Geologists work on oil rigs, using science to improve petroleum drilling.
There are 33,600 geoscientists working in the United States, according to a 2008 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The field of geoscience includes geologists, who study the Earth, and hydrologists, who are experts on water movements. Geologists are often employed by oil drilling companies, and employees in this valuable occupation often earn a six-figure salary.
Geologists use scientific methods to study the structure of the Earth beneath land or water. The experts who work on oil rigs are classified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as “petroleum geologists.” These scientists examine the seabed to locate new deposits of oil and gas. Petroleum geologists study core samples that are obtained through drilling; they also use sophisticated electronic sensors to map underwater and underground formations. Based on these studies, a geologist must estimate how much oil remains in a location, as well as suggest prospective new drilling sites.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for all geologists is $79,160 as of 2008. However, the bureau also indicates that geologists in the petroleum industry tend to earn more than this average. Geologists involved in oil and gas extraction, including experts aboard oil rigs, typically receive $127,560 per year. Petroleum geologists typically earn more than other types of geologists, but they often have less job security due to the uncertainties of the oil industry.
A number of factors may influence the actual amount of income earned by a geologist on an oil rig. The type of employer can impact the salary of a scientist: Bureau data indicates that geologists who work for the federal government tend to earn less than their private-sector counterparts. This is due in part to the increased government outsourcing of geological studies to commercial firms. Education and experience may also affect earnings: Petroleum geologists with advanced degrees and experience in the field typically earn more than less-experienced scientists.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that salaries and job opportunities for petroleum geologists will expand significantly in the foreseeable future. Specifically, the bureau predicts that this occupation will grow by 18 percent between 2008 and 2018. This projected growth rate is due to diminishing oil deposits and an increasing demand for energy. Scientists who have the skills and experience to locate new drilling locations are expected to have decent job prospects. Workers who speak a foreign language and are willing to work in foreign locations are expected to be particularly valuable.