This was written by Steve Hanigan of Engineering Geology consultants.
What is geology ?
Geology is the study of the materials that make up the Earth, the processes that shaped them into their present form, and the history of those processes as they occurred throughout the ages. If you wish to study geology, you must possess an in-depth understanding of mathematics, although some knowledge of chemistry and physics is also necessary as a foundation for your future geological expertise. Even if you are not interested in studying geology to the point of becoming a geologist, there are a range of professions out there that require geological knowledge. One prominent example are engineers who must understand the earth beneath them and its properties in order to design and lead the construction of steady buildings.
Due to the explosive increase in our understanding of the Earth, its contents, and the cosmos in general over past decades, almost all modern scientists specialize in a small area. Geologists are not exempt from this rule. Although all geologists will possess a solid core of understanding about the basics of their field, that core will serve as the foundation for the area of their real expertise. Often, it is entirely possible that geologists who specialize in one area of geology are unable to easily communicate their more advanced theories to geologists who specialize elsewhere. After all, despite their common field, paleontologists who study fossils focus on very different matters from volcanologists who study volcanoes and volcanic activities.
What do geologists do?
Some geologists focus on studying the Earth and its constituent components. Although their fields of specialization might differ, all geologists are interested in examining the materials that are relevant to their specialization, learning to understand the processes that brought them into their present condition, and tracking the progress of those same processes over time. Research methods depend on the specific field, but can usually summed up as either running experiments or collecting observational data.
Other geologists use their training to help predict things about either the Earth’s present or its future course. For example, a petroleum geologist can use his or her understanding of the sedimentary basins that contain hydrocarbons to help identify geographic locations that are more likely to contain valuable deposits than others. Similarly, volcanologists and seismologists can use their respective knowledge to predict imminent disasters such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes and help warn or evacuate local residents ahead of time.
What are the employers that will hire geologists?
Geologists are often hired for research purposes by universities, government institutions, and even private organizations. Similarly, geologists can also often find employment with businesses that specialize in extracting resources from the earth such as the oil and mining industries. Once valuable experience is gained with prospective employers more employment opportunities arise. Many experienced geologists turn to independent contracting and provide consultancy work for any gained field of experience.
What are the requirements for becoming a geologist?
You’ll need a 4-year Bachelors degree to be considered a geologist at a minimum, but you’ll almost certainly need a Masters degree in the right field to go beyond entry positions. It is not absolutely necessary that you have a Bachelor’s degree in geoscience before you go for the Masters, but you’ll need to major in a related field such as mathematics, chemistry, physics, or engineering.
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