How to Become a Geologist (Duties, Salary and Steps)

Love rocks, fossils and volcanoes? Here’s a job for you.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

How to become a geologist

Are you passionate about the Earth and its natural resources? Are you fascinated by scientific research? Then a career in geology might be just the right choice for you.

Keep reading to find out everything there is to know about becoming a geologist, including what they do, how much they earn, and the entry requirements for this exciting field.

What is a geologist?

Geology is an applied science centered around the study of the Earth’s history, evolution and processes.

A geologist’s job involves collecting and analyzing data on natural phenomena and materials, and they rely on geophysical information to conduct their research. They’re often tasked with compiling studies and reports of their findings through their fieldwork.

What are the different types of geologists?

Geology is a diverse field, encompassing several specializations and areas of expertise. The following are just a few niches within this field:

  • Environmental geologists: Studying the interaction between the Earth’s environment and human activity such as urbanization, pollution and natural disasters.
  • Economic geologists: Dealing with the formation and extraction of natural resources, like metal ores, fossil fuels and other materials, for commercial use.
  • Geochemists: Researching the composition, structure and processes of certain geological areas by examining the distribution of chemical elements in rocks and minerals.
  • Marine geologists: Focused on the study of areas affected by oceans, such as the deep ocean floor, coasts and shallower slopes.
  • Geomorphologists: Studying landforms and their evolution due to terrestrial and extraterrestrial phenomena.
  • Seismologists: Specializing in geophysics and the study of earthquakes and other related phenomena such as volcanic eruptions.

What do geologists do?

As it has already been established, geology is a diverse field with numerous areas of study.  Geologists’ duties and responsibilities may vary from one specialization to the next, but they also share many commonalities. A day in the life of a geologist often involves:

  • Visiting different locations of natural sites to conduct surveys of these areas
  • Compiling geological data for evaluation
  • Collecting samples for research and analysis
  • Producing models that simulate geological processes
  • Mapping geological features including rock formations and mineral deposits
  • Creating and publishing reports concerning their fieldwork findings

Where do they work?

Usually, geologists are employed by academic institutions, government bodies, engineering companies and environmental agencies. Depending on their role, they may be part of a scientific team or work as a sole geological consultant on staff.

The work of a geologist often requires them to be outdoors, conducting fieldwork around their related area of specialization. This often involves travel to different locations, sometimes in hazardous conditions, where they can study and collect samples for their research.

That said, geologists may also find themselves in offices and laboratories, where they carry out further studies, write reports, conduct lab tests and experiments, and consult with clients about their findings.

How many hours do geologists work?

Depending on their work environment, the workday of a geologist could span from 8 to 10 hours.

That said, when conducting fieldwork, they may find themselves working longer, irregular hours to complete their research in time. This is often because geologists often need to visit sites in remote locations or that are only accessible during specific seasons.

Consequently, having the flexibility and willingness to work overtime or on weekends may be necessary to accommodate their work and complete ongoing projects.

How much do geologists earn?

The average annual wage for geoscientists, including geologists, is $104,560, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What is more, the average hourly pay amounts to $50.27.

Of course, your salary as an entry-level geologist will vary significantly from a senior-level colleague, but as you advance through your career, you can expect to earn a far higher wage.

Where you are based will also play a role in your potential salary. In the US, Texas is leading the way as the top-paying state with an annual mean wage of $145,600 for geoscientists. This is followed by the District of Columbia ($133,950), Oklahoma ($131,800), Colorado ($118,600) and Alaska ($109,920).

In a snapshot:

Geologist Salary Infographic

What is the job outlook for geologists?

Based on data compiled by BLS, employment opportunities are expected to grow by 5% from 2022 to 2032. This is a rate that is faster than average among all occupations, which is a sign of growth within this scientific field.

So, if you’re an aspiring geologist, you can rejoice in knowing that more employment opportunities will be steadily becoming available in the field over the next decade. This increasing demand suggests a positive job outlook.

