Complete Guide: What Can You Do With a Geology Degree?
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated 8 September 2022
Published 19 July 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Geologists have the important job of engaging in the study of the physical history of Earth and the factors affecting current circumstances to predict the Earth's future. Securing a degree in geology is the first step to beginning this rewarding career path and potentially helping to solve some of the issues of today's world. In this article, we look at the career opportunities available to those with a degree in geology, exploring what geologists do, the skills you need to become a geologist and the salary expectations.
What to do with a geology degree
To make the most of a degree in geology, you can consider which career paths are available to you. Geology is a specific field of work with many subspecialties, and finding the one most suitable for your skills and areas of study can make for a rewarding career as a geologist. Some of the subspecialties include mud logger, petroleum geologist and geoscientist.
However, if you finish your degree in geology and don't want to work within the field, the degree has transferable skills that can apply to other occupations, such as teaching.
What does a geologist do?
Geologists study the materials, composition and structure of the Earth. They analyse events such as floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and landslides to better understand them and devise necessary countermeasures. When geologists study the Earth, they not only examine its composition but might also search for water, oil, natural gas and other resources to extract them.
They then advise on the safe extraction of minerals, the construction of civil engineering projects, environmental protection and the preservation of the natural landscape after the mining process.
Related: What Does a Physical Scientist Do?
Where do geologists work?
The workplace of geologists ranges from laboratories and offices to visiting regions around the world. Fieldwork for geologists can be physically demanding due to the potentially long distances travelled and exposure to the natural elements. Protective clothing is often recommended or required to guard geologists against harsh weather conditions when working outdoors.
As geologists acquire experience and seniority in their profession, they can progress towards managerial, teaching or consultancy positions. They might also be able to apply for the role of chartered environmentalist. The primary sectors in which they work include:
Oil, gas and petroleum sectors
Construction and civil engineering companies
Other employers include geological survey companies, environmental agencies, museums, local authorities and government organisations.
How to become a geologist
To gain entry to a geology course to work in geology, you can accomplish the following steps:
1. Obtain at least five GCSEs with grades ranging from grades 9 to 4 (A to C)
The necessary subjects include English and Maths, in addition to Science. Like many job roles, the GCSEs you obtain serve to get you onto the next stage of study required for the job. So, securing a solid set of GCSE results enables you to progress to studying job-relevant A-Levels.
2. Obtain at least two to three A-Levels
At least one of your A-Level subjects needs to be in science. As there is an overlap with biology, a degree in this subject can be a good choice for progressing into a degree in geology. It's also possible to undertake an A-Level or GCSE in geology in some schools, as some exam boards offer this subject.
3. Get a degree
A career in geology requires a relevant university degree in geology or Earth sciences. Studying for a geology degree usually combines theory and field research, and practical training. Subjects can include geology, Earth science, geoscience and geophysics.
4. Study at post-grad level
Further opportunities might become available by acquiring postgraduate qualifications such as a Master's degree or PhD. Universities also provide specific, relevant qualifications such as MGeol or MSci. These courses focus primarily on the research element and are intended to lead directly into working towards a PhD. For a postgraduate Geology degree, a relevant undergraduate degree is mandatory.
As a geologist, you can develop the following essential skills:
Understanding of engineering science and technology
Analytical and critical thinking skills
Strong verbal communication skills
Familiarity with the safe use of chemicals and their disposal
Strong understanding of computer applications and systems
As a geologist, your daily responsibilities might include:
Supervision of onsite teams
Travelling to study and examine rocks in their natural settings
Assessing the ground for engineering projects such as tunnel building, or dam construction
Analysing sites for nuclear waste disposal or landfill
Sampling rocks and recording relevant information to search for natural resources such as oil, gas and water
Studying volcanic activity and movement of seismic plates
Using 3D modelling software
Examining rock samples under a microscope
Geology career paths
So, you've secured a degree in geology and are searching for credible, well-paying job opportunities. Alternatively, you might have a passion for the earth sciences and are considering the prospects that a geology degree might provide. In either case, here are share some of the top geology careers that are currently in high demand.
A geoscientist is dedicated to gaining a greater understanding of the past, present and future of the Earth by studying its physical aspects such as structures, processes and composition. If gathering and analysing data interests you, you could apply for an entry-level geoscientist role immediately after completing your relevant undergraduate degree. However, if you have ambitions of becoming a researcher in this field, you can earn a PhD.
A mine geologist participates in the creation of scientific charts and maps. They also prepare scientific reports, incorporating research undertaken by other scientists. To begin a career as a mine geologist, you need to have attained a bachelor's degree.
A field assistant is one of the most highly demanded careers in the field of geology. It is a suitable career for people who are social and have strong communication skills. Field assistants provide help to other geologists while they perform their day-to-day tasks. A bachelor's degree is often sufficient to become a field assistant but a Master's degree can help your chances.
A mud logger helps extract natural resources such as minerals, natural gases and oil. They are responsible for monitoring the exploration process and oversee the tracking of data such as temperature and pressure. In addition, a mud logger is responsible for installing and maintaining laboratory equipment and carrying out scientific tests. To start a career in mud logging, you need to possess a bachelor's degree.
A geologist consultant is a professional who conducts lab test sampling in the field. This role is apt for people who love planning and visiting new locations and spaces. To become a geologist consultant, you can earn a bachelor's degree.
An assistant geologist is responsible for the supervision of other technicians and co-workers alongside scientists in the laboratory or field. To begin a career in assistant geology, a bachelor's degree is a prerequisite.
Also known as an atmospheric scientist, a meteorologist is responsible for developing the methods, processes and computer software that assess atmospheric data to generate useful, verifiable reports. If you want to become a meteorologist, you need to earn a bachelor's degree in atmospheric science or a related field. The average salary for a meteorologist is £30,866.
Related: How to Become a Meteorologist
Environmental field technician
An environmental field technician analyses and gathers samples of water, soil, air and other substances and materials for lab analysis and testing. To work as an environmental field technician, you can earn a postgraduate degree. However, some positions might only require a bachelor's degree.
Hydrologists identify and analyse water sources. They study the water cycle and examine the impact of water on soil erosion, drought, pollution and other issues that can damage the environment. If you're interested in becoming a hydrologist, it is important to earn a bachelor's degree in hydrology.
If you're a geologist and interested in teaching, it's possible to switch careers and become a teacher. Since education in geology provides a vast amount of scientific knowledge, you can teach science at primary or secondary schools. The average salary for a teacher is £31,315.
If you're interested in becoming a university professor, however, you can earn a PhD in geology due to the degree of competition. Keep in mind that the academic career track is itself highly competitive. Enrolling in a PhD program is relatively straightforward, but cementing a postdoctoral position can be very challenging. Securing a tenure track position is even more difficult and can become quite stressful for candidates.
Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate’s experience, academic background and location. This article is based on information available at the time of writing, which may change at any time. Indeed does not guarantee that this information is always up-to-date. Please seek out a local resource for the latest on this topic.
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