How to Become a Geologist

How to Become a Geologist: Career Path Guide

If you’re interested in a career that involves studying such issues as erosion, watershed management, mineral resource exploration and others, and you want to help apply your findings for the betterment of our communities and planet, then a career as geologist may be a great fit for you!


Below we've outlined what you'll need to become a geologist in the United States, and Canada.


We've also included helpful information for a geologist career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Geologist

To become a geologist, you need to begin by earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology or a closely related field such as Environmental Science. Completing coursework geology, mathematics and physics is a great way to build an educational foundation for your prospective career as a geologist.


Depending on where your career ambitions and interests lie, you will likely need a graduate degree in geology to become a senior level geologist. Employers also usually accept a degree in Environmental Engineering provided the candidate has experience in geology.


Depending on the requirements of the employer, a Master’s degree in Geology or Environmental Science is typically sufficient for many applied research positions. To become a geologist who works in research and university teaching positions a PhD in Geology or Environmental Science is needed.


Geologists must also complete continuing education throughout their careers in order to keep their skills current stay up to date with advancements in the field.




Geologist Job Description: What do Geologists do?

Geologists are responsible for applying their knowledge of the earth’s crust to accomplish various goals, such as exploring for minerals, finding groundwater supplies, developing resources for production, and building foundations for engineering projects.



Geologist Job Duties

• Collect and analyze rock samples and cores

• Classify fossilized rocks, minerals and life forms

• Collect and analyze soil samples in geochemical surveys

• Conduct geological surveys and field studies

• Record, interpret and analyze geological information from satellite images, maps, geochemical surveys and other sources

• Prepare geological maps, cross-sectional diagrams and reports from fieldwork and laboratory research

• Supervise the work activities of geological technologists

• Liaise with geophysicists and other professionals




Working Conditions for Geologists

The work setting for geologists can vary greatly, depending on who their employer is, what their duties are that day, or which project they are working on. They typically split time between working in an office setting performing research and data analysis, and working in a field setting for the purpose of collecting data and samples.


The physical requirements and schedule of the job can vary significantly for geologists depending on the work setting they find themselves in. For example, working in an office setting provides little in the way of physical challenge, although it can involve eye stain caused by working with computers for extended periods of time. In an office setting, geologists typically work a normal weekday-working schedule.


In a field setting, the work of a geologist can become quite physically demanding, as they may be required to travel great distances over rough terrain on foot in order to collect data and samples, as well as work and live in remote areas for several months at a time.



Types of Geologists: Fields of Specialty

There are many different forms that geologist careers can take, as there are many areas of specialty within the field of geology. Below are some examples of specialized geologist occupational titles as well as brief descriptions.


Coal Geologists: Responsible for locating and characterizing coal resources in order to determine their suitability for coal mining.


Computing Geologists: Responsible for developing and utilizing specialized software applications such as database systems, geographic information systems and statistics packages.


Economic Geologists: Responsible for locating, evaluating and characterizing mineral deposits.


Engineering Geologists: Responsible for analyzing geological data in order to advise government agencies, construction companies and energy companies on the suitability of locations for buildings, dams, highways, airfields, tunnels and mining/drilling sites.


Environmental Geologists: Responsible for studying the earth with the specific focus of understanding human interactions with the land, for the purpose of anticipating geological issues and providing information to help minimize impacts on the environment.


Geochemists: Responsible for studying the chemical makeup of minerals, rocks and fluids, as well as their interrelationships in order to better understand the distribution and migration of materials in the earth's crust.


Geochronologists: Responsible for determining the ages of rocks by studying the radioactive decay of specific elements.


Geomorphologists: Responsible for examining landforms and processes that cause the earth's surface to change, such as erosion and glaciation.


Hydrogeologists: Responsible for studying the properties, amount and composition of groundwater and formation waters.


Marine Geologists: Responsible for studying coastal and marine environments and tracing their evolution. They may also investigate ocean basins and sea floors for mineral and petroleum potential.


Mineralogists: Responsible for analyzing, identifying and classifying minerals and precious stones according to their composition and structure.


Mining Geologists: Responsible for locating, analyzing and studying the Earth's mineral and rock resources.


Paleontologists: Responsible for studying fossils for purposes such as establishing relative age, petroleum exploration and the study of environmental evolution.


Petroleum Geologists: Responsible for utilizing information gathered from boreholes, geophysical and geochemical data, geological maps, rock samples and remote sensing imagery to determine the geological characteristics of an underground reservoir.


Planetary Geologists: Responsible for studying the nature and history of planets and satellites in the solar system.


Sedimentologists: Responsible for studying the processes that result in the formation of sedimentary rocks. They may also apply this knowledge to help locate natural resources.


Stratigraphers: Responsible for examining layers of sedimentary rock to help locate coal and petroleum.


Structural Geologists: Responsible for studying the nature and geometry of brittle and plastic rock deformation, including the evolution of earth structures such as mountains.


Surficial Geologists: Responsible for studying sediments and rock layers close to the Earth's surface. This information is applied to building construction, landfill siting, mineral exploration, environmental contamination, groundwater production and global change studies.


Volcanologists: Responsible for studying both active and dormant volcanoes in order to predict eruptions and minimize potential damage.



Who Hires Geologists?

Geologists typically work on a full-time permanent basis, although some may be employed on a contractual or interim basis. The following types of organizations usually hire them:


• Engineering or environmental consulting firms

• Oil, gas and mining companies

• Federal and provincial/state government departments and agencies

• Science centers and museums



Geologist Jobs

Our job board below has "Geologist" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

How to Get a Job as a Geologist

Now that you have a good sense of what you’ll need to qualify for geologist jobs, you’ll need to know how to find and approach employers. Our How to Get a Job as a Geologist guide can help make your job search much more effective.


A few tips about tailoring the perfect geologist resume won’t hurt either, after all, nobody wants their resume to be thrown in the trash before it’s been given a chance. Visit our How to Write a Great Geologist Resume page to get tips on how to keep your resume at the top of the pile



Careers Related to Geologist

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to that of a geologist, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


• Fluvial Geomorphologist

• Geoscientist

• Hydrogeologist

• Paleontologist

• Seismologist

• Soil Scientist



Geologist Salary: How Much Do Geologists Earn?

The salary for geologists can vary greatly depending on many factors, including their level of experience and education, who they work for, and many others.


Salary figures for geologists in Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Geologists, Geochemists and Geophysicists occupational group earned on average from $40.80 to $60.85 an hour.


Salary figures for geologists in Canada: According to ECO Canada, geologists working entry-level jobs make an average of $36,500 per year in Canada. With several years of experience and advanced education, geologists earn an average of $75,000 per year.


Salary figures for geologists in the United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans in the Geoscientists occupational group, which includes geologists, earn a median salary of $82,500 (2010 figures).



References: How to Become a Geologist

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a geologist.


Alberta Learning and Information Services website:

ECO Canada website:

United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website:



Scholarships for Becoming a Geologist

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a Geologist can be found on our Environmental Science Scholarships and Geology Scholarships pages.


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 Geologist: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a geologist. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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