Education Requirements To Become A Geologist

Geologists study natural structures such as rock formations.

Geologists are scientists who study rock formations and plant and animal fossils to learn about the history of the Earth. They spend much of their time at remote locations, gathering specimens to carry out their research. The majority of geologists work in architectural or engineering firms, while others find employment in state or federal agencies, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Educational Requirements for Geologists

While a handful of entry-level positions can be obtained with a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree is the minimum educational requirement for most geologist jobs. Positions as college professors and high-level researchers require a Ph.D. Prospective geologists should seek out programs in geoscience that cover topics including paleontology and structural geography. Completing an internship as part of a degree program is also recommended because fieldwork is an integral part of a geologist’s career.

Curriculum for Geologists

Master’s degrees in geology, such as the one offered by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, can be completed in two years. A candidate for a master’s degree in geology will select a faculty advisor who will help to shape the student’s degree program. Master’s degree candidates will submit a thesis during the final semester of study. At the Ph.D. level, students must meet additional requirements, such as taking comprehensive examinations en route to defending a dissertation. Topics studied by geology students at the graduate level include seismology, the origin of sedimentary rocks and volcanology.

Other Qualifications for Geologists

In addition to completing a rigorous academic course of study, prospective geologists need solid computer skills, notes the BLS. Knowledge of Global Positioning Systems, or GPS, and Global Information Systems, or GIS, gives geologists a competitive advantage when entering the job market. Interpersonal skills are important because geologists often work in teams with other scientists. The BLS states that the ability to think logically and infer conclusions from limited data is a must for geologists.

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Job Outlook for Geologists

Through the year 2018, employment for geologists is expected to grow by about 18 percent. This is “faster than average” growth than other occupations, according to the BLS. This growth is spurred by an increased need for environmental protection and energy. Anticipated upgrades to existing infrastructure, such as highways, call for qualified geologists with experience in engineering. While competition will be keen for jobs that require Ph.D.s, geologists with master’s degrees can expect “excellent” job prospects, notes the BLS. As of May 2008, the average median wage for geoscientists, including geologists, was $79,160.