Find Your Career Path – Cool Jobs in Geology

Geology is a fascinating study of the Earth. One of the most appealing aspects of the field is the many different types of careers that you can have with a degree in geology. We receive many questions through our Ask-a-Geologist feature about how you can become a geologist. Many people want to know if being a geologist is fun, what types of classes you need to earn a degree, what type of degree you need and what types of jobs are available once you get out of school. I will try to answer you here, but if you have more questions, just ask!

Is Being a Geologist Fun?
Yes! That is an easy question. There is always something new to learn and discover in geology. If you love rocks and minerals give geology a try. 

How to Become a Geologist
If you are lucky enough to know that you want to be a geologist when you are in high school, take as many science and math courses as you can. You will be better off if you have a solid foundation in these subjects. As you search for a college, look for universities that have strong geology and sciences programs. The type of career that you hope to have will help you decide what school to choose. A good question to ask the geology professors as you visit different schools is “What types of jobs do your recent graduates hold?” If many of their graduates are working in your field of interest then that school may be a good choice for you. For example, if you are interested in the environment, look for schools that have many alumni who are environmental consultants. If you are interested in petroleum geology and searching for oil, find a college that has alumni in the oil industry.

The College and Graduate School Years
Your university geology department will map out the classes you need to obtain your Bachelor of Science degree. During college, it is a good idea to work during the summer months at a company that specializes in your field of interest. Even if you work as an unpaid intern, it will give you valuable insight to the types of projects and disciplines that you may enjoy. While you are in college, take as many science and math classes as you can, even if they are not required. Organic chemistry and high-level math can be very helpful in a scientific career. Also, spend one summer attending a Field Camp for geologists to learn field-mapping skills.

Once you graduate with a Bachelor of Science in geology, you can choose to begin your working career or you can continue in school to earn a Master’s Degree and/or a PhD. While advanced degrees are not necessary for all positions, you can typically specialize in your field of interest and increase your chances of obtaining job in your chosen field after you graduate with extra schooling.

For those of you who dream of running your own company, I recommend that you take some businesses courses in college or earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree in graduate school. A solid background in both geology and business can boost your career.

Professional Geologist License
Once you have completed school and begun to work, contact the licensing board for geologists in your state. Each state is slightly different, but there is usually a professional license available to you. Typically, you are required to have a specified number of years of experience in a geology field before you can take the test to earn your professional license. It is always worth trying to obtain your professional license as a geologist.

Profession:  Environmental Consulting
Environmental consulting is a popular career these days. Many people do not truly understand what it means to be an environmental consultant. There is a difference between a consultant and an activist. A consultant’s job is to help their client meet the requirements of the environmental laws. If you want to help make our environment safe for its inhabitants, this job may be for you. An environmental consultant is not the same as an environmental activist who encourages state and federal governments to tighten and enforce environmental laws. Environmental consultants often work for individuals and industries that can be the targets of environmental activists.   Regardless of your degree, a new consultant is often asked to perform field work. Environmental field work involves collecting soil and water samples, researching the history of a property, installing groundwater monitoring wells, evaluating site data, overseeing the installation of remediation systems or underground storage tank removals. Entry-level geologists work under the direction of another geologist. As you gain more experience, you may have your own projects to work on and manage. The best way to move to larger projects is to perform very well at your entry-level job. Do not be afraid to ask questions and to ask a new employer to allow you to work on a variety of projects. Follow this work ethic with any jobs discussed here and you will have a long and prosperous career in geology.

Profession:  Petroleum Geologist
Petroleum geology is a very exciting field because it involves identifying the unknown. Petroleum geologists are involved with finding and recovering underground oil and natural gas. This exciting field incorporates both office work such as mapping and analyzing data from lithologic logs and seismic data and field work such as visiting on-shore and off-shore drill rigs.

Profession:  Paleontologist
Paleontology is one of the most exciting specialty fields in the geological sciences. The Earth is constantly changing and forming the environment around us and with that is the challenge of finding the clues to life before humans. With a degree in geology / paleontology, there are many types of jobs that you can form into a career. For example, many paleontologists today work as researchers, teachers and consultants looking for clues to the location of new fossils and using the fossils they find to help tell the story of our world.  

Profession:  Hydrogeologist
Hydrogeology is a very exciting field because is deals with groundwater and its dynamic movement beneath the surface of the Earth. With a degree in geology, you can work as a hydrogeologist in many fields. Hydrogeologists work as environmental consultants, in the oil and gas industry, as regulators and as researchers. Hydrogeology is the study of the water below ground that flows through the sediments and rocks until it reaches a lake, stream, spring, river or ocean. Hydrogeologists collect data from underground and extrapolate the information to fit a reasonable model of a larger subsurface area. Hydrogeologists study groundwater to develop methods to conserve our natural resources as well as protect soil and groundwater from contamination. When the soil or groundwater is contaminated from a chemical release, hydrogeologists work with engineers to design and implement a cleanup method. 

Profession:  Geology Professor
Being a Geology Professor is an exciting career. Professors teach classes and perform research studies. There are opportunities for Geology Professors to travel on research trips and to conferences. As a professor, you are able to specialize in many different areas of geology so you are sure to find a specialty that fits your interests and personality. If you want to teach but are not interested in a PhD program, you can teach elementary, middle school or high school science as well. Once you graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Geology, you will need to attend graduate school to earn a PhD. While you are in graduate school, you can narrow your field of study and focus on a particular area of geology. Once you have earned your PhD you will be eligible to apply for teaching positions at colleges and universities. University professors often lead the research that discovers new ideas about how our Earth formed, the best ways to care for land and new methods to clean up pollution.|

Profession:  Regulatory Geologist
Each state and the federal government have geologists on staff who review the information submitted by residents and companies that concern the environment and our natural resources. These geologist help to determine laws and guidelines for groundwater use, remediation of spills, pollution limits and conservation activities. Some geologists, such as those at the United States Geological Survey, also perform research similar to university professors to find new ways to conserve our resources and help our environment.   

Got Questions?
If you are unsure if geology is right for you, ask questions. Geologists are typically very nice and love to talk about their work so do not be afraid to ask. You can start by asking us! Send us an email and we will get back with you. If we can, we will try to get you in touch with other geologists who may be able to answer your questions.

Are you a geologist? Do you have a cool job that we did not mention here? Email us! We would love to hear from you and add to our list of Cool Geology Jobs!

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