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Interested in a Career in Geology?
What is a Geoscientist?
Geoscientists tend to be fulfilled individuals who enjoy studying the Earth and our relationship to it. The Earth is the greatest of all outdoor laboratories, and it provides a great variety of opportunities to observe natural processes in action. By applying your knowledge of the forces that are constantly reshaping our planet, you can seek to reconstruct the past and anticipate the future. There is no greater reward than benefiting society by understanding the only planet we know of which sustains the very existence of all life.
Geoscientists have a natural curiosity about the Earth. How was it formed? How is it changing? What effects will shrinking glaciers have on the oceans and climate? How do islands form? What makes a continent move? Why did the dinosaurs become extinct? What makes a mountain?
Geoscientists are very concerned about the Earth. Is there a global warming trend, and what will be its effect on coastal cities, agricultural belts, and the very fabric of our society? How and where should we dispose of industrial and nuclear wastes, such as what remediation can be done to clean up polluted areas like Hanford and Bunker Hill? How can we fill society's growing demands for energy and conserve natural resources for future generations, and balance this with ecological concerns?
Geoscientists enjoy the Earth. It is an outdoor laboratory filled with opportunities to observe Earth processes in action. By applying knowledge of forces that shape the Earth, geoscientists seek to reconstruct the past and anticipate the future.
What is the Profession Like?
Geoscientists may be found sampling the deep ocean floor or collecting rock specimens on the moon. But the work of most geoscientists is more "down to earth." They work as explorers for new mineral or hydrocarbon resources, consultants on engineering or environmental problems, researchers, teachers, writers, editors, museum curators and in many other challenging occupations. They often divide their time among the joys of working in the outdoor environment, the laboratory and the office.
Field work may entail the preparation of geologic maps and collecting samples that will later be analyzed in the laboratory. For example, rock samples may be x-rayed, studied under a polarizing or electron microscope and analyzed for chemical content. Geoscientists may also conduct experiments or design computer models to test theories in order to provide data which will mitigate the effects of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and flooding.
In the office, they integrate field and laboratory data to write reports that include maps and diagrams that illustrate the results of their investigations. Such maps can pinpoint areas favorable to the occurrence of ores, coal, oil, natural gas or underground water, or indicate subsurface conditions of construction sites.
Geoscientific work often includes an interesting mix of indoor and outdoor duties which are seldom found in any other profession.
Geoscientists are employed in a wide spectrum of academic, industrial and governmental positions. Salary varies greatly, but is generally more than $30,000 a year for entering geoscientists. The high salary range is more than $56,000 for beginning petroleum geologists.
Geology is the science of planet Earth. Geologists use elements of chemistry, physics, biology and mathematics in interpreting the evolution of the Earth and its life forms. Applied geology addresses exploitation of Earth resources, evaluation of natural hazards and assessing environmental quality. Geologists increasingly employ advanced chemical and physical analytic techniques and use computers to model natural systems.
Nationwide, approximately half of recent geology graduates are employed in environmental fields, while a third go on to graduate school. Most of the rest go into the petroleum industry, teaching, government or mining. The Geology Department has close relations with geotechnical/environmental consulting firms, government agencies and mining companies in the Pacific Northwest, which helps to place students in jobs.
High school students planning to major in geology should take two years of algebra, one year of geometry/trigonometry and one year of chemistry and physics. They are also encouraged to take four years of English. The ability to express ideas and concepts clearly and concisely, both orally and in written form, is fundamental to all sciences.
Entering freshmen and transfer students electing to major in geology should contact the department for advising as soon as possible. Failure to do so may result in an additional year to finish the Bachelor of Science program. Early completion of the chemistry sequence is especially important for beginning students.
Click on the links below for more information about careers in Geology: