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Published On: Sun, Mar 14th, 2021

CAREERS IN THE GEOSCIENCE INDUSTRY

Geoscience is the study of the Earth, the history of its development, the processes that control it, the forces that shape it, the natural resources it provides us, and how water and ecosystems, including humans, are interconnected. Geoscientists apply the results of their studies to the efficient and sustainable development of the Earth’s resources to provide for society’s needs while preserving the  natural beauty of our planet for us and future generations to enjoy. Therefore, careers in geoscience can be rewarding as well as making vital contributions to the future of our world.

photo/ vishnu vijayan

Careers in geoscience can be divided into four main categories: industrial, such as the petroleum and mining industries; consulting, such as environmental, geotechnical, or geophysical consultants; governmental agencies, such as federal or state and local agencies; and academic, such as university or geoscience institutes. The complexities of modern life produce an abundance of interactions between  these four groups. For instance, the search for new supplies of oil by the petroleum industry often involves geophysical and geotechnical support from consultants, interaction with federal or state agencies over environmental issues, and even support from academic specialists who have studied the target areas involved. Career choices can often be tailored to your specific interests and passions.

Educational requirements for geoscience careers vary as widely as the different sectors vary. Although an oilfield roustabout has no formal degree requirement, a high school or GED diploma will open the door to higher paying entry level positions in the oil industry. Experience gained in the workforce can lead to advancement through promotions when your good work habits and results are recognized by your boss. On-the-job training opportunities are often made available to promising candidates and even university level studies can be pursued on a part-time basis by aspiring candidates. If you like what you are doing and work hard, you have a great chance of successful advancement in your chosen field. Careers in this industry range anywhere from independent sales representatives to engineers in the field. Sales representatives are what make many businesses successful. For example, if you are interested in a career in bore logging take a look at https://mountsopris.com/ where you can find rewarding opportunities in a geoscience career. 

Higher level positions and more specialized areas of expertise generally require undergraduate or graduate degrees; some specialties may require postgraduate experience, especially research positions in industrial or academic arenas. Undergraduate degrees require 2 years of study for Associate degrees and 4 years for Bachelor of Arts or Science degrees. Graduate degrees require additional studies, approximately 2 years for a Masters and 4-6 years for a PhD. If these time requirements seem daunting, remember that starting salaries increase commensurate to your educational level and demonstrated skills. On the other hand, your job performance can produce promotions whose value may exceed that of the starting value of the advanced degree gained by the additional academic investment. Your decision on educational level to reach will depend most on the level of satisfaction you receive from the academic studies and the freedom you have in that arena. Certainly, if you desire to pursue research in your area of interest and it is an area receiving abundant funding, press on in your studies.

The choice of academic subjects to study to prepare for the geoscience industry is much broader than other careers require because of the very wide nature of geologic processes and their interaction with the environment. Basic sciences that can be studied include chemistry, physics, biology, geology, geophysics, hydrology, meteorology, and even planetary science and astrology. Mathematics is foundational to the study of science, but computer technology has become increasingly important in scientific studies because it enables us, efficiently and quickly, to record, analyze and communicate the results of our studies to a broad audience. Engineering degrees that are useful to the industry include geotechnical, civil, chemical, electrical, mechanical and management, with many subcategories under each main branch. Environmental studies occupy a central position in the interaction of geoscientific endeavors with public and governmental concerns about global warming, pollution mitigation, fresh water supply and distribution, and clean air. In fact, opportunities to work in geoscientific industries can require or utilize training and education in most academic subjects. 

The salary range for positions in the geoscience industry vary widely. In 2018, the median annual salaries of geoscience occupations varied from $46k for Environmental Science and Protection Engineers up to $141k for Engineering Managers. The median annual wage for geoscientists was $92k in 2019, but these figures reflect employees with university degrees. Support personnel earn somewhat less but can still bring home starting salaries around $40k a year. Demand for these positions fluctuates according to changes in economic conditions but is expected to grow 5% from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. The need for energy, environmental protection and resource management is expected to drive their demand in the future.

The working environments for geoscientists and their support personnel extend from the field to the office, from the bottom of a mine to the research laboratory at the top of a skyscraper, from the floor of a drilling derrick to the boardroom of a major company. The exploration geologist searching for new oil reserves needs the assistance of a geophysical borehole logging specialist to gather information about the formations and their fluids that her exploratory well has penetrated. If successful, she then needs the assistance of a computer-aided draftsman to create the maps and cross-sections she will present to the management team in the boardroom who will decide on the future development of those reserves. The development engineer responsible for designing the production facilities will talk with her about her maps to help him position the facilities properly. She may even need to talk with the environmental consulting agency who assists her company in making environmentally sensitive decisions about their proposed activities. Over all, it’s an exciting adventure that spurs her on to the next potential target. She picks up her phone to call her geophysical partner about the new seismic line he has just received.

Author: Deny Smith

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