Buchtel College of Arts & Sciences - Careers

Career Options for Geology and Environmental Science Majors

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  • Career Options for Geology and Environmental Science Majors

Because geologists have a natural curiosity which leads them to explore the Earth’s history and its processes in pursuit of ways to improve human life, they generally posses strong interpersonal and communication skills.

These skills, complemented by inquisitiveness, an analytical approach to inquiries, and open mindedness, aid a geologist in moderating the influences of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, floods, and landslides, in locating economic natural resources, and in determining the best methods of waste disposal and remediation of contaminated areas.

Because of the advancements in technology, today’s student should support the major’s studies with a strong basis in math, stats, and computers skills.

Work by geologists, who study the composition, processes, and history of the Earth, and geophysicists, who use the principles of physics, math, and chemistry to study the Earth’s surface and its internal composition, is done both in the field and in the laboratory.

While a bachelor’s degree in geology will secure some entry-level positions, the better qualified you are, the better position you can secure.

Students interested in a professional career in the geosciences should prepare to continue their education into advanced degrees. A master’s degree is required for major professional entry-level positions, with a Ph.D. necessary for university teaching and to secure higher-level research positions.

Geological scientists, or geoscientists, can specialize in any number of one of the following:



Study abundance, distribution, quality of ground water.

Study physical properties and movement of glaciers and ice sheets.

Environmental Geologist:
Solve problems with pollution, waste disposal and urban development, and hazards such as flooding and erosion.

Study effect of earth processes and investigate nature, origin, development of present land forms and their relationship to underlying structures.

Interpret past global changes and predict future changes from past records.

Investigate volcanoes and volcanic phenomena.

Study location and force of earthquakes and trace behavior of earthquake waves to interpret structure of Earth.

Petroleum Geologist:
Exploration and production of oil and natural gas.

Economic Geologist:
Explore for and develop geologic materials with profitable uses.

Engineering Geologist:
Investigate geologic factors that affect engineering structures such as bridges, buildings, airports, and dams.

Investigate the nature and distribution of chemical elements in rocks and minerals.

Study formation, composition, properties of minerals.

Study sedimentary rocks and processes of sediment formation, transportation and deposition.

Study fossils to understand past life forms and changes through time and to reconstruct past environments.

Determine origin and genesis of rocks by analyzing mineral or grain relationship.

Investigate time and space relationships of layered rocks and their fossil and mineral content.

Decipher Earth’s interior and magnetic, electric, gravitational fields.

Atmospheric Physicist:
Study effect of terrestrial, atmospheric, and space-based forces on behavior of atmosphere.

Planetary Geologist:
Study moon and other planets to understand evolution of solar system.


According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-11, employment of geoscientists is expected to grow faster than the average through 2018, between 18 and 24%.

As in any profession, employment depends on the country’s economic climate. Also, remember that one geoscientist in eight is self-employed as consultants to both industry and government.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that foreign-language speaking geoscientists willing to work abroad will fare best in an atmosphere of growing worldwide oil demand - especially in deep water and previously inaccessible sites. Thus, environmental scientists and hydrologists are expected to grow faster than average.


Median annual earnings of geoscientists:
In 2008 = $79k.

National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) in 2009:

Bachelor’s degree = $46.9K
Master’s degree = $68K

Federal Government in 2010:
In managerial, supervisory, non-supervisory positions in:
Depts. of Interior [mostly in US Geological Survey], Defense, Agriculture, Commerce, and Energy, and the EPA.

Geologists = $94K
Geophysicists = $108K
Hydrologists = $89.4K
Oceanographers = $105.6K


American Geological Institute
Geological Society of America
American Association of Petroleum Geologists
American Geophysical Union
Society of Exploration Geophysicists
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