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Geosciences Overview - Preparation - Industries - Day in the Life -
Earnings - Employment - Career Path Forecast -
Professional Organizations -
Profiles of Geoscientists - Overview PowerPoint - Podcast

The following is an overview of the five main career areas in Geology:

One career pathway for geoscientists is education. Geoscience education is a professional pursuit for some, such as teachers in middle-schools or as a professor at a university. However, education is not limited to formal classroom settings, nor in the training of new geoscientists. All people need to understand the basic processes and properties of the world they live in. Through this understanding, they can make better informed decisions which lead to a better quality of life of themselves and all of society. General awareness not only comes through formal geoscience classes, but also through the public outreach efforts of practicing geoscientists to their community, whether through Earth Science Week activities or advising civic groups on an earth science issue. Many geoscientists, particularly those in local and state governments, pursue public outreach as part of their job. So even though we many not consider them having followed a traditional geoscience education career path, education is a major part of their professional effort.

The petroleum industry is focused on the exploration and production of oil and gas. The petroleum industry employs the largest number of geoscientists, with nearly 40% of geoscientists working in the field.  The petroleum industry historically experiences cyclical boom and busts. Employment levels fluctuate with this boom and bust cycle, normally driven by the price of oil. However, technology has helped to temper the severity of this boom and bust cycle by dramatically lowering the costs to produce oil. However, as with any commodity, lowered production costs are often coupled with lower market prices.  Additionally, the petroleum industry often leads in the development and deployment of new technological applications to the geosciences. Also, as the economy has become more global, the petroleum industry has as well, with substantial efforts in South America, the North Sea, Africa, and Southeast Asia, along with the traditional focus on the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and the Middle East.

The mining industry has been a traditional employer of geoscientists. Though mining efforts have expanded greatly in parts of the world, especially South America, employment of geoscientists in the mining industry has remained stable. Geoscientists work in all aspects of the mining industry, from exploration, to mine design, to evaluating ore quality. More recently, many geoscientists working in the mining industry are also focusing on the environment, particularly in reclamation and groundwater management issues in an effort to minimize the impact of mining on the local environment.

Since the 1970's the environmental industry has seen a strong growth in the number of geoscientists employed. As public awareness grew and the associated increase in environmental regulation, the need for environmental geoscientists has increased. Many geoscientists working in the environmental fields deal with issues of water, both surface waters and groundwater. These efforts with water deal both with management issues as well as water quality issues - giving the geoscientist a unique role as steward of our water resources. Other geoscientists work with soils, managing this critical resource for the sustainability of agriculture. Natural hazards, such as landslides, is another major area of concern for environmental geoscientists. Though many environmental geoscientists work in private industry, particularly in environmental consulting firms, many work in all levels of government.

Geoscientists work at all levels of government. Opportunities in government are quite varied and cover all fields of the geosciences. Geoscientists work in nearly all capacities of government, from the military to basic research to policy development to regulatory capacities. Opportunities exist for oceanographers, solid Earth scientists, and atmospheric scientists. Many oceanographers pursue research in the military and with scientific agencies such as NOAA. Atmospheric scientists are also found in a wide variety of government agencies. From forecasting offices for the military and NOAA to developing global climate models at government research laboratories, most atmospheric scientists work to protect people and resources through early warning and detection of atmospheric conditions which may affect our society. Solid Earth scientists work in all fields, from petroleum to minerals to the environment, working on pure research, policy formulation, regulatory enforcement, and public safety. The expertise of geoscientists are strategically placed throughout the government to provide critical input about our understanding of the Earth and how it will affect our society.

Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the American Geological Institute and the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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