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Working As A Research Geologist

  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • Getting Information
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Processing Information
  • $74,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Research Geologist Do

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

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, well logs (detailed records of geologic formations found during drilling), 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 scientific reports
  • Present their findings to clients, colleagues, and other interested parties
  • Review reports and research done by other scientists

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

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

Many geoscientists are involved in the search for and development of natural resources, such as petroleum. Others work in environmental protection and preservation, and are involved in projects to clean up and reclaim land. Some specialize in a particular aspect of the Earth, such as its oceans.

The following are examples of types of geoscientists:

Engineering geologists apply geologic principles to civil and environmental engineering. They offer advice on major construction projects and help with other projects, such as environmental cleanup and reducing natural hazards.

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.

Geochemists use physical and organic chemistry to study the composition of elements found in ground water, such as water from wells or aquifers, and of earth materials, such as rocks and sediment.

Geophysicists use the principles of physics to learn about the Earth’s surface and interior. They also study the properties of Earth’s magnetic, electric, and gravitational fields.

Oceanographers study the motion and circulation of ocean waters; the physical and chemical properties of the oceans; and how 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 explore the Earth for oil and gas deposits. They analyze geological information to identify sites that should be explored. They 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 sites to extract oil and gas.

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.

People with a geoscience background may become postsecondary teachers.

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How To Become A Research Geologist

Geoscientists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree for most entry-level positions. In several states, geoscientists may need a license to offer their services to the public.

Education

Geoscientists need at least a bachelor’s degree for most entry-level positions. However, some workers begin their careers as geoscientists with a master’s degree. A Ph.D. is necessary for most basic research and college teaching positions.

A degree in geoscience is preferred by employers, although a degree in physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, engineering, or computer science usually is accepted if it includes coursework in geology.

Most geoscience programs include geology courses in mineralogy, petrology, and structural geology, which are important for all geoscientists. In addition to classes in geology, most programs require students to take courses in other physical sciences, mathematics, engineering, and computer science. Some programs include training on specific software packages that will be useful to those seeking a career as a geoscientist.

Computer knowledge is essential for geoscientists. Students who have experience with computer modeling, data analysis, and digital mapping will be the most prepared to enter the job market.

Many employers seek applicants who have gained field and laboratory experience while pursuing a degree. Summer field camp programs offer students the opportunity to work closely with professors and apply their classroom knowledge in the field. Students can gain valuable experience in data collection and geologic mapping.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Geoscientists write reports and research papers. They must be able to present their findings clearly to clients or professionals who do not have a background in geoscience.

Critical-thinking skills. Geoscientists base their findings on sound observation and careful evaluation of data.

Interpersonal skills. Most geoscientists work as part of a team with engineers, technicians, and other scientists.

Outdoor skills. Geoscientists may spend significant amounts of time outdoors. Familiarity with camping skills, general comfort being outside for long periods, and specific skills such as boat handling or even being able to pilot an aircraft could prove useful for geoscientists.

Physical stamina. Geoscientists may need to hike to remote locations while carrying testing and sampling equipment when they conduct fieldwork.

Problem-solving skills. Geoscientists work on complex projects filled with challenges. Evaluating statistical data and other forms of information in order to make judgments and inform the actions of other workers requires a special ability to perceive and address problems.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some states require geoscientists to obtain a license to practice. Requirements vary by state but typically include minimum education and experience requirements and a passing score on an exam.

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Average Yearly Salary
$74,000
Show Salaries
$53,000
Min 10%
$74,000
Median 50%
$74,000
Median 50%
$74,000
Median 50%
$74,000
Median 50%
$74,000
Median 50%
$74,000
Median 50%
$74,000
Median 50%
$104,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Chevron
Highest Paying City
Houston, TX
Highest Paying State
Texas
Avg Experience Level
3.0 years
How much does a Research Geologist make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Research Geologist in the United States is $74,686 per year or $36 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $53,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $104,000.

The largest raises come from changing jobs.

See what's out there.

Real Research Geologist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Senior Research Geologist Exxon Mobil Corporation Sep 07, 2009 $161,138 -
$202,700
Senior Research Geologist Exxon Mobil Corporation Sep 08, 2011 $138,362 -
$196,400
Research Geologist Chevron Corporation Jun 09, 2016 $138,000
Senior Research Geologist The Pebble Limited Partnership Feb 03, 2011 $136,970
Senior Research Geologist The Pebble Limited Partnership Feb 10, 2011 $136,970
Senior Research Geologist Exxon Mobil Corporation Sep 08, 2011 $135,470 -
$196,400
Research Geologist Shell International Exploration & Production Inc. Aug 17, 2012 $133,800
Senior Research Geologist Exxon Mobil Corporation Feb 01, 2010 $132,662 -
$176,200
Senior Research Geologist The Pebble Limited Partnership Mar 23, 2010 $123,133
Mudrock Research Geologist Shell International Exploration & Production Inc. Jul 02, 2012 $120,000
Senior Research Geologist The Pebble Limited Partnership Mar 23, 2012 $114,785 -
$135,655
Research Geologist Chevron Corporation Jun 21, 2011 $113,700
Research Geologist Chevron Corporation Aug 26, 2013 $113,000
Research Geologist Chevron Corporation Sep 05, 2013 $113,000
Senior Research Geologist Exxon Mobil Corporation Sep 09, 2009 $111,400 -
$189,400
Research Geologist Shell International Exploration & Production Inc. Sep 09, 2010 $110,500
Research Geologist Exxon Mobil Corporation Feb 01, 2012 $107,182 -
$148,300
Research Geologist Exxonmobil Upstream Research Company Jul 01, 2012 $107,182 -
$152,000
Research Geologist Chevron Corporation Aug 24, 2012 $105,000
Research Geologist Exxon Mobil Corporation Sep 01, 2010 $104,187 -
$145,400
Research Geologist Exxon Mobil Corporation Oct 01, 2010 $104,187 -
$145,400
Research Geologist Exxon Mobil Corporation Aug 22, 2010 $90,100 -
$153,100
Research Geologist Exxon Mobil Corporation Oct 01, 2010 $85,600 -
$145,400
Research Geologist GS Us Geological Survey Nov 18, 2015 $79,554

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Top Skills for A Research Geologist

  1. Research Projects
  2. SEM
  3. GIS
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Developed ideas for both individual and collaborative research projects; authored and submitted corresponding grant applications to provide funding for research.
  • Conducted research to collect and assemble data for databases - Was responsible for design/development of relational databases for collecting data.
  • Performed forensic analysis of chemical contaminants in fish tissues using multivariate statistical methods and GIS to discern primary regional contaminant sources.
  • Used results of fieldwork and laboratory research to prepare geological maps and reports concerning mineral exploration.
  • Provided reservoir characterization of all proven and potential conventional and unconventional plays on COP held acreage in Montana and North Dakota.

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Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Research Geologists

  1. North Carolina
  2. Texas
  3. Pennsylvania
  4. Louisiana
  5. Tennessee
  6. Alabama
  7. New Mexico
  8. Virginia
  9. Oregon
  10. Michigan
  • (272 jobs)
  • (149 jobs)
  • (168 jobs)
  • (37 jobs)
  • (38 jobs)
  • (23 jobs)
  • (16 jobs)
  • (176 jobs)
  • (46 jobs)
  • (177 jobs)

Research Geologist Demographics

Gender

Male

71.6%

Female

25.4%

Unknown

3.0%
Ethnicity

White

57.8%

Hispanic or Latino

13.3%

Black or African American

11.5%

Asian

10.8%

Unknown

6.6%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

66.7%

French

33.3%

Research Geologist Education

Schools

Texas A&M University

10.7%

Louisiana State University and A&M College

7.1%

University of Oklahoma

7.1%

University of Texas at El Paso

7.1%

University of Texas at Austin

7.1%

Oklahoma State University

7.1%

University of Minnesota - Duluth

7.1%

University of Massachusetts Amherst

3.6%

Rice University

3.6%

University of Nevada - Reno

3.6%

Seattle University

3.6%

Northwest Missouri State University

3.6%

Harvard University

3.6%

University of Texas at Dallas

3.6%

University of California - Irvine

3.6%

University of Colorado at Boulder

3.6%

University of California - Davis

3.6%

University of Wisconsin - Parkside

3.6%

University of Houston - Clear Lake

3.6%

Montgomery College

3.6%
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Majors

Geology

71.7%

Geological Engineering

4.3%

Environmental Science

4.3%

Geography

4.3%

Philosophy

2.2%

Biology

2.2%

Journalism

2.2%

Marine Sciences

2.2%

Civil Engineering

2.2%

Computer Programming

2.2%

Computer Science

2.2%
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Degrees

Masters

35.6%

Bachelors

31.1%

Doctorate

31.1%

Certificate

2.2%
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Updated May 18, 2020