Strong Geoscience Departments > Student Recruitment > Career Opportunities

Inform Students about Career Opportunities in Geoscience

Written by Carol Ormand, based on ideas compiled from the 2005 workshop on Developing Pathways to Strong Departments of the Future and the 2007 workshop on Strategies for Successful Recruitment of Geoscience Majors.

Today's students (and their parents) are highly motivated by practical considerations: Will they be able to get a job with their degree? How well will it pay? (See the AGI summary of 2013 median salaries in the Geosciences and their 2007 report on starting salaries in the Geosciences to find out.) Will it be satisfying? By informing your students about the full range of career opportunities in the geosciences, you will improve your chances of recruiting majors (e.g. Marketing Earth Science Education, 2002, Hoisch and Bowie, 2010). Here are several ways to do that, with examples from various geoscience departments.

Presentations in Introductory Courses

One of the recommendations from the October 2007 workshop on Strategies for Successful Recruitment of Geoscience Majors was the active, intentional use of introductory geoscience classes. Several participants spoke of the effectiveness of making a presentation about opportunities within the department's geoscience programs and about career opportunities in geoscience during each introductory course. Below are some examples of such presentations.

Department of Geosciences, San Francisco State University

This presentation (Acrobat (PDF) 2.4MB Dec6 07) shows geoscientists at work in a wide variety of settings, provides salary information, lists some of the primary skills developed in a geoscience program, and describes many of the career opportunities available to students who successfully complete each of the department's degree programs.

Department of Geology and Geography, Georgia Southern University

This presentation (Acrobat (PDF) 4MB Dec6 07) focuses on the process of choosing a major and on the wide variety of career opportunities available to people with degrees in geology and geography, including some salary information. It also presents many examples of prominent people with degrees in the geosciences. Finally, it describes why geoscience degrees will be increasingly valuable in the future.

Promotional Videos

Some organizations have produced promotional videos, describing career opportunities in the Earth Sciences. You can show them in your classes or direct interested students to them.

Why Earth Science?

The earth sciences are central to all aspects of life. Get a quick glimpse of how in this 6 minute video from AGI.

Water and Environmental Resources Engineering

Learn about careers, education, and research in water and environmental engineering from diverse undergraduate and graduate students. See what excites them about their future careers. Learn about what engineers do; observe first hand research projects on cleaning up wastewater and oil spills.

Salary Data

Many students (and their parents) are concerned about being able to earn a living with their college degree. Data on geoscience salaries can be persuasive.

Salary Trends and Employment Projections for Geoscience Careers

from the American Geosciences Institute. Despite the lagging U.S. economy, salaries for aggregated geoscience-related occupations increased by 1.1 percent between 2009 and 2010, while aggregated salaries for all life, physical and social science occupations decreased. Salaries for all U.S. occupations only increased by 0.2 percent between 2009 and 2010. In addition to competitive salaries, geoscience occupations are expected to grow by 23 percent between 2008 and 2018, adding just over 60,000 jobs to the U.S. economy.

Geoscience Starting Salaries for 2010 Graduates

from the American Geosciences Institute. These data show starting salaries for geoscientists with Bachelors, Masters, and PhD degrees and compare them to starting salaries for graduates in other disciplines.

U.S. Geoscience Salaries Continue Upward Climb

from the American Geosciences Institute, July 2009. The percent change of mean annual salaries is also graphed by subdiscipline, and the rates of increase over the past decade are impressive.

Alumni Networks

A recommendation that arose from the January 2007 workshop on The Role of Departments in Preparing Future Geoscience Professionals was to keep track of your department's alumni, so that you can give specific examples of what students have done with degrees from your program. (If you publish a department newsletter, sent to all of your alumni, your alums will have additional incentive to keep you informed of their whereabouts.)

Carleton College Alumni Webpages

The Carleton College Geology department maintains a webpage of links to alumni webpages, arranged chronologically by year of graduation. One particularly nice aspect of this list is that it includes many people who have chosen careers outside of geology.

Bowdoin College Earth and Oceanographic Science Alumni Webpage

The Earth and Oceanographic Science department at Bowdoin College also lists where their recent alumni are now and includes a wide variety of occupations.

University of North Dakota Alumni Occupation Database

The UND Department of Geology and Geological Engineering has an online alumni occupation database based on information its alums have supplied via an online form.

Speaker Series

Many geoscience departments have a visiting speaker series; incorporating some talks specifically about geoscience careers is an easy, effective way to promote this information. Your alumni can be an excellent resource for such talks.

Several participants in the January 2007 workshop on The Role of Departments in Preparing Future Geoscience Professionals mentioned that Homecoming Week is a good time to invite your alumni to give talks (or be part of an alumni panel), as they may already be planning a trip to campus.

Additional Resources


  • American Geosciences Institute, 2010. Student Perceptions of Geology and Implications for Choosing Among Different Science Majors.
    This article summarizes the results from interviews of nearly 800 students at Northern Arizona University in 2008-2009. The interviews focused on students' attitudes toward science major programs. The study highlights students' misperceptions about geoscience careers, particularly salary expectations: students significantly underestimate starting salaries for geoscientists. You may also watch AGI's webinar on this topic, in which Dr. Tom Hoisch, one of the authors of the study, discusses their findings.
  • American Geosciences Institute, 2014. 2013 Median Salaries for Geoscience-Related Occupations.
    This extremely brief article summarizes the 2013 median annual salaries for geoscience-related occupations in the United States, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Fiske, 2001 , Put Your Science to Work: The Take-Charge Career Guide for Scientists, American Geophyscial Union, Washington, D.C.
    This book offers practical career advice to people looking for their first science career, experienced researchers in academia and students trying to decide what they want to do with their lives. It explores current and future career options for those with scientific training and offers different strategies for getting the job that you really want.
  • Hoisch, Thomas D. and James I. Bowie, 2010. Assessing Factors the Influence the Recruitment of Majors from Introductory Geology Classes at Northern Arizona University, Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 58, n. 3, pp. 166-176.
    The authors surveyed 783 students in introductory geology classes and 23 geology majors about what factors would or did influence their choice of majors. Factors that favor the choice of geology at NAU include employability, good salary potential, the opportunity to work outdoors, and environmentally friendly employment. Students generally underestimated the salary potential of the geosciences; correcting that misperception may encourage their choice of geology as a major. You can listen to Dr. Hoisch describing this study in this AGI's webinar.
  • Marketing Earth Science Education, an article from Gaea (the newsletter of the Association of Women Geoscientists), May, 2002, details the results of a study conducted by the Department of Earth Sciences at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. The department had been experiencing a trend of declining enrollments. By altering their recruitment efforts to address