A mineralogist is a type of scientist who specializes in the classification of minerals and other precious stones. The nature of the work varies according to location, and for this reason travel is often required. However, depending on qualifications, a mineralogist has the potential to earn a decent salary.
Mineralogists observe and classify minerals, gems and precious stones on the basis of structure and surface characteristics. They conduct chemical tests and take X-rays in an attempt to determine the specimen’s composition and other physical properties. Mineralogists evaluate this data and theorize about the origin of certain minerals while simultaneously trying to discover new mineral resources.
Many mineralogists are employed by universities, where they either teach or conduct research. A smaller percentage works at the U.S. Geological Survey or state geological surveys. Others find employment at national laboratories or work as curators in natural history museums. Depending on their employer, mineralogists split time between an office setting and outdoors in the field. It is not unheard of for them to travel to remote locations by helicopter or even by foot. Also, their work sometimes takes them overseas, making job relocation a common occurrence.
Aspiring mineralogists must earn, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree, though most will pursue postgraduate work. Because many mineralogists are employed in the research or teaching sector, a doctorate is a popular option.
The average salary of a mineralogist in the United States is $67,470, though this number varies according to location, experience, extent of higher education and employment setting. The entry level salary typically falls in the vicinity of $36,580 yearly, while maximum earnings of $133,310 have been reported.
Employment opportunities for mineralogists are projected to grow 22 percent–much faster than average for all occupations–from 2006 to 2016. Graduates who possess a master’s degree will see the best job prospects because opportunities will be limited for those holding only a bachelor’s degree. Furthermore, PhDs are expected to face stiff competition for research and college-level teaching positions. A great deal of job opportunities are anticipated to arise because older mineralogists are either retiring or abandoning the field.