Geological and Petroleum Technicians

Summary

geological and petroleum technicians image
Geological and petroleum technicians analyze samples of soil and minerals in an attempt to find valuable resources.
Quick Facts: Geological and Petroleum Technicians
2012 Median Pay $52,700 per year
$25.34 per hour
Entry-Level Education Associate’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2012 15,800
Job Outlook, 2012-22 15% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 2,400

What Geological and Petroleum Technicians Do

Geological and petroleum technicians provide support to scientists and engineers in exploring and extracting natural resources, such as minerals, oil, and natural gas.

Work Environment

Geological and petroleum technicians work in offices, laboratories, and the field. Most geological and petroleum technicians work full time.

How to Become a Geological or Petroleum Technician

Most employers prefer applicants who have an associate’s degree or 2 years of postsecondary training in applied science or a science-related technology. Geological and petroleum technicians also receive on-the-job training.

Pay

The median annual wage for geological and petroleum technicians was $52,700 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of geological and petroleum technicians is projected to grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. High prices for oil and strong demand for natural gas is expected to increase demand for geological exploration and extraction in the future.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of geological and petroleum technicians with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about geological and petroleum technicians by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Geological and Petroleum Technicians Do

Geological and petroleum technicians
Geological and petroleum technicians help identify locations that are suitable for oil and gas wells.

Geological and petroleum technicians provide support to scientists and engineers in exploring and extracting natural resources, such as minerals, oil, and natural gas.

Duties

Geological and petroleum technicians typically do the following:

  • Install and maintain laboratory and field equipment
  • Gather samples such as rock, mud, and soil in the field and prepare samples for laboratory analysis
  • Conduct scientific tests on samples to determine their content and characteristics
  • Record data from tests and compile information from reports, computer databases, and other sources
  • Prepare reports and maps that can be used to define geological characteristics of areas that may have valuable resources
  • Monitor well exploration activities, and record data such as well temperatures and pressures
  • Document their investigations and compare actual productivity with their estimates

Geological and petroleum technicians tend to specialize in either working in the field and in laboratories, or working in offices where they analyze data. However, many technicians have duties that overlap into multiple areas.

In the field, geological and petroleum technicians use sophisticated equipment such as seismic instruments and gravity-measuring devices to gather geological data. They also use tools to collect samples of rock and other materials for scientific analysis. In laboratories, these technicians analyze the samples for evidence of hydrocarbons, useful metals, or precious gemstones.

Geological and petroleum technicians use computers to analyze data from samples collected in the field and from previous research. They use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software to map geological data; this creates a visual representation and makes the data easier to understand. The results of their analysis may explain a new site’s potential for further exploration and development, or may focus on monitoring the current and future productivity of an existing site.

Geological and petroleum technicians work on geological prospecting and surveying teams under the supervision of scientists and engineers, who evaluate the work for accuracy and make final decisions about current and potential production sites. Geologic and petroleum technicians might work with scientists and technicians in other fields. For example, geological and petroleum technicians might work with environmental scientists and technicians to monitor the environmental impact of drilling and other activities.

Work Environment

Geological and petroleum technicians
Fieldwork requires technicians to work outdoors, sometimes in remote locations, where they are exposed to all types of weather.

Geological and petroleum technicians held about 15,800 jobs in 2012. The industries that employed the most geological and petroleum technicians in 2012 were as follows:

Support activities for mining30%
Oil and gas extraction19
Engineering services11
Petroleum and coal products manufacturing7
Chemical and allied products merchant wholesalers5

In 2012, almost half of all technicians were employed in Texas because of the large amount of resource extraction activity.

Geological and petroleum technicians spend most of their time in the field and in laboratories, or analyzing data in offices. Fieldwork requires technicians to work outdoors, sometimes in remote locations, where they are exposed to all types of weather. In addition, technicians may need to stay on location in the field for days or weeks to collect data and monitor equipment. Geological and petroleum technicians who work in offices spend most of their time working on computers organizing and analyzing data, writing reports, and producing maps.

Work Schedules

Most geological and petroleum technicians work full time. Technicians generally work a standard schedule in laboratories and offices, but hours spent in the field may be long or irregular.

 

How to Become a Geological or Petroleum Technician

Geological and petroleum technicians
Geological and petroleum technicians use laboratory equipment such as microscopes to analyze samples collected in the field.

Most employers prefer applicants who have an associate’s degree or 2 years of postsecondary training in applied science or science-related technology. Geological and petroleum technicians also receive on-the-job training.

Education

Although some entry-level positions require only a high school diploma, most employers prefer applicants who have at least an associate’s degree or 2 years of postsecondary training in applied science or a science-related technology. Geological and petroleum technician jobs that are data intensive or otherwise highly technical may require at least a bachelor’s degree.

Many community colleges and technical institutes offer programs in geosciences, petroleum, mining, or a related technology such as geographic information systems (GIS). Community colleges offer associate’s degree programs designed to provide an easy transition to bachelor’s degree programs at colleges and universities; such programs can be useful for future career advancement.