What are the entry requirements?

If you’re thinking of pursuing this career path, then consider the following requirements:


A bachelor’s degree in geology, geological engineering or geosciences is necessary to be eligible for entry-level positions. In some cases, a master’s degree in a specific specialization may also be required by employers and will certainly be advantageous for you.

Skills and qualities

The following are just a few examples of the skills and qualities you’ll need to succeed as a geologist:

  • Physical stamina: Carrying out fieldwork in outdoor locations can be physically demanding and requires a certain level of fitness.
  • Critical thinking: Being a critical thinker is instrumental to analyze and evaluate data and information logically and meticulously.
  • Communication skills: Geologists must convey information to different audiences, from fellow scientists to other stakeholders, in a clear and concise manner.
  • Collaboration: Being able to work as part of a scientific team and collaborate on projects is a necessary ability.
  • Data collection: A large part of this job involves the collection, processing and analysis of geological data, which is why honing this skill is a must.

Licenses and certifications

Besides the basic educational requirements, you may also need to acquire specific licenses and certifications to work as a geologist. However, these will vary by state, so it would be wise to check regional provisions and licensure requirements. In most cases, you must pass an examination to secure these licenses and certifications.

Do you have what it takes?

Before embarking on any career, it’s important to consider whether it would be a good choice for you. Many professions can sound exciting and interesting at first, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you would enjoy doing them.

When it comes to geology, take into account both the subject matter that this field is focused on, as well as the lifestyle that comes along with this career choice. If being outdoors, conducting research and analyzing geological information check every box for you, then this could be a viable option.

That said, if you want to make sure that your personality, skills and interests are truly compatible with this career path, then you can always take a career test such as CareerHunter to gain deeper insights into your professional motivations.

How to become a geologist

Have you determined that geology is the right choice for you? Then follow these steps to embark on a successful career journey:

Step 1: Get a bachelor’s degree

Completing a bachelor’s degree is necessary for budding geologists, as it is the minimum requirement for any entry-level role.

There are numerous geology and geoscience programs available, but consider the classes, specializations and training opportunities offered by each academic institution before making your choice. You should pick the one that meets most of your interests and is closely aligned with your academic goals.

Step 2: Seek training opportunities

During your undergraduate studies, it’s crucial to pursue training opportunities in the form of internships, volunteer trips, fellowships and independent projects.

This will allow you to gain valuable experience and training, giving you a head-start in the field. What’s more, you’ll be able to make professional contacts, which could come in handy after graduation.

Step 3: Choose your specialization

As you gain experience in the field, you’ll also begin to discover specific subject interests. For example, you may be fascinated by Earth’s history or curious about seismic and volcanic activity.

The more exposed you become to different geological subjects, the easier it will be for you to designate what areas you are truly interested in. Choosing one to specialize in will give you direction both in academic and professional terms, allowing you to enrich your knowledge and pursue opportunities that you will be passionate about.

Step 4: Pursue an advanced degree

Once you have settled on an area of specialization, pursuing an advanced degree will allow you to expand your knowledge and hone new skills. Additionally, with an advanced degree, you will be eligible for senior positions and increase your salary prospects. Therefore, furthering your education is a great way to advance your career trajectory.

Step 5: Obtain necessary licenses and certifications

To be able to practice as a geologist, it is pertinent to obtain the necessary licenses and certifications in the area that you wish to work in. As aforementioned, each state has individual requirements, so doing your due diligence is an important step in your career journey.

Beyond the necessary licensure, consider attaining additional certificates that could boost your employability and make you an asset to any scientific team you will be part of.

Final thoughts

Geology is a vastly fascinating career path with great prospects and exciting opportunities.

To get your foot through the door of this particular field, you will need to focus on securing the right educational credentials as well as the necessary experience. Beyond that, you will have the flexibility to build a career trajectory based on your interests as a budding Earth scientist.

Are you considering a career in geology? Got any questions for us? Let us know in the comments section below.