Home | About | Contact | Advertise | AWG Store

Career Profiles

What Do Earth Scientists Do?

Career Opportunities in the Geosciences

Geoscience, the study of the Earth, is a field that has opportunities for a variety of careers. Geoscientists with different specialties study different aspects of the Earth. Here are just a few of the many types of earth scientists with a brief description of what they study.

  • Petrologists investigate the composition of rocks and their origin.

  • Sedimentologists study the origin and deposition of sediments and the changes involved in their conversion to sedimentary rocks.

  • Hydrogeologists study the distribution, circulation, and physical properties of subsurface water.

  • Volcanologists investigate the origin of volcanic rocks and the life cycles of volcanoes.

  • Geophysicists study the earth using gravity, magnetic, electrical, and seismic methods.

  • Oceanographers investigate oceans, including marine organisms, water properties, and the history of the sea bottom.

  • Petroleum geologists explore the subsurface for oil or gas.

  • Engineering geologists use their knowledge of geology in the construction of roads, dams, and buildings.

Most geoscience jobs involve field, laboratory, and office work and require written and oral reports on the completed project as well as some computer work. Many geoscientists work on research projects. Geoscientists can work in an industry, governmental agencies or educational institutions. The following are examples of employers.


petroleum and natural gas companies, mining companies, engineering, and environmental consulting firms, and independent research laboratories.

Government agencies

local, state, and federal agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey, Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Land Management, Army Corps of Engineers, state water control boards, and state geological surveys.

Educational institutions

secondary schools, colleges, universities, and museums.

Although each job requires a different geoscience background and level of education, the minimum requirement is either a bachelor of science (B.S.) or bachelor of arts (B.A.) degree. Many require more advanced degrees such as a master of science (M.S.) or doctoral (Ph.D.) degree. Annual salaries in geoscience range from $20,000 to more than $100,000. It is essential to take math and science classes in high school to prepare for a career in the earth sciences.

Geoscientists are a diverse group of people who share an interest in the earth sciences. Some are single; some are married, some have children, some do not, some have loved rocks, fossils, or dinosaurs since they were young, others discovered earth science later in life, some have had one job, others have had several positions. They have different goals, interests, and diverse educational backgrounds. The profiles of geoscientists included in this packet will give you an idea of the types of careers available.

Here is a link to learn more from Earth Science Week: https://www.earthsciweek.org/

AWG Career Profiles - Table of Contents: