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Geoscientist

Geoscientists study the composition, structure, and other physical aspects of the Earth. They study the Earth's geologic past and present by using sophisticated instruments to analyze the composition of earth, rock, and water. Many geoscientists help to search for natural resources such as groundwater, metals, and petroleum. Others work closely with environmental and other scientists to preserve and clean up the environment.

Hours: Some geoscientists spend the majority of their time in an office, but many others divide their time between fieldwork and office or laboratory work. Work at remote field sites is common. Many geoscientists, such as volcanologists, often take field trips that involve physical activity. Geoscientists in the field may work in warm or cold climates and in all kinds of weather. In their research, they may dig or chip with a hammer, scoop with a net, and carry equipment in a backpack. Oceanographers may spend considerable time at sea on academic research ships. Geologists frequently travel to remote field sites by helicopter or 4-wheel-drive vehicles and cover large areas on foot. Many exploration geologists and geophysicists work in foreign countries, sometimes in remote areas and under difficult conditions. Travel often is required to meet with prospective clients or investors. Fieldwork often requires working long hours.

Opportunities: About 24 percent of geoscientists were employed in architectural, engineering, and related services, and 18 percent worked for oil and gas extraction companies. In 2006, State agencies such as State geological surveys and State departments of conservation employed about 2,900 geoscientists. Another 2,600 worked for the Federal Government, including geologists, geophysicists, and oceanographers, mostly within the U.S. Department of the Interior for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and within the U.S. Department of Defense. About 2 percent of geoscientists were self-employed, most as consultants to industry or government.

Pay: Median annual earnings of geoscientists were $72,660 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $51,860 and $100,650; the lowest 10 percent earned less than $39,740, the highest 10 percent more than $135,950.

Training: A master's degree is the primary educational requirement for most entry-level positions. A Ph.D. is necessary for most high-level research and college teaching positions, but a master's degree is preferred for most other geoscience jobs.

Citation: Suggested citation: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition , Geoscientists, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos288.htm (visited July 22, 2009 ).

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