The minimum training for a career in geology is a four-year college degree. Many geologists earn master’s or doctorate degrees. Geologists can find work in natural resource companies, environmental consulting companies, nonprofit organizations, government agencies and universities. Regardless of occupation, many geologists do at least some field work. Geologists also spend time in laboratories, offices or classrooms. Computers are essential tools for a working geologist.
Jobs in resource geology involve searching for Earth’s resources, including oil, natural gas, coal, minerals, precious metals and groundwater supplies. Mining companies hire geologists to plan mine construction and operation, and to monitor the methods used to extract resources.
Jobs in environmental geology assess the harm done to the Earth’s surface by human activities and plan methods to reduce or eliminate this harm. Water and soil testing, examination of pollution sites and clean-up of toxic chemicals are some of the available jobs.
Engineering geologists work with experts in other fields during building construction. Bridges, dams, roads and tunnels are directly connected to rock and soil. Geological engineers are trained to know about rock strength, slope stability and the characteristics of soil.
Jobs in field geology involve studying bedrock exposures. The geologist can determine the rock type, the minerals present and structures such as faults and fractures. The field geologist creates a map showing the layout of rocks in an area. These maps can be used by companies, governments and nonprofit organizations.
A geologist can teach geology to grade school or college students. In the United States, most grade-school Earth science is taught at the eighth- or ninth-grade level. Most high school teachers of Earth science are not geologists. Instead, they tend to have a broader introductory science training. A majority of colleges in the U.S. require a Ph.D. to qualify for a geology teaching position.
The Environmental Protection Agency hires geologists at the state and federal level. Other hiring federal agencies include the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service. The United States Geological Survey and various state geological surveys also hire qualified persons. Other organizations that employ geologists include petroleum companies, city planning offices, highway departments and environmental firms.