A geochemist is a type of scientist who uses both geology and chemistry to study the earth. Working primarily with rocks and minerals, geochemists study the chemical make up of and interaction between various substances found in the earth. They work with oil companies, the government, and environmental agencies, and as researchers and teachers.
Geochemists may work in the public or private sector, but their main goal is generally to find ways to minimize or repair damage to the environment due to human interference. They spend much of their time in the field, traveling nationally or worldwide to study sites, gather and analyze samples, and conduct research. Usually a geochemist will work with teams of other scientists while on the job.
Though some of their time is spent in the lab, most of it is spent outdoors. They often need to hike or climb to sites, and may even camp at the sites. They either study objects far underground, such as the interior of volcanoes, or closer to the surface. Their field work includes a lot of puzzle solving, using logic and reason to fill in the gaps in the gathered hard data.
Many geochemists are employed by oil companies. When working with these companies, a geochemist's primary duty is to find the greatest amount of oil with the least amount of damage to the environment. These geochemists are also sometimes called petroleum geologists.
Still others are employed as government employees or in private sectors. The Environmental Protection Agency, particularly, hires geochemists to help develop green technology and combat current threats to the environment. Other private organizations interested in green technology also routinely hire geochemists. Additionally, a geochemist may teach at the university level or conduct research for science organizations.
Depending on the job, geochemists might draw more heavily on their geology background or on their chemistry background. For example, some geochemists analyze abandoned mines to predict the environmental impact of these mines and advise in the safest clean-up efforts. Though they use their geology expertise, these geochemists rely more on their chemistry background to determine this type of environmental effect.
A geochemist usually has strong skills in organic and inorganic chemistry as well as geology. They generally also have backgrounds such diverse subjects as math, geography, and even English. Often geochemists will have a Bachelor's degree in geology, with a chemistry minor, but their Bachelor's can be in a variety of math or science fields. They will normally have advanced degrees in geochemistry, and those that teach will usually have PhDs.