What Do I Need To Become An Earth Scientist

Earth scientists are involved in projects like dam building on many levels — hydrology, soil science and surveying.

Earth scientists, also known as geoscientists, study the Earth. Earth scientists study the Earth’s component parts, ecosystems, weather systems, history and its place in the universe. Some Earth scientists deal with the atmosphere, some with the oceans, others with biospheres or the solid Earth itself. A solid foundation based in mathematics and science — including biology, physics and chemistry — is necessary to pursue a career in any Earth science field. Determining which field you’d like to study is a major decision that must be made fairly early in your college career.

High School Preparation

If you know early on that you’d like to become an Earth scientist, you should enroll in all the science and math classes available in high school. Most high school curricula require basic math classes, usually through algebra, and basic science classes, normally biology and introductory chemistry. Choosing elective coursework in subjects such as geometry, calculus, trigonometry, advanced biology and chemistry, physics and geology will serve you well once you get to college. Good communication skills, especially composition and report writing, also are important. Computer classes are essential; most of the work you’ll do as an Earth scientist will be done on a computer.

Undergraduate Degree

A general Earth science degree may be an option if you don’t know exactly which career you’d like to pursue or if you want to teach. A general Earth science degree may suffice if you’re planning on pursuing an advanced degree in a specific field. Otherwise, a bachelor’s degree in a specific Earth science field should be considered, such as geology, oceanography, meteorology, hydrology, petrology, sedimentology or seismology. You also should conduct as much research as possible into potential careers. You may decide, for example, that you’d like to work for an Earth science company, organization or agency, but that you’d like to do so as a chemist, biologist, computer programmer or as an adjutant, like a writer, lobbyist or lawyer.

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Advanced Degree

Many jobs require advanced degrees, either a master’s or Ph.D. Obtaining an advanced degree not only will increase your knowledge of a specific Earth science discipline, it will better position you during job searches, for promotions and for a higher salary. The potential areas of study are extensive, including environmental science, hydrology, soil science, geology, geochemistry, mineralogy, atmospheric science, planetary science, marine science and petroleum science. Peripheral disciplines include mathematical, computer and statistical degrees, like data analysis and interpretation, computer modeling, remote sensing, digital mapping, information systems and geographic information systems, or GIS.

Earth Science Fields and Careers

The list of possible careers within the geoscience field is nearly endless. Some of the more prevalent jobs are in geology, petroleum engineering, hydrology, oceanography, planetary and space physics, soil science, environmental science, meteorology, surveying, seismology, paleontology and education.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a job-growth rate of 18 percent for geoscientists and hydrologists through 2018. Earth scientists with master’s degrees have good prospects, especially as consultants and in the gas and oil industries. The fields of energy, environmental protection, and land and water management appear particularly lucrative. Hydrologists who have expertise both from a scientific and engineering standpoint also will be in demand.