Technical institutes typically offer 1-year certificate programs and 2-year associate’s degree programs. Technical institutes offer technical training that usually includes less theory and offers fewer general education courses than community colleges.

Regardless of the degree program, most students take classes in geology, mathematics, computer science, chemistry, and physics. Many schools also offer internships and cooperative-education programs that help students gain experience while attending school. Jobseekers who have this type of experience may have better prospects.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Geological and petroleum technicians examine data, using a variety of complex techniques, including laboratory experimentation and computer modeling.

Communication skills. Geological and petroleum technicians explain their methods and findings through oral and written reports to scientists, engineers, managers, and other technicians. Therefore, they must speak and write clearly.

Critical-thinking skills. Geological and petroleum technicians must use their best judgment when interpreting scientific data and determining what is relevant to their work.

Interpersonal skills. Geological and petroleum technicians need to be able to work well with others and as part of a team.

Physical stamina. To do fieldwork, geological and petroleum technicians need to be in good physical shape to hike to remote locations while carrying testing and sampling equipment.

Training

Most geological and petroleum technicians receive on-the-job training under the supervision of technicians who have more experience. During training, new technicians gain hands-on experience using field and laboratory equipment, as well as computer programs such as modeling and mapping software. The length of training can vary with the technician’s previous experience, education, and specifics of the job.

Pay

Geological and Petroleum Technicians

Median annual wages, May 2012

Geological and petroleum technicians

$52,700

Life, physical, and social science technicians

$41,130

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for geological and petroleum technicians was $52,700 in May 2012. 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 $26,940, and the top 10 percent earned more than $99,300.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for geological and petroleum technicians in the top five industries employing these technicians were as follows:

Petroleum and coal products manufacturing$85,110
Oil and gas extraction70,920
Chemical and allied products merchant wholesalers53,490
Support activities for mining47,670
Engineering services45,040

Most geological and petroleum technicians work full time. Technicians generally work a standard schedule while in laboratories and offices, but hours spent in the field may be long or irregular.

Job Outlook

Geological and Petroleum Technicians

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Geological and petroleum technicians

15%

Total, all occupations

11%

Life, physical, and social science technicians

10%

 

Employment of geological and petroleum technicians is projected to grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. High prices for oil and strong demand for natural gas is expected to increase demand for geological exploration and extraction in the future.  

Oil prices are likely to increase over time, as they have in the past. In addition, future demand for cheap energy will likely cause natural gas prices to increase before 2022. These expected price increases will support current and future exploration.

Since geological and petroleum technicians are sometimes involved in ongoing production processes, such as monitoring a well’s productivity, more of these workers will be needed as production increases. Demand for exploration of resources such as coal, metals, and other mined goods is generally expected to continue as it has historically, or increase over the projection period. This growth will be due to growing world population and the growth of the middle class worldwide.

Job Prospects

The best job prospects will be for those technicians who have hands-on training, through an internship, and technical skills in computer programs such as Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

Employment projections data for Geological and Petroleum Technicians, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Geological and petroleum technicians

19-4041 15,800 18,200 15 2,400 [XLS]

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of geological and petroleum technicians.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2012 MEDIAN PAY
Cartographers and photogrammetrists

Cartographers and Photogrammetrists

Cartographers and photogrammetrists collect, measure, and interpret geographic information to create maps and charts for political, educational, and other purposes.

Bachelor’s degree $57,440
Civil engineering technicians

Civil Engineering Technicians

Civil engineering technicians help civil engineers plan and design the construction of highways, bridges, utilities, and other major infrastructure projects. They also help with commercial, residential, and land development. Civil engineering technicians work under the direction of licensed civil engineers.

Associate’s degree $47,560
Civil engineers

Civil Engineers

Civil engineers design, construct, supervise, operate, and maintain large construction projects and systems, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.

Bachelor’s degree $79,340
Geoscientists

Geoscientists

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

Bachelor’s degree $90,890
Hydrologists

Hydrologists

Hydrologists study how water moves across and through the Earth’s crust. They can use their expertise to solve problems in the areas of water quality or availability.

Master’s degree $75,530
Petroleum engineers

Petroleum Engineers

Petroleum engineers design and develop methods for extracting oil and gas from deposits below the earth’s surface. Petroleum engineers also find new ways to extract oil and gas from older wells.

Bachelor’s degree $130,280
Surveying and mapping technicians

Surveying and Mapping Technicians

Surveying and mapping technicians assist surveyors, cartographers, and photogrammetrists. Together, they collect data and make maps of the earth’s surface. Surveying technicians visit sites to take measurements of the land. Mapping technicians use geographic data to create maps.

High school diploma or equivalent $39,670
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Geological and Petroleum Technicians,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/geological-and-petroleum-technicians.htm (visited November 25, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014