Other geologists teach and perform research at the college level.

Career Outlook

According to the American Geological Institute, job prospects for new geologists are promising, as the number of retirees in the workforce exceeds the number of geology graduates (www.agiweb.org). Job openings in the geosciences field, except for hydrology and geography jobs, are expected to grow by 10% in the period from 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov).

Salaries vary by sector. Also per the Bureau, the median salary for geoscientists, including geologists, was around $89,700 in 2015. Professionals in the oil and gas extraction industry earned the highest wages, at an average of $147,490; however, demand for these jobs fluctuates with the economy.

Education Requirements

Most geologist positions require a master's degree; however, entry-level positions are available for graduates with a bachelor's degree. Upper-level supervisory positions, research assignments and teaching positions at a university require a doctoral degree. Geology programs include the study of mineralogy, petrology, paleontology, stratigraphy and structural geology, as well as physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and engineering. Geologists who offer their services directly to the public may need to be licensed in their state. Requirements vary but generally include a minimum level of education and experience, as well as the passing of an exam.

With the declining state our planet is currently in, geologists are crucial in keeping it sustained. They may study bodies of water, oil or mineral sources, and rocks. It's not easy work, so a master's or even doctoral degree are recommended, but a bachelor's will suffice for a beginner. Geologists make a large salary, which differs by what job they have and what industry they work in.

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