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How Much Money Does a Volcanologist Make?

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Volcanologists are geoscientists who study volcanoes and volcanic activity. They collect samples of gases, lava and rock form volcanic sites for analysis to understand how these geological phenomena work, and so try to accurately predict future volcanic activity in order to prevent harm to people and property near to volcanoes. Salaries for volcanologists are comparable with other geoscientists.

Average Pay

During its May 2010 analysis of employment in the United States, the U.S. Bureau of Labor States included volcanologists in its classification of geoscientists, excluding geographers and hydrologists. Across the profession, it reported that the average annual wage was $93,380. This equates to an hourly rate of $44.89 and a monthly income of $7,782. Those in the top 10 percent of the 30,830 geoscientists surveyed earned more than $160,910 a year, while their contemporaries in the bottom 10 percent of earnings received $43,820 or less.

Pay by Employment

Of the industry sectors included in the bureau's survey of geoscientists, federal government agencies were those most likely to provide volcanologists with the highest salaries, averaging $95,580. Their counterparts working for state governments were listed at $62,880, while positions within architectural, engineering and related services paid an average of $80,460. Volcanologists working as consultants earned an average salary of $73,990.

Pay by Location

Geographical location also affects a volcanologist’s salary. The bureau reported that, across all industry sectors, geoscientists were likely to receive the highest wages in Oklahoma, which averaged $129,870. Texas was listed at $125,070, Alaska at $103,880, and Wyoming came in at $67,710. Oklahoma City was given as the highest-paying metropolitan district -- $146,050 – while the College Station-Bryan area of Texas was listed at $65,380. surveyed wage levels for volcanologists specifically in some major cities and found wide variation: from $102,146 in Los Angeles to $70,153 in Phoenix.


Volcanologists, as members of the geosciences profession, should experience a reasonably buoyant job market in the immediate future. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that for geoscientists of all specialities, employment will grow by around 18 percent over the period from 2008 to 2018. This compares with growth of between 7 and 13 percent predicted for the nation as a whole within the same time-frame. Competition for vacancies is, however, likely to be keen at entry-level for those with just a bachelor’s degree, and within academic and research circles for those with doctoral degrees; candidates with a master’s degree should fare best.


Dirk Huds has been a writer/editor for over six years. He has worked for bookshops and publishers in an editorial capacity and written book reviews for a variety of publications. He is currently studying for his master's degree.