Geoscientist Career Description


Geoscientists study the physical aspects of the Earth.

What they do

Geoscientists study the physical aspects of the Earth, such as its composition, structure, and processes, to learn about its past, present, and future.

Geoscientists typically do the following:

  • Plan and carry out field studies, in which they visit locations to collect samples and conduct surveys
  • Analyze aerial photographs, well logs (detailed records of geologic formations found during drilling), rock samples, and other data sources to locate deposits of natural resources and estimate their size
  • Conduct laboratory tests on samples collected in the field
  • Make geologic maps and charts
  • Prepare written scientific reports
  • Present their findings to clients, colleagues, and other interested parties

Geoscientists use a wide variety of tools, both simple and complex. During a typical day in the field, they may use a hammer and chisel to collect rock samples and then use ground-penetrating radar equipment to search for oil or minerals. In laboratories, they may use x rays and electron microscopes to determine the chemical and physical composition of rock samples. They may also use remote sensing equipment to collect data, as well as geographic information systems (GIS) and modeling software to analyze the data collected.

Geoscientists often supervise the work of technicians and coordinate work with other scientists, both in the field and in the lab.

Many geoscientists are involved in the search for and development of natural resources, such as petroleum. Others work in environmental protection and preservation and are involved in projects to clean up and reclaim land. Some specialize in a particular aspect of the Earth, such as its oceans.

The following are examples of types of geoscientists:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 from sites through drilling and other methods and test the 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.

Seismologists study earthquakes and related phenomena, such as tsunamis. They use seismographs and other instruments to collect data on these events.

Work Environment

Geoscientists work in states that have a prominence of oil and gas activities. Workers in natural resource extraction fields usually work as part of a team, with other scientists and engineers. For example, they may work closely with petroleum engineers to find and develop new sources of oil and natural gas.

Most geoscientists split their time between working in the field, in laboratories, and in offices. Fieldwork can take geoscientists to remote locations all over the world. For example, oceanographers may spend months at sea on a research ship, and petroleum geologists may spend long periods in remote areas while doing exploration activities. Extensive travel and long periods away from home can be physically and psychologically demanding. Having outdoor skills, such as camping and hiking skills, may be useful.

How to become a Geoscientist

Geoscientists need at least a bachelor’s degree for most entry-level positions. However, some workers begin their careers as geoscientists with a master’s degree.

Geoscientists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree for most entry-level positions. A geosciences degree is generally preferred by employers, although some geoscientists begin their careers with degrees in environmental science or engineering. Some geoscientist jobs require a master’s degree.

Most geoscience programs include geology courses in mineralogy, petrology, and structural geology, which are important for all geoscientists. In addition to classes in geology, most programs require students to take courses in other physical sciences, mathematics, engineering, and computer science.

Some programs include training on specific software packages that will be useful to those seeking a career as a geoscientist. In addition to classroom and lab courses, most degree programs also include summer geology field camp courses that provide students with practical experience before graduating.


The median annual wage for geoscientists was $92,040 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $51,000, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $187,910.

Job Outlook

Employment of geoscientists is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. The need for energy, environmental protection, and responsible land and resource management is projected to spur demand for geoscientists.

Employment of geoscientists in the professional, scientific, and technical services industry, where most of them work, is projected to rise modestly. This increase will offset slower growth in the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industry, the second-largest employer of geoscientists.

Geoscientists will be involved in discovering and developing sites for alternative energies, such as geothermal energy and wind energy.

Similar Job Titles

Engineering Geologist, Environmental Protection Geologist, Exploration Geologist, Geological Specialist, Geologist, Geophysicist, Geoscientist, Hydrogeologist, Mine Geologist, Project Geologist

Related Occupations

Geospatial Information Scientist and Technologist, Petroleum Engineer, Validation Engineer, Environmental Scientist and Specialist, Remote Sensing Scientist and Technologist

More Information

The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field.  Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas.  As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.

Magazines and Publications

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Video Transcript

Geoscientists dwell in an unusual frame of reference… studying evidence of events that happened millions of years ago… to understand the present… and try to foresee future geological events. Geoscientists study the physical aspects of the Earth, such as its composition, structure, and processes, to understand how it was formed and what forces shaped its features. Splitting their time between the lab, the office and the field, geoscientists need a variety of skills. They need to be as comfortable and knowledgeable on a computer as they are on a hike… able to understand and critically analyze the samples and data they gather on a mountain peak… and just as capable of communicating their findings to an audience of nonscientists. Their tools may include a classic hammer and chisel to gather rock samples, along with sophisticated remote sensing equipment to gather a broader impression of an area. Specializations offer very different opportunities; some analyze the probability of earthquakes and volcano eruptions, and study layers of rock under building foundations to ensure a stable foundation. Others explore for—and help develop— oil and gas resources, and clean up and reclaim land. Some geoscientists study the chemistry and movement of ocean waters… and how they affect climate and weather. Most entry-level geoscientists have a bachelor’s degree in a related science. Fortunately, geoscientists don’t mind getting their hands dirty in a career that benefits human life on Earth.

Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH,
CareerOne Stop, O*Net Online