If you’re thinking about your career options and you’re passionate about science, you might consider taking a look at the various jobs in geoscience. Geoscience offers a wide range of careers to explore, including jobs in oceanography, meteorology and the energy industry. Read through the following career guide while you’re preparing to apply to college or if you’re already working on earning an environmental science degree.
What Is Geoscience?
Geoscience is an incredibly diverse and broad field of study. It involves much more than just the study of rocks. Rather, it examines all of the processes that have formed Earth and continue to influence our planet’s structures and systems.
Geoscience also encompasses the study of the natural resources of our planet as well as the interconnected nature of its various ecosystems, including bodies of water. Geoscientists study how people, animals, plants and microorganisms interact with the Earth and are in turn influenced by it. They study the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, glaciers, soils, fossils, minerals and so much more.
Some geoscientists even study geological formations and processes on the moon and other planets. In short, geoscience offers a galaxy of possibilities for students who are interested in becoming scientists.
Types of Jobs in Geoscience
Many different types of scientists can categorize themselves as geoscientists, regardless of whether they work primarily with fossils, predict the weather or study earthquakes. The wide range of jobs in geoscience means that no matter what your particular scientific interests are, you’re sure to find a career that suits you.
With that in mind, let’s look at the following types of geoscience careers.
Many geoscientists work in the petroleum industry. Geoscientists in this line of work are primarily concerned with finding reserves of oil and natural gas and extracting these natural resources from the Earth. Petroleum geologists may also work on developing and applying new technologies in the industry.
Many of the old, previously reliable deposits of oil and natural gas have begun to run out of these crucial natural resources. This increases the demand for petroleum geologists to identify new reserves using technologies and tools such as cartography, aerial photography, survey equipment, geological maps and geographic information systems (GIS). Because petroleum is only very rarely found in metamorphic and igneous rocks, petroleum geologists primarily study sedimentary rock layers.
As the job title implies, oceanographers study the planet’s oceans and how they interact with other ecosystems. The oceans are incredibly vast, so it stands to reason that oceanography would have many specialty subfields — which it does. These specialties include the following:
- Marine biologists: These are oceanographers who specialize in the study of marine ecosystems and the creatures that inhabit them.
- Physical oceanographers: These professionals study the oceans’ movements, including currents and tides.
- Chemical oceanographers: A chemical oceanographer specializes in the chemical composition of the oceans; they may also study issues such as pollution.
- Geological oceanographers: These experts study structures such as the tectonic plates, undersea volcanoes and deep oceanic trenches.
Like other jobs in geoscience, oceanography typically requires a mix of office and field work. Oceanographers may have to travel considerable distances, spend time in submersibles and on ships, run experiments in labs and write up their findings in scientific reports.
It’s often thought that paleontologists only study dinosaurs. Although some certainly do specialize in dinosaurs, paleontologists actually study all sorts of life forms that once existed on Earth but are now long extinct. Essentially, a paleontologist is like a historian of natural science.
Paleontologists generally study life forms that went extinct at least 12,000 years ago. However, many of the plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms they may study lived on Earth millions of years ago. In fact, some of the oldest fossils ever discovered are ancient stromatolites, which are several billion years old and existed on Earth even before the atmosphere contained oxygen.1
Although paleontologists study Earth’s ancient history, their work has implications for modern society. Many of them focus on developing a better understanding of past extinction events; this knowledge may prove crucial for establishing the environmental protections that are necessary to prevent future environmental catastrophes.
Arguably, the most well-known type of geoscientist is the meteorologist. A meteorologist studies the Earth’s atmosphere. These professionals collect meteorological data, analyze the data and issue predictions and warnings, such as flash flood warnings or lightning storm warnings. Because of this, meteorologists can play an important role in protecting the safety of the public.
Many meteorologists work for media outlets, such as TV stations, where they share their weather predictions with the public. Others work for governmental agencies, such as the National Weather Service. Some meteorologists predict the weather for various branches of the military.
Earn Your Environmental Science Degree
Regardless of which type of career in geoscience you’re interested in pursuing, your journey starts with a bachelor’s degree. You’ll have some flexibility in the type of degree you can earn. For example, some geoscientists have a bachelor’s degree in biology, geology or meteorology.
Another option is to earn an environmental science degree. This is a particularly good choice because it covers a broad range of topics and can lead to many different geoscience careers. Although the curriculum will vary from one school to the next, an environmental science degree will typically cover topics such as biology, chemistry, microbiology, ecology, environmental sustainability and biological diversification.
There are many jobs in geoscience available to candidates with a bachelor's degree. For example, you could pursue a career as a meteorologist after earning an undergraduate degree. It's even possible to pursue a job in the paleontology subfield with a bachelor's degree, such as managing a fossil collection or extracting fossils from surrounding rock.
Important Skills and Traits for People Pursuing Geoscience Careers
While you’re working your way through academia and planning your career pathway, you can begin actively cultivating the skills and characteristics that are helpful for succeeding at jobs in geoscience. These include the following:
- Critical thinking and problem-solving skills: Geoscientists must be careful to ensure that their findings are thoroughly substantiated by the available evidence.
- Communication skills: All types of geoscientists must be able to write clear, fact-driven reports and research papers, and to work well with other professionals.
- Outdoor skills: Many geoscientists spend a great deal of time in the field, and it may be necessary to hike to and camp in remote locations.
- Physical stamina: Along with outdoor skills, physical stamina is a must-have for geoscientists who work in the field.
When you’re ready to begin preparing for exciting jobs in geoscience, it’s time to apply to the environmental science degree program at Grand Canyon University. The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science degree embraces a rigorous curriculum that instills fundamental science competencies, with a deep dive into modern regulations and evidence-based procedures. Click on Request Info at the top of your screen to learn more about joining our supportive learning community.
1 Retrieved from: Discover, What Are the Oldest Fossils in the World? in April 2022.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.