Geoscientist science jobs include geologist, geophysicist, and hydrologist. These scientists study the Earth and all its properties, including structure, composition, location of minerals, and water and soil resources.

A geologist is concerned with the composition of the Earth, the processes of its formation, and the changes still going on. He or she may use this knowledge to find valuable resources in the Earth, such as oil, gas, and minerals. Geologists also help with understanding the correct construction techniques for large projects and with remediation of environmentally impacted sites. Geophysicists study the Earth’s surface and underground composition, including the atmosphere, oceans, and magnetic, electrical, and gravitational forces. Hydrologists investigate the water system of the planet, whether oceans, groundwater, or surface waters, like rivers, streams, and aquifers. Oceanography is a subsection of hydrology, with a focus on the oceans—their composition, tidal properties, chemical composition, and their impact on coastlines.


Many entry-level positions in geosciences can be obtained with a bachelor’s degree. However, most positions in private industry or state and federal government agencies require an advanced degree, such as a master’s. Doctorates are necessary for research positions and university professors. Many states have licensure requirements for geoscientists and hydrologists, or at least a certification.

Some geoscientists spend the majority of their work time outdoors, studying rock formations, taking samples, and running tests. Others may divide their time between office work and outdoor field work. Universities provide positions for some geoscientists.

In 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) counted 33,600 geoscientists and 8,100 hydrologists. The field is expected to have about 18 percent growth, higher than the average expected for all professions. The increase in environmental regulations and the need for responsible land and water management will raise the demand for people in these fields. Also, the continuing search for mineral resources means the hiring of geologists. However, the need for petroleum geologists varies with the price of oil.

The average median salary for geoscientists was listed at $79,160 in 2008. For hydrologists, the median was $71,450. Wages for some industries, such as petroleum, mining, and government, were higher—up to $127,560 for petroleum geologists and $94,085 for geologists working for the federal government. About 23 percent of all geoscientists work for the federal government.

Last Updated: 06/05/2014


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