Geologists are scientists who research the earth's physical processes and phenomena, such as the creation of mountains and rivers, the movement of the continents, volcanic activity, and rock cycles. Geology is a very broad scientific field, and many different geologist jobs are found in each subfield. Most geologist jobs are found with private research institutions, engineering firms, nonprofit environmental organizations, government agencies, and universities.
Many geologists conduct extensive field and laboratory research in one of many different areas of specialization. He or she may exclusively study volcanoes, glaciers, earthquakes, or oceans. Geochemists study the chemical composition of rocks and sediments and their changes over time, and paleontologists examine fossils, petrified wood, and other ancient plant and animal remains. Petroleum geologists are researchers who specialize in locating potential oil reserves for future excavation projects. Many research geologists write detailed scientific papers about their experiments and findings.
Many geologist jobs are found with engineering and architectural firms, where scientists survey land and determine the safest, most efficient strategies for building large structures, such as buildings and bridges. They take into consideration the environmental impacts a construction project may have on certain sites, and decide the best location for pillars and foundations to be put down. Geologists must ensure that the ground is sturdy and that a foundation is structurally sound to prevent an accidental landslide or collapse.
Geologists who work for the government and nonprofit organizations are usually involved in surveying, conservation, and education efforts. Experts often perform field research to determine the effects of human activity on the earth itself. They may take soil and rock samples to analyze pollution levels and track changes in climate patterns, moisture, and air composition over time. Scientists may give tours of important sites or provide educational resources to the public on how to better protect the earth and the environment. Some scientists choose to become university professors, providing classroom and field studies for the next generation of geologists.
To obtain a job in the geology field, a person must typically receive at least a master's degree from an accredited university. Advanced research geologist jobs, project supervisor positions, and university professorships require a candidate to hold a PhD. Most new geologists spend as many as two years working as an apprentice or assistant to established geologists, gaining essential firsthand experience before starting independent research. Additional licensing is often required to hold geologist jobs with the government or engineering firms, which can be obtained by passing a written exam administered by a person's state or country.