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How to Become a Geologist

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Geologists study the history of Earth, its structure and the changes it has undergone since its formation. This type of geoscientist strives to explain a range of phenomena, such as the appearance of landscapes, formation of rocks and occurrence of earthquakes and volcanoes. Geologists can also forecast changes the Earth might undergo in the future. To enter and succeed in this profession, you need a degree in geology and superb research and analytical skills.

Undertake the Education

The first step to becoming a geologist is to earn a Bachelor of Science degree with concentrations in geology. It is also possible to get started with a degree in environmental science or a closely related field. Specialty fields are available within the field of geology that you can break into with a master’s degree. For example, to become a mineralogist and focus on the composition of minerals, you need a master’s degree in mineralogy. Other specialty fields include stratigraphy, arctic geology and petroleum geology.

Develop Professional Skills

Geologists spend much of their time conducting field and laboratory research. This means you must be willing and able to work in inclement weather conditions and also have the strength and stamina to handle the physical demands of the job, such as splitting rocks with a geological hammer. In the laboratory, you will use microscopes to study samples of rocks and other materials. This requires observation skills and attention to detail to identify all the features. Analytical, teamwork, computer and problem-solving skills are important as well.

Gain Experience and Obtain a License

Several states offer licenses or certificates in geology to qualified applicants. Although licensing requirements vary by state, you typically need to hold a degree in geological sciences and some relevant work experience, and pass an examination. After graduating, you should work under a licensed geologist to gain the required experience. The American Geological Society also offers membership opportunities, which you can use to demonstrate your professionalism to potential employers.

Find a Job

Numerous companies and organizations hire geologists. These include the U.S. Geological Survey and other geology agencies at the state level as well as engineering firms, oil, gas and mining companies and environmental consulting firms. With a Ph.D. in geology, you can be hired as a professor at colleges and universities and independent research centers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of all geoscientists, including geologists, will grow by 16 percent from 2012 to 2022, which is faster than the 11 percent average for all jobs.

Geoscientists salary

  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $201,150 ($96.71/hour)
  • Median Annual Salary: $93,580 ($44.99/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $51,890 ($24.95/hour)

Based in New York City, Alison Green has been writing professionally on career topics for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in “U.S. News Weekly” magazine, “The Career” magazine and “Human Resources Journal.” Green holds a master's degree in finance from New York University.

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