How to Become a Geophysicist


Career Path Guide

To become a geophysicist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you.


To be effective in this field, you'll need to have a keen interest in studying the structure and composition of the earth. You'll also need to have a natural aptitude in science and mathematics, and an advanced education in physics and geology.


Being comfortable with the idea of working indoors and outdoors, as well as comfortable with working in remote locations, will be critical for working in this field.


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'll 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 work as a consultanting or a researcher geophysicist, you'll need a Master of Science degree in any of the aforementioned fields, or a closely related field. To work 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.





What They Do: General 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.



General Job Duties & Responsibilities

• 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 Relevant 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. 





Geophysicist Salary

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 - Canada: According to the 2018 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the  occupational group earn an average salary of $128,940 per year. According to WorkBC (the Province of British Columbia), the annual provincial median salary of B.C. workers in the "geoscientists and oceanographers" group is $79,997.


Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of workers in the 'geoscientists' occupational group is $91,130 per year.



Working Conditions in This Profession

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 Be Successful

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 Employs Geophysicists?

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 employ 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



Current Job Opportunities

Our job board below has "Geophysicist" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, when available:




Similar Occupational Guides in Our Database

Listed below are occupational guides in our database that are similar in nature to this one, as they represent professions that involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.










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


Occupations in Alberta:Exploration Geophysicist.” (March 31, 2018). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 29, 2019.

Career Outlook:Interview with a ...Geophysicist.” Dennis Vilorio (May, 2016). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 29, 2019.

Explore Careers:Geoscientists and oceanographers.” (December 12, 2018) WorkBC website. Retrieved November 29, 2019.

Environmental Career Profiles:Environmental Geophysicist.” (n.d.) ECO Canada website. Retrieved November 29, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Geophysicist

The scholarships in our database that are relevant for becoming a geophysicist are all of those that can be found on our Physics 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!



Applicable University Major(s)

Studying the university major(s) listed below can create an excellent educational foundation for this profession:


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