Approximately 50,000 geologists are at work today in private industry, in government, in teaching and research, and as self-employed consultants. Geologists work in a variety of settings which include:
- natural resource companies (mineral and energy exploration)
- renewable resource companies (wind, solar, and geothermal energy)
- environmental and geotechnical consulting companies
- hydrologic and watershed consulting and engineering
- government agencies (e.g. US Geological Survey, US EPA, US Forest Service)
- non-profit organizations (environmental justice, food and water security, NGOs)
- colleges/universities (technicians, lecturers, professors)
In recent years the awareness of environmental issues has increased the need for geologists trained in the areas of groundwater, landslides, soil conservation, oceanography, and natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and floods. Employment opportunities in environmental and geotechnical fields continue to expand, even during times of economic slowdown, and promise to continue to be a major area of geological need. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has more information on the outlook for geoscience jobs over the coming decade.
Graduates with a BS in geology are well-prepared for graduate study, which is required for some professional positions in geology. Teaching and research at the college or university level requires the PhD degree. Regardless of the particular area of employment, a well-trained geologist must have a sound background in basic sciences, including math, chemistry, physics and essential geology courses. Computational skills are in particulary high demand. It is the goal of this department to provide this essential preparation at both the undergraduate and graduate level through its programs of laboratory and classroom activities and fieldwork.
Approximately annually, the Department sponsors Career Days, which brings students, alumni, and industry experts together to highlight key trends in employment and the skills required in the modern workforce.
There are also many opportunities for students who are members of major geological organizations such as those listed here. Students get a membership discount, and more inexpensive tickets to conferences, field trips, and meetings, at which there is always an opportunity for networking with other geologists and even employment! Get yourself out there, find what you love, and get involved!
Below you will find a list of many possible career directions you could take within the realm of the geosciences.
Atmospheric scientists study weather processes; the global dynamics of climate; solar radiation and its effects; and the role of atmospheric chemistry in ozone depletion, climate change, and pollution.
Economic geologists explore for and develop metallic and nonmetallic resources; they study mineral deposits and find environmentally safe ways to dispose of waste materials from mining activities.
Engineering geologists apply geological data, techniques, and principles to the study of rock and soil surficial materials and ground water; they investigate geologic factors that affect structures such as bridges, buildings, mines, airports, and dams.
Environmental geologists study the interaction between the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, biosphere, and human activities. They work to solve problems associated with pollution, waste management, urbanization, and natural hazards, such as flooding and erosion.
Geochemists use physical and inorganic chemistry to investigate the nature and distribution of major and trace elements in ground water and Earth materials; they use organic chemistry to study the composition of fossil fuel (coal, oil, and gas) deposits.
Geochronologists use the rates of decay of certain radioactive elements in rocks to determine their age and the time sequence of events in the history of the Earth.
Geologists study the materials, processes, products, physical nature, and history of the Earth.
Geomorphologists study Earth's landforms and landscapes in relation to the geologic and climatic processes and human activities, which form them.
Geophysicists apply the principles of physics to studies of the Earth's interior and investigate Earth's magnetic, electric, and gravitational fields.
Glacial geologists study the physical properties and movement of glaciers and ice sheets.
Hydrogeologists study the occurrence, movement, abundance, distribution, and quality of subsurface waters and related geologic aspects of surface waters.
Hydrologists are concerned with water from the moment of precipitation until it evaporates into the atmosphere or is discharged into the ocean; for example, they study river systems to predict the impacts of flooding.
Marine geologists investigate the ocean-floor and ocean-continent boundaries; they study ocean basins, continental shelves, and the coastal environments on continental borders.
Meteorologists study the atmosphere and atmospheric phenomena, including the weather.
Mineralogists study mineral formation, composition, and properties.
Oceanographers investigate the physical, chemical, biological, and geologic dynamics of oceans.
Paleoecologists study the function and distribution of ancient organisms and their relationships to their environment.
Paleontologists study fossils to understand past life forms and their changes through time and to reconstruct past environments.
Petroleum geologists are involved in exploration for and production of oil and natural gas resources.
Petrologists determine the origin and natural history of rocks by analyzing mineral composition and grain relationships.
Planetary geologists study planets and their moons in order to understand the evolution of the solar system.
Sedimentologists study the nature, origin, distribution, and alteration of sediments, such as sand, silt, and mud. Oil, gas, coal and many mineral deposits occur in such sediments.
Seismologists study earthquakes and analyze the behavior of earthquake waves to interpret the structure of the Earth.
Soil scientists study soils and their properties to determine how to sustain agricultural productivity and to detect and remediate contaminated soils.
Stratigraphers investigate the time and space relationships of rocks, on a local, regional, and global scale throughout geologic time -- especially the fossil and mineral content of layered rocks.
Structural geologists analyze Earth's forces by studying deformation, fracturing, and folding of the Earth's crust.
Volcanologists investigate volcanoes and volcanic phenomena to understand these natural hazards and predict eruptions.