What Is a Geologist? (With Duties, Skills and Salary)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 26 January 2023

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Geologists study rocks and earth matter to gain clues about the past, understand present phenomenons and predict future events. Those in this role conduct research and scientific experiments to learn about natural resource supply and environmental health over time. If you are interested in Earth science and nature, a job as a geologist may be perfect for you. In this article, we answer the question "What is a geologist?" and describe the duties, importance, qualifications, skills, salary, work environment and other details of this role.

What is a geologist?

A geologist is a type of scientist who studies the Earth's lands and materials. They typically focus on exploring how rocks and minerals form, change and erode over time, but they also inspect natural resources such as oil, gases and water. Geologists aim to learn about the structure, composition, processes and history of Earth and its organisms. This can allow them to understand natural disasters, environmental conditions and the amount and quality of natural supplies available for human use.

Geology is a part of everyday life, as people use minerals to build and power many types of products and structures, such as phones, computers, cars, batteries, homes and roads. Here are some materials a geologist may study:

  • Mountainous terrain

  • Precious metals

  • Fossils

  • Molten rock

  • Ocean and seafloor sediments

  • Moonrock

  • Geodes and gemstones

  • Petroleum

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What do geologists do?

While geologists examine earth elements, they also complete many other scientific tasks. Here are some typical geologist duties:

  • Develop ideas and proposals for research projects

  • Collect material samples in the field and conduct laboratory tests on them

  • Survey land areas and develop geological maps, diagrams and charts

  • Analyse photographs, mineral samples and other data to find reservoirs of natural resources

  • Conduct research and prepare scientific reports and presentations on findings

  • Collaborate with other scientists and professionals, such as geographers, cartographers, drillers, engineers and architects

  • Contribute information to climate change discussions and provide suggestions to reduce human environmental impact

  • Monitor, assess and predict natural disaster occurrences, such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides and tsunamis

Why is geology important?

Geologists enable societies to understand their environments. Those in this role review various regions, such as tropical rainforests, deserts and polar areas, helping humans to adapt to extreme or moderate natural conditions. They also gain knowledge about climate change, recommending ways people can protect ecosystems and living organisms. Because geologists study natural hazards such as floods, rock falls and hurricanes, they can expect future events and draft the appropriate building plans to keep people safe. In addition, they are knowledgeable about how to maintain the Earth's resources like water and minerals.

Geology is a way to learn about the history of the Earth and humans, too. Some geologists, working with archaeologists and anthropologists, analyse fossils and physical remains to learn about plate tectonics, prehistoric eras, dinosaurs, evolution and ancient civilisations. Through the study of the earth, researchers can learn about the daily lives and activities of communities of the past, including how they interacted with their surroundings.

Qualifications of a geologist

Most employers require candidates for geologist positions to have a bachelor's degree in geology, Earth science, environmental science or a related field. Candidates may also benefit from experience in physics, chemistry and mathematics courses. Many geologists decide to pursue a master's or doctoral degree, especially if they want to enter a specialised role. They may study concentrations like economic geology, geochemistry, engineering geology, marine geology or volcanology. After completing the necessary education, candidates can apply for a job with an organisation, conduct field research or work as a professor for a university.

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Geologist skills

Geologists work in an exciting, dynamic career field, and there are many abilities that can help them succeed in their roles. Here are some important skills of a geologist:

  • Attention to detail: As geologists study minerals and landforms, they can benefit from being able to notice details, large or minor. They may also have to observe minute differences between materials.

  • Analytical thinking: Geologists collect data in order to analyse and create hypotheses from it. Their analytical thinking skills help them estimate future events like landslides or earthquakes.

  • Communication: Many geologists document and create reports of their research, so it is important that they can explain complex concepts in a way that everyone can understand them.

  • Problem-solving: Many people rely on geologists to think of solutions to global problems like natural resource allocation and climate change.

  • Technical skills: Geologists often need to use the latest technology and equipment to complete their tasks. This is why they should have excellent technical skills, such as expertise in computers and survey tools.

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The average salary of geologists

The average salary of a geologist is ₹4,74,902 per year. However, their salaries can vary based on their location, company, years of experience, certifications and other factors. In general, geologists who complete more education and earn special credentials can negotiate for higher salaries. They can also pursue supervisory positions, which typically come with more pay.

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Geologist work environment

While geologists may work at an indoor desk or lab sometimes, they often travel to outdoor locations to take land surveys, construct maps, get mineral samples or complete other research tasks. They typically work regular hours, although they may need to work irregular hours or overtime to study a large geological event. Those in this role can work for private firms, government departments, museums, educational institutions or other organisations. Here are some types of companies for which they may work:

  • Oil and mining

  • Construction and utilities

  • Engineering

  • Education and teaching

  • Manufacturing

  • Environmental protection

Frequently asked questions about geologists

Geology is a great field to explore. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about geologists:

What do geologists actually do?

Usually, on a day-to-day basis, geologists use equipment to conduct scientific experiments and test materials. They record and analyse their findings to draw conclusions about historical, present or future geological occurrences. Depending on their role, they may have various other duties. For example, a geology professor explains geological techniques to students.

What is an example of a geologist?

Geologists can also perform different types of roles and study particular topics. Here are 10 examples of types of geologists and their typical duties:

  1. Geological technologist: conducts direct surveys of oil and mineral reservoirs

  2. Engineering geologist: advises construction teams on site selection and natural conditions for a construction project

  3. Geological technician: conducts geological surveys and environmental audits

  4. Geochemist: analyses the chemical properties of rocks, minerals and other earth materials

  5. Seismologist: investigates the causes and patterns of earthquakes

  6. Geoscientist: interprets geophysical, geochemical and geological data to understand the earth's subsurface

  7. Hydrogeologist: examines how earth structures impact groundwater movement and quality

  8. Volcanologist: studies volcanic eruptions and magma

  9. Planetary geologist: compares the geology of Earth to that of other planets such as Mars and the moon

  10. Geophysicist: explores phenomenons such as magnetics, gravity and seismic activity

Do geologists study rocks?

Geologists study the way rocks, rock formations, minerals and other earth materials morph over time. They also study natural resources like water and oil and human impact on climates, plants and animals. In addition, geologists may work with palaeontologists to investigate fossils and learn about ancient forms of life.

Is a geologist job a good career?

A geologist job can be a great, rewarding career for many people who enjoy earth science. Those in this position have the opportunity to learn about natural materials, environmental events and history. They may work with other interesting types of professionals, such as archaeologists, palaeontologists or oceanographers. In addition, geologists may get to travel around the world to complete their studies, which can expose them to new friends and memorable experiences.

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Is a geologist a scientist?

A geologist is a type of scientist, as they conduct research and experiments and form hypotheses about the physical world. Scientists study the properties of unique elements to gain knowledge and understanding. Here are 10 other types of scientists and the areas they investigate:

  • Archaeologist: historical artefacts and physical remains

  • Botanist: plants

  • Astronomer: the universe, stars and planets

  • Cytologist: human cells and cellular anomalies

  • Marine biologist: oceans and marine organisms

  • Zoologist: wildlife and natural ecosystems

  • Physicist: matter, energy and force

  • Geneticist: hereditary traits and conditions

  • Agronomist: soil and agricultural crops

  • Chemist: the atoms and molecules of substances

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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