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Essential Energy Educationissues, careers, classroom resources

Geology Careers

Students interested in the Earth—its history, nature, and materials—may want to consider careers in geology! Geologists are involved with finding and extracting natural resources like oil and natural gas; helping governments prepare for natural disasters; and examining humans’ effect on the environment, among other important jobs

Geologists

Do you like Earth science?

Geologists are employed to explore for crude oil and natural gas and to help develop reservoirs. Geologists search for oil and gas by studying rock formations and using microscopes to examine rocks fragments (cuttings) from wells that are being drilled. Geologists develop surface and subsurface maps to locate oil and gas resources. They locate rock layers cropping out on the surface of the ground and use data from existing wells to make subsurface maps of the reservoir rocks. By matching rock layers between wells, they can draw cross sections to find petroleum traps. Geologists study the physical aspects and history of the Earth. They identify and examine rocks, study information collected by remote sensing instruments in satellites, conduct geological surveys, construct field maps, analyze information collected through seismic studies, and use instruments to measure the Earth’s gravity and magnetic field.

Geologists study the materials and processes of the Earth to explain how, when, and why events occurred in the formation of the Earth’s rock record. Economic geologists apply geology to explore for and develop the metal, mineral, and coal resources that are used as the foundation of our standard of living and modern society. Structural geologists analyze the Earth’s forces by studying deformation, fracturing, and folding of the Earth’s crust.

Geologists study the structure and history of the Earth by examining rocks, soil, fossils, mountains, and earthquakes. They identify and examine rocks, study information collected by remote sensing instruments in satellites, conduct geological surveys, construct field maps, analyze information collected through seismic studies, and use instruments to measure the earth’s gravity and magnetic field. They work in a variety of settings which include: natural resource companies, environmental consulting companies, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and universities. Geologists often work in conjunction with engineers, who use geologists’ interpretations to aid in design and construction of safe structures, pipelines, and buildings.

In the office, geologists consolidate field and laboratory data and prepare reports that include maps and diagrams to illustrate the results of their findings. Such maps may pinpoint the possible occurrence of ores, coal, oil, natural gas, or water resources.

In the petroleum industry, geologists search for oil and gas by studying rock formations and using microscopes to examine rocks fragments (cuttings) from wells that are being drilled. They develop surface and subsurface maps to locate the resources. Geologists locate rock layers cropping out on the surface of the ground and use data from existing wells to make subsurface maps of the reservoir rocks. By matching rock layers between wells, they can draw cross sections to find petroleum traps.

What can I do now to become a geologist?

Pre-college students who are interested in becoming a geologist should take college preparatory courses in Earth science, biology, chemistry, physics, and math. Courses related to writing, environmental science, computers, geography, and mapping are also valuable. Writing and communications are also very important, as geologists must frequently write reports to detail their findings.

Geochemists

Do you like Earth science and physics?

Geochemists study the Earth’s chemicals and how they react in nature; how humans affect water and soil chemistry; and, in some cases, the oil and gas that may be present under the Earth’s surface. They apply physical and inorganic chemistry to analyze the chemicals in rocks, gases, fluids, and minerals. Geochemists collect and analyze soil and determine the effects of erosion and other conditions. They may apply their knowledge of chemistry to a variety of industries, from environmental (disposing of dangerous waste safely) to commercial (oil exploration). There are also many specialties in the field of geochemistry, including cosmic geochemistry, which studies the evolution of the universe, and organic geochemistry, which focuses on chemical reactions of natural processes like coal formation and plant decay. Much of the work geochemists do is completed in the field, collecting and analyzing samples from the Earth.