Careers in Geoscience

We Need more Geoscientists!

The American Geosciences Institute predicts a shortage of 135,000 geoscientists in the U.S. workforce over the next decade! Many geoscientists working today are nearing retirement age; their departure will result in a major loss in the knowledge and skills of the geosciences workforce. At the same time, many jobs will open up for future generations of scientists!

Learn more about the predicted workforce shortage in Geoscience Currents.

What can you do with a geology degree? Geoscience is a very diverse field.

Here are a just a few examples – find one that’s right for you!

Geologists study the materials, processes, and history of the Earth. They investigate how rocks were formed and what has happened to them since their formation. There are subgroups of geologists as well, such as stratigraphers, who study stratified rock, and mineralogists, who study the structure and composition of minerals.  Geologic studies may combine both field and laboratory work.

Geo-scientist in the field  Helicopter surveying rock out cropping

snow capped mountains  cliffs rising from a gorge

Engineering geologists apply geologic principles to civil and environmental engineering. They offer advice on major construction projects, help with environmental cleanup, and work to reduce natural hazards, among other activities.

Environmental Scientists use their knowledge of earth's systems to protect the environment and human health. They do this by cleaning up contaminated areas, making policy recommendations, or working with industry to reduce pollution and waste. They may also investigate the source of an environmental or health problem and devise strategies to combat it.

marine geologists taking samples

Marine geologists

mining geologist looking at rock wall

Mining geologists

 Paleontologists looking for fossils

Paleontologists study fossils found in geological formations in order to trace the evolution of plant and animal life and the geologic history of the Earth.

Petroleum geologists explore the Earth for oil and gas deposits. They analyze geological information to identify sites that should be explored. They collect rock and sediment samples by drilling or other methods, and test those samples for the presence of oil and gas. They also estimate the size of oil and gas deposits and work to develop sites to extract oil and gas.

 Crane moving rocks

Geophysicists use the principles of physics to learn about the Earth’s surface and interior. They also study the properties of Earth’s magnetic, electric, and gravitational fields.

Seismologist taking readings

Seismologists study earthquakes and vibrations in the Earth as well as related phenomena, such as tsunamis and landslides. They use seismographs and other instruments to collect data on these events.

Geochemists use physical and organic chemistry to study the composition of elements found in ground water, such as water from wells or aquifers, and of earth materials, such as rocks and sediment.

Hydrologists study of the movement, distribution, and quality of water on Earth, including the hydrologic cycle, water resources, ground water contamination, and environmental watershed sustainability. 

Meteorologists is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere. They examine its effects on the environment, predict the weather, or investigate climate trends.

Cloud bank

Oceanographers study the motion and circulation of ocean waters; the physical and chemical properties of the oceans; and how these properties affect coastal areas, climate, and weather.

Where are graduates finding geoscience jobs?

American Geosciences Institute conducts an annual Student Exit Survey. The most recent survey revealed that (for the first time in the history of the survey) BA/BS graduates are finding the most employment success outside of the oil and gas sector. Learn more in Geoscience Currents.

Where Are Geology Graduates Finding Jobs?
 x – employment opportunities exist
X – major employer
Federal Government Private Companies
Geologists x x x x
       Engineering X X X x
       Environmental x X x x
       Marine   x x x
       Mining   x X x
       Paleontology x x x X
       Petroleum   x X x
Geochemistry x x x x
Geophysics x x X x
       Seismology x x X x
Hydrology X x X x
Meteorology x X x x
Oceanography   X x X

United States Department of Labor can help you find information on education and training, pay, and outlook for geoscience careers and more.   

What do geoscientists make in the real world?

The American Geosciences Institute has reported the median annual salaries for geoscience-related careers in the U.S., and most have increased since 2011. Petroleum engineers are at the top, with managers in engineering and natural sciences taking second and third place.  

Get advice from the professionals

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) career center has more than 20 interviews from geoscientists in a variety of related careers – soil scientist, climate scientist, petroleum geoscientist, hydrologists, academia, and more. The interviews contain advice for students considering geoscience careers and for specifically for women interested in a career in science, as well as information about what a typical day in a geoscience career looks like.  Geoscientists interview 

Professional Societies and Networking

Get involved in the geology community, whether in a geology club (Wake Tech AGI chapter) or professional association (AGI, AEG, GSA) or through local field trips. Collaborate with others who share your interests, and network to find out where potential jobs are. Take advantage of opportunities to complete undergraduate research and participate in local and national conferences and field trips. These activities will improve your research skills and expose you to opportunities in geology. You can learn more from your instructor.

To learn more about career resources, professional meetings and field trip and memberships: