How to Become a Geophysicist: Career Path Guide
If you want to become a geophysicist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a geophysicist:
Those who become geophysicists have a keen interest in studying the structure and composition of the earth. They also have a natural aptitude in science and mathematics, and an advanced education in physics and geology.
To become a geophysicist, you need to be comfortable with the idea of working indoors and outdoors, as well as comfortable with working in remote locations.
Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a geophysicist. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!
Education Needed to Become a Geophysicist
To become a geophysicist, you need to develop a strong background in geology, physics and mathematics. It is also important to have skills in research, and skills working with various computer programs, such as mapping programs and data collection and analysis programs.
To acquire this knowledge base and skill set you typically need to pursue an undergraduate degree in science, with a major in geophysics, geoscience or a combined geology and physics program. Having an undergraduate degree in one of these areas will qualify you to work an entry-level geophysics job, such as Research Assistant.
If you want to become a geophysicist who works as a consultant or a researcher, you will need a Master of Science degree in any of the aforementioned fields, or a closely related field. To become a geophysicist who works in senior research and university teaching positions a Ph.D. is typically needed.
Success Tip: Find a graduate school that suits your interests and ambitions! Many universities in Canada, the United States and abroad offer graduate degrees in Geophysics. Choosing a program should largely be based on what area of geophysics you are interested in. You can find out what various professors are interested and involved in at different university departments by looking at department websites or reading geophysical journals.
Geophysicist Job Description
Geophysicists are responsible for studying the structure, composition and behavior of the earth using a variety of methods and equipment. The study of the earth’s structure and composition also involves the study of oceans, gravity, and magnetic and electrical fields.
Some geophysicists are strictly involved in research, while others may apply geophysical knowledge for a variety of purposes, such as evaluating earth properties for environmental hazards, evaluating areas for construction sites locating underground water sources, locating geological faults, or to find minerals such as oil, iron and copper.
Geophysicist Job Description
• Collect, acquire and interpret data
• Identify areas to be surveyed and determine the appropriate survey methods
• Estimate the costs of operations
• Make necessary arrangements to enter and survey an area
• Monitor crew activities during field operations
• Monitor seismic activities during field operations
• Study the processed geophysical data and determine the type, shape and location of rock structures underground
• May study and interpret information on sediments, mineral and rock compositions and geologic structure to determine where oil and gas deposits are most likely to occur
• May use seismic, electrical and electromagnetic techniques, and other techniques such as ground penetrating radar to evaluate ground water quality or assess hazards
Gaining Geophysicist Career Experience
An important part of becoming a geophysicist is obtaining first-hand experience in the field. Such opportunities can be found via fieldtrips with academic or government organizations (largely dependent on where you live), or internships with these organizations as well as geophysical consulting companies.
If you are interested in getting geophysicist career experience while you are still a student speak with your professors or members of the geology, geophysics or physics departments or career counselors to see if they can point you in the direction of internal or external internship or placement opportunities.
The salary level of geophysicists can vary depending on factors such as their level of education, their level of experience, where they work, and many others.
Geophysicist Salary Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Physicists and Astronomers occupational group earn an average of between $46.17 and $55.94 per hour.
Geophysicist Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, workers in the Physicists and Astronomers occupational group earn an average salary of $66,968 per year.
Geophysicist Salary United States: According to the United States Department of the Interior, starting salaries for Geophysicists usually vary from $30,000 up to $50,000, and the highest salaries aren’t usually in excess of $100,000, unless the geophysicist become involved in upper management.
Working Conditions for Geophysicists
Setting: Geophysicists can work both indoors, in an office or laboratory environment, or outdoors while performing fieldwork. Fieldwork can involve being exposed to a variety of weather conditions, and potentially dangerous situations, depending on their area of specialization of the geophysicist. Some geophysicists may also spend long periods of time working in small teams in remote locations.
Hours: Geophysicists working in offices or laboratories usually work regular office hours, or hours that reflect the hours of operation of the laboratory, which may include shift work. When conducting fieldwork, the working hours of geophysicists can be long and include evenings, weekends and holidays.
Skills and Traits Needed to Become a Geophysicist
In order to become a competent geophysicist, you need to posses a certain set of skills and personality traits. These skills and traits will allow you to effectively perform the duties of your job, as well as maintain a positive attitude towards your work.
• A natural aptitude in mathematics and physics
• A keen interest in studying the composition and structure of the earth
• Excellent written and verbal communication skills
• A willingness to work both indoors and outdoors
• A willingness to work in remote locations
• Experience conducting scientific research
• A decent level of physical fitness
• Able to use specialized computer programs, such as modeling programs
• Able to be patient and precise with measurements and calculations
Who Creates Geophysicist Jobs?
There are several types of organizations that create jobs for geophysicists; organizations that are involved in research, consulting, resource exploration, academia and government.
Organizations that hire Geophysicists typically include:
• Colleges and universities
• Federal, provincial/state government departments
• Oil, gas and mining companies
• Non-profit organizations
• Geological and geophysical consulting companies
• Public and private research organizations
Our job board below has "Geophysicist" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Careers Similar to Geophysicist
Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Geophysicist, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.
References: How to Become a Geophysicist
Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a Geophysicist.
Alberta Learning and Information Service website: alis.alberta.ca
Service Canada website: www.servicecanada.gc.ca
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website: www.bls.gov
United States Geological Survey website: earthquake.usgs.gov
Scholarships for Becoming a Geophysicist
Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!
Becoming a Geophysicist: Applicable Majors
Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a geophysicist. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!