What educational requirements are necessary for a career in geology? Also, if I get my degree, what types of work are available?
I guess this easily qualifies as the most important question there can be in any field of study: what do I need to learn, and can I support myself when I get out of school?
Bachelors of Art and Science degrees in geology, earth science, environmental science, and related fields are available from many (most) 4 year schools. Graduate studies are also available, and you can even end up as "Dr. You" if you stick with it long enough. The specific requirements may vary somewhat, depending on the school and the actual degree you decide to pursue. If "Geology" is your goal, it is almost certain that you will need the following: a year of physics, a year of chemistry, mathematics through calculus, and the normal geology courses (including such favorites as mineralogy, optical mineralogy, crystallography, igneous and sedimentary petrology, structural geology, and others as may be required at your particular school). My eldest, Balin, is currently in the middle of this (physics, calculus, crystallography, and petrology this quarter).
I bet this sounds like a heck of a load but, as much as I hate to say it, the college part is probably the easiest. It's kind of like walking to the top of a tall mountain. It looks daunting from the bottom, but really... the trick is just to keep putting one foot in front of the other (and don't look up). Like any other field of study, getting your degree is just the beginning: your real education begins after you walk out the door with your diploma. I've "been a geologist" for 25 years and I bet I learned more about the earth yesterday than I did during my entire sophomore year.
Once you get out, your success will be based upon many factors, not the least of which relates to YOU. As in any job market, those with the most desire and drive stand the best chance. As far as I'm concerned, the whole concept of "it's not what you know, but who you know" is greatly overrated. Persons with skill, drive, and desire will find a way. Only you know how much you're willing to put in, and only you can determine how successful you will be.
That being said, let's talk about "Employment Opportunities in the Earth Sciences" (take a short break while I climb onto my soapbox). The human race is severely using, abusing, trashing, and overextending the resources available on earth. And in doing so we are causing fundamental changes in the surface environmental conditions which form the basis for all life on earth. I can say without fear of ANY intelligent contradiction that we are in deep trouble as a species, and that if we are going to survive as a species we need to better manage our affairs as they relate to our home planet. I may be a frothing-at-the-mouth Trekkie, but I don't believe that the colonization of other worlds is going to save us. We're going to live (or die) based on what we do (or don't do) here on earth.
As we continue to stress our planet to it's limits (and beyond), anybody who has a clue about how the earth works is going to have some value. This ranges from the search for additional resources (oil, gas, minerals), to construction (how steep of a slope can we build that tract of homes on without them sliding downhill the next time it rains), to the intelligent disposal of all the amazing stuff we produce as waste products. And on, and on, and on... Are there jobs available in the earth sciences? If we want to survive, there had better be a whole herd of them! I don't know in particular what these jobs will be. The possibilities are endless, and, unfortunately for earth's biosphere, without a serious miracle these opportunities can only increase in the coming decades.
Is geology the greatest field of study there is - absolutely! Will there be employment opportunities for those with the need and desire - another solid yes. Will YOU get one of those jobs? The choice, as always, is yours.
Click here to ask GeoMan a question
Return to Ask GeoMan's Index of Questions
Return to GeoMan's Home Page
You are GeoManiac number since April 1, 1997