Vulcanologists study the impact of volcanoes on an area’s topography.
Although there are 169 volcanoes in the United States, only a handful, 18, have been marked by the U.S. Geological Survey as having a high threat of eruption. Because of this, vulcanologists–geologists who specialize in studying volcanic activity and the rocks around volcanoes–aren’t in high demand. Because their work is so specialized and limited to a small number of workers, determining a vulcanologist’s average salary is difficult.
The average vulcanologist may expect to earn between $30,000 to $90,000, according to the Oregon State University geosciences department, although the university reveals that some top-level vulcanologists earned annual salaries of $48,141 as of 2011. The salary range is developed as much from geologists’ expected earnings as those of proper vulcanologists. Most entry-level geologists earn between $34,881 and $40,247 each year.
Although vulcanologists may work around active volcanoes, many concentrate on the geology around inactive ones. They focus on geological formation of surrounding rocks and a volcano’s impact on local topography rather than the geological or chemical processes involved inside an active volcano. Nonetheless, many vulcanologists spend a large portion of their work days outdoors.
Because vulcanology focuses on the gasses and interaction of magma with its environment, many vulcanologists are employed as geochemists. Geochemists may analyze samples from abandoned mines or from volcanic areas to determine their impact on and long-term stability in the environment. Geochemists with a bachelor’s degree earn salaries in the mid-$40,000s, while those with master’s degrees earn about $10,000 more a year, according to the American Chemical Society.
Comparison to All Geologist Salaries
Some of the best paid geologists are employed by extraction industries such as the petroleum industry and metals mining. Because there is little commercial impetus to study volcanoes, vulcanologists earn salaries that are smaller than typical for their field. The median salary for geoscientists is $81,220 as of May 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.