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Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNCUbLoD5Io.
Quick Facts: Geoscientists
2022 Median Pay $87,480 per year
$42.06 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2022 26,300
Job Outlook, 2022-32 5% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2022-32 1,300

What Geoscientists Do

Geoscientists study the physical aspects of the Earth.

Work Environment

Geoscientists usually split their time between work in an office setting, in laboratories, and outdoors. Most geoscientists work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Schedules vary to include irregular hours when doing fieldwork.

How to Become a Geoscientist

Geoscientists typically need a bachelor’s degree to enter the occupation. For some positions, employers prefer to hire candidates who have a master’s degree. Most geoscientists need a state-issued license.

Pay

The median annual wage for geoscientists was $87,480 in May 2022.

Job Outlook

Employment of geoscientists is projected to grow 5 percent from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 2,200 openings for geoscientists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for geoscientists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of geoscientists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

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

What Geoscientists Do About this section

Geoscientists
Petroleum geologists (a type of geoscientist) search for oil and gas deposits that are suitable for commercial extraction.

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

Duties

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, 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 reports
  • Present their findings to varied audiences, including clients and colleagues

Geoscientists study the Earth’s composition, or layers; its structure, which focuses on the properties of rocks; and its processes, such as erosion and volcanic activity. By analyzing rocks, fossils, and other clues, geoscientists are able to create timelines of events in the Earth’s geologic history. They also research changes in its resources to provide guidance in meeting human demands, such as for water, and to predict geological risks and hazards.

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

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

As geological challenges increase, geoscientists may opt to work as generalists. However, some choose to specialize in a particular aspect of the Earth. The following are examples of types of geoscientists:

Environmental geologists study how consequences of human activity, such as pollution and waste management, affect the quality of the Earth’s air, soil, and water. They also may work to solve problems associated with natural threats, such as flooding and erosion.

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.

Oceanographers study the motion and circulation of ocean waters; the physical and chemical properties of the oceans; and the ways 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 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 extraction sites.

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

For a more extensive list of geoscientist specialties, visit the American Geosciences Institute (AGI).

Work Environment About this section

Geoscientists
Geoscientists frequently work outdoors so they can study geological aspects of the Earth, such as geysers, up close.

Geoscientists held about 26,300 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of geoscientists were as follows:

Architectural, engineering, and related services 28%
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 19
Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction 15
Federal government, excluding postal service 9
State government, excluding education and hospitals 8

Geoscientists may work as part of a team with other scientists and engineers. For example, they may work closely in natural resource extraction fields with petroleum engineers to find new sources of oil and gas.

Geoscientists usually split their time between work in the field, in laboratories, and in office settings. Fieldwork may require geoscientists to be outdoors frequently or to travel all over the world, including to remote locations, for extended periods. For example, oceanographers may spend months at sea on a research ship, and paleontologists may spend long periods in remote areas during expeditions.

Extensive travel, especially for long periods away from home, may be stressful.

Work Schedules

Most geoscientists work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Schedules may vary to include irregular hours when doing fieldwork. Geoscientists travel frequently to meet with clients and to conduct fieldwork.

How to Become a Geoscientist About this section

Geoscientists
Laboratory experience is important for prospective geoscientists.

Geoscientists typically need a bachelor’s degree to enter the occupation. For some positions, employers prefer to hire candidates who have a master’s or doctoral degree. Most geoscientists need a state-issued license.

Education

Geoscientists typically need a bachelor’s degree in geoscience or a related field, such as physical science or natural resources.

Geoscience programs include courses in mineralogy, geology, and other sciences, along with subjects such as mathematics and engineering. Some programs focus on a particular area of geoscience, such as environmental geology, while others prepare students to become generalists.

Programs also usually involve geology fieldwork that provides students with practical experience. Students may gain additional experience by completing a geosciences internship while in college. Interns usually work under the supervision of a senior geoscientist on tasks such as preparing for field visits, collecting samples, and writing reports.

Master’s and doctoral degree programs in geoscience typically involve more specialization, research, and technical experience than bachelor’s programs do. Having a graduate degree may make candidates more competitive for certain entry-level positions or for advancement.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states require licensing for geologists who offer services to the public. Public service activities include those associated with civil engineering projects, environmental protection, and regulatory compliance.

Licensure requirements vary by state, but applicants typically must meet minimum education and experience requirements and earn a passing score on an exam. Examining authorities also vary by state. For example, some states use exams by the National Association of State Boards of Geology (ASBOG) or the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG).

Contact your state licensing board for more information.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Geoscientists must be able to present their research findings clearly to a variety of audiences, including both scientists and those who do not have a background in geoscience.

Critical-thinking skills. Geoscientists conduct research through observation and testing, then evaluate data to explain their findings.

Outdoor skills. Geoscientists may spend significant time outdoors performing fieldwork. They must be comfortable being outside for long periods, which may include overnight camping.

Physical stamina. Geoscientists need to be physically fit because they may need to hike, sometimes to remote locations, while carrying equipment for fieldwork.

Problem-solving skills. Geoscientists must be able to analyze statistical data and other information in order to address problems.

Pay About this section

Geoscientists

Median annual wages, May 2022

Geoscientists, except hydrologists and geographers

$87,480

Physical scientists

$83,760

Total, all occupations

$46,310

 

The median annual wage for geoscientists was $87,480 in May 2022. 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 $49,150, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $173,620.

In May 2022, the median annual wages for geoscientists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service $106,450
Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction 105,170
Architectural, engineering, and related services 80,240
State government, excluding education and hospitals 78,500
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 77,260

Most geoscientists work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Schedules may vary to include irregular hours when doing fieldwork. Geoscientists travel frequently to meet with clients and to conduct fieldwork.

Job Outlook About this section

Geoscientists

Percent change in employment, projected 2022-32

Physical scientists

5%

Geoscientists, except hydrologists and geographers

5%

Total, all occupations

3%

 

Employment of geoscientists is projected to grow 5 percent from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 2,200 openings for geoscientists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

The need for energy, environmental protection, and responsible land and resource management is expected to spur demand for geoscientists.

Geoscientists will be involved in discovering and developing sites for traditional and alternative energy sources. For example, geoscientists study wind speeds and patterns to determine sites that are suitable for wind turbines. The increased use of and demand for alternative energy should lead to more jobs for these workers.

Employment projections data for geoscientists, 2022-32
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2022 Projected Employment, 2032 Change, 2022-32 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Geoscientists, except hydrologists and geographers

19-2042 26,300 27,600 5 1,300 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.org. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of geoscientists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2022 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Anthropologists and archeologists Anthropologists and Archeologists

Anthropologists and archeologists study the origin, development, and behavior of humans.

Master's degree $63,940
Atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists Atmospheric Scientists, Including Meteorologists

Atmospheric scientists study, report on, and forecast the weather and climate.

Bachelor's degree $83,780
Environmental engineers Environmental Engineers

Environmental engineers use engineering disciplines in developing solutions to problems of planetary health.

Bachelor's degree $96,530
Environmental scientists and specialists Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health.

Bachelor's degree $76,480
Geological and petroleum technicians Geological and Hydrologic Technicians

Geological and hydrologic technicians support scientists and engineers in exploring, extracting, and monitoring natural resources.

Associate's degree $49,590
Hydrologists Hydrologists

Hydrologists study how water moves across and through the Earth’s crust.

Bachelor's degree $85,990
Mining and geological engineers Mining and Geological Engineers

Mining and geological engineers design mines to safely and efficiently remove minerals for use in manufacturing and utilities.

Bachelor's degree $97,490
Natural sciences managers Natural Sciences Managers

Natural sciences managers supervise the work of scientists, including chemists, physicists, and biologists.

Bachelor's degree $144,440
Physicists and astronomers Physicists and Astronomers

Physicists and astronomers study the interactions of matter and energy.

Doctoral or professional degree $139,220
Petroleum engineers Petroleum Engineers

Petroleum engineers design and develop methods for extracting oil and gas from deposits below the Earth’s surface.

Bachelor's degree $131,800

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about geoscientists, visit

American Geophysical Union (AGU)

American Geosciences Institute (AGI)

Geological Society of America (GSA)

U.S. National Committee for Geological Sciences

For more information about licensure for geologists, visit

American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG)

National Association of State Boards of Geology (ASBOG)

To find job openings for geoscientists in the federal government, visit

USAJOBS

O*NET

Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Geoscientists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/geoscientists.htm (visited March 22, 2024).

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 6, 2023

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2022 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2022, the median annual wage for all workers was $46,310.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2022

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2022, which is the base year of the 2022-32 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2022-32

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032. The average growth rate for all occupations is 3 percent.

Employment Change, 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

2022 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2022, the median annual wage for all workers was $46,310.