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How to Become a Geologist in the US

Geologists, also known as geoscientists, study the material composition and structure of the earth and the physical changes it has undergone over time. They use the collected information to locate natural resources such as oil and gas or to mitigate various natural disasters including earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. If you are interested in Science and Geology then this could be the career path for you.

What Do Geologists Do?

Geologists generally do the following;

  • Locate natural resources like water, oil and gas.
  • Predict and mitigate natural disasters like volcanic eruptions or earthquakes
  • Carry out soil tests to maintain agricultural productivity
  • Study climate patterns, changes and effects
  • Conduct construction site surveys to ensure the safety of construction projects
  • Explain the continuous changes in the earth’s structure.

Geologists can specialize in geophysics, geochemistry, petroleum geology, and seismology or engineering geology where they can have more specific responsibilities.

Work Environment

Most geologists work outdoors in mining, drilling or extraction sites. They may work long and irregular hours depending on the work at hand. Those working in an office or laboratory setup have regular 9am to 5pm schedules.

While working in remote locations such as deserts or icy places, geologists wear protective clothes to prevent injuries.


The top-paying and largest employers of geologists are:


Mean Annual Pay

Oil and gas extraction firms


Federal government agencies


Engineering firms


Scientific and technical consulting firms


State government agencies


Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education and Licensure

To qualify as a geologist, you need at least a bachelor’s degree in geology. The following fields are also accepted, as long as they cover geology coursework:

  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Engineering
  • Computer science
  • Physical science

Geology students looking to gain laboratory and fieldwork experience can attend summer field camp programs as they provide opportunities to work with geology professors.

In some states, geologists need to be certified or licensed in order to work. Although the requirements for licensure vary from state to state, you need to have a bachelor’s degree and pass an examination.

Important Skills and Qualities

Success as a geologist entails having:

  • Excellent observation and analytical skills
  • A love for nature
  • Scientific and technical skills
  • Good communication skills
  • The ability to work under hostile environments
  • The willingness to work as an individual and in a team.

Career Advancement

After finding work you can opt to pursue a master’s or PhD in a field that is relevant to geology. This will enable you to secure management positions, or move into and teaching in universities.

You can also join professional bodies such as the Geological Society of America and the American Institute of Professional Geologists for networking and career development opportunities.

Job Prospects and Outlook

As a qualified geologist, you should focus on hunting for a job in the South Central U.S. Many oil and gas firms are located in this region.

You can also find job opportunities and more information on geology in the following professional publications and websites;

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there will be an average of 6,000 job opportunities in the field of geology between 2012 and 2022. This is a reassuring figure for people interested in becoming geologists.

Finally, the earth is a beautiful planet filled with resources that are yet to be discovered. Geologists will always be needed to help identify these resources, as well as sustain its beauty. So if you feel you have the necessary attributes and are interested in this field this could be the job for you.

Image: istock

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