Fundamental Skills

A well-trained geologist should have a good grasp of four areas of fundamental skills, although they may specialize in one or another:


This involves the mapping and study of new terrains, including the continents, the ocean floors, and planetary surfaces. Competent fieldwork is needed to provide much of the evidence in deciphering Earth history. It is also critically important to the accurate collection and documentation of samples for laboratory study, and to the design of remediation strategies for contaminated sites. The Department of Geology at UC has a strong, long-standing tradition of field work with endowed funds to support it. The geology library contains excellent up-to-date collections of a large variety of maps and guidebooks. Our location provides us with immediate access to world-reknown exposures of Ordovician rocks and fossils, and thus makes possible the discovery, description, and analysis of the actual occurrences of a wide range of earth materials.

Laboratory Studies

The incorporation of analytical techniques developed in chemistry, physics, and materials science has led to the emergence of specialized fields such as geochemistry and geophysics. Geochemistry, for example, provides much of the theoretical basis for the study of aqueous solutions, gases, minerals (mineralogy) and rocks (petrology). It also forms the basis for studies that:

  • Examine the atomic structure and behavior of minerals in the natural environment
  • Guide the study of the geologic evolution of the Earth using rock chemistry and rock chronology
  • Explore and develop mineral deposits
  • Evaluate the quality of groundwater
  • Provide a framework for development and management of disposal sites for hazardous and toxic wastes.

Quantitative and Computational Skills

Computer programming and knowledge of mathematics play increasingly important roles in geology. In some instances they are essential in the transformation of instrumental measurements in the laboratory and the field into usable information about the Earth. In others, they are used to create numerical models that simulate geological processes, such as those active in rivers and groundwater, sediment erosion and accumulation patterns, and igneous and convective processes in the Earth's interior. Even traditional geoscience career paths in mining and energy resources now rely heavily on numerical analysis, including geophysical data processing, statistical modeling, and machine learning.

Writing and Communication

Communication skills are essential in any career, and the geosciences are no different. From making an impact with a clear resume, to giving a talk at a scientific conference, to writing a technical report or peer-reviewed research paper, clear presentation of data and strong interpersonal skills are indispensable tools of the geoscientist. This becomes especially true as environmental issues continue to generate headlines, and the public turns to geologists for explanations and ways to mitigate the risk of natural hazards.