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What does a Seismologist do?

Sara Schmidt
By
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A seismologist is a scientist who specializes in earth science. The seismology field typically encompasses geophysics, or the physical research of the earth, which includes observing the planet's interior structure, reviewing tectonic plate movements, and providing information for geological map making. It can also include studying seismic waves, discovering origins of groundwater, exploring petroleum sources, analyzing mineral deposits, and other areas of concentration.

Seismologist jobs will vary depending upon these areas, though many typical tasks will remain the same. Some of these may include monitoring, maintaining, testing and operating seismological equipment, documenting data, supervising preparation of test sites, managing inventory on equipment and maintaining safety standards. Most seismologists work for petroleum or geophysical companies, and data processing centers. Government jobs in geology and earthquake surveying are also available. Some seismologists even teach, or work on their own as private consultants.

Hours of work may also vary. A scientist who specializes in earthquake seismology may work in a university or a laboratory, keeping a standard work week; alternatively, a seismologist who works for an earthquake monitoring facility, or a petroleum company may work hours that vary. Some seismologists may even be on call, which requires their availability at a moment's notice.

Any person wishing to obtain a seismologist job should have a strong background in science, with a particular focus on earth and computer studies. A strong attention to detail, the ability to work both within a team and alone, and good data management skills are also useful in seismologist jobs. An interest in working outdoors may be helpful as well.

An undergraduate program in science is typically the route that a seismologist will take toward his or her career. This usually includes courses in geophysics, computer science, chemistry, and other math and science studies. A degree in geophysics can be helpful, but few universities offer such a program. While instructors and researchers often continue with their studies at the post-graduate level, seismologists who work for private companies will often undertake additional specialized training in the area required.

Though the need for experts in earthquake seismology is typically slim, employment prospects for seismologists are generally strong in the oil and gas industries. Seismologists who acquire a post-graduate degree are often able to secure employment more easily than those who with only a Bachelor's Degree. Growing needs in the fields of resource management, environmental protection, and energy may also increase the demand for seismologists.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Sara Schmidt
By Sara Schmidt
With a Master's Degree in English from Southeast Missouri State University, Sara Schmidt puts her expertise to use by writing for Practical Adult Insights, plus various magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She published her own novella and has other literary projects in the works. Sara's diverse background includes teaching children in Spain, tutoring college students, running CPR and first aid classes, and organizing student retreats, reflecting her passion for education and community engagement.
Discussion Comments
By anon952193 — On May 19, 2014

How much do they make?

By anon333880 — On May 08, 2013

I would like to know how many years of schooling is required.

By angelBraids — On Apr 26, 2011

I always wanted to work in the science field, I just couldn't get the grades needed to get this type of job. It does sound exciting though, and the more I read about it the more I feel like I want to study more and try again.

It would be great to have a career where you get to travel and add to research on the way the earth works.

By Potterspop — On Apr 25, 2011

@anon162888 - That's a good question! I asked my father, as he is the king of knowledge when it comes to salaries, (he worked in career advice at one point.) He tells me the starting salary is around the same as an admin worker, but it does rise to about what a lawyer earns.

Considering the average seismologist job description I think they deserve every penny they make. I'm more than happy to get my earthquake information from the newspapers!

By anon162888 — On Mar 25, 2011

The article tells good facts, but I want to know how much they make.

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt
With a Master's Degree in English from Southeast Missouri State University, Sara Schmidt puts her expertise to use by writing for Practical Adult Insights, plus various magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She published her own novella and has other literary projects in the works. Sara's diverse background includes teaching children in Spain, tutoring college students, running CPR and first aid classes, and organizing student retreats, reflecting her passion for education and community engagement.
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