Geologists may earn high wages depending on their industry.
Geologists are geoscientists who focus specifically on studying the composition and history of Earth. They may specialize in certain areas; for example, petroleum geologists search the earth for oil and gas deposits, and engineering geologists provide consulting services on construction projects. The annual salary of a geologist will depend on his area of specialty, as well as his level of experience, industry and location.
Geologists earned an average annual salary of $92,710 as of May 2009, states the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the median salary was $81,220. Salaries ranged from $43,140 at the 10th percentile to $161,260 at the 90th percentile. From the 25th percentile to the 75th percentile, the middle 50 percent of geologists earned annual salaries between $56,280 and $117,040.
The two industries with the highest levels of employment of geologists were architectural, engineering and related services, with an annual average salary of $76,220, and oil and gas extraction, with an annual average salary of $136,270, according to the bureau. Geologists working in management, scientific and technical consulting services earned an average of $73,920 a year, while those working for state governments or the federal executive branch earned averages of $62,550 and $94,560, respectively. The highest-paying industry for geologists was petroleum and petroleum products merchant wholesalers, where the salary average was $139,740 annually.
The bureau named Texas as the top-paying state for geologists, with a salary average of $127,250 annually. The top three highest-paying metropolitan areas in the country were also in Texas: in Midland, College Station and Houston, salary averages for geologists ranged from $138,370 to $142,250. Washington, D.C., and Alaska were the second and third highest-paying states for geologists, with annual average salaries of $107,160 and $104,410 respectively.
Advancement and Outlook
Geologists typically start in entry-level positions, such as research assistant or laboratory technician. With experience, they may move on to higher-paying and more complex projects, and can eventually earn promotions to positions such as program manager or senior researcher. The bureau predicts an employment rate growth of 18 percent for geologists between 2008 and 2018. For those working in industries related to oil and gas, employment rates may fluctuate depending on the price of petroleum; when prices are low, the employment rate may decline as well.