What Is The Job Description For A Seismologist

A seismologist studies earthquakes.

A seismologist is most known for studying earthquakes. An earthquake is a shaking or trembling of the earth. But seismologists study more than just earthquakes. They study all seismic waves and movements in the earth. They try to predict what is causing these waves and movements, predict when and where they will occur and prevent them. They do this by assessing data both in the field and a laboratory.


A seismologist is an earth scientist who studies the genesis and the propagation of seismic waves in geological materials. Basically, a seismologist studies movements in the earth, most notably, earthquakes. Seismologists research and interpret the geological composition and structures of the Earth. In the case of earthquakes, seismologists evaluate the potential dangers and seek to minimize their impact through the improvement of construction standards. A seismologist uses a seismograph to collect and assess data. Seismographs are the key tool of seismologists because they make it possible to collect and to record the vibrations of the Earth

Work Environment

Seismologists spend a large part of their time working in the field, identifying and examining geological formation, studying data, conducting geological surveys and constructing field maps. While in the field, a seismologist can be exposed to a variety of weather elements and must stand the majority of his day. Physical fitness and the ability to walk, hike or climb rough terrain is required in the field. When not in the field, a seismologist works in a laboratory, where he examines the chemical and physical properties of specimens and input and assess data in a computer. While in the lab, they both stand and sit equally in a climate controlled facility.

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A seismologist often works long and irregular hours, especially while in the field. Their work weeks are usually longer than 40 hours, and weekend and evening work is usually required.


A seismologist must have at least a four-year college degree in geology, geophysics, physics or applied math. A master’s degree is the preferred educational requirement for most positions in private industry, federal agencies and state geological surveys, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics.


As is the case with many scientists, a seismologist must be curious and have a thirst for knowledge. Interest in computer science, earth science and problem-solving is imperative. A seismologist is interested in the outdoors, enjoys being outdoors and enjoys taking part in outdoor activities. A seismologist must not mind working alone, but must also be able to work as part of a team to solve problems and compare and analyze data.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wages of geoscientists, or scientists who are involved in studying the earth, such as a seismologist, were $79,160 in 2008. The petroleum, mineral, and mining industries offer higher salaries, a media annual wage of $127,560 in 2008, but less job security than other industries, because economic downturns sometimes cause layoffs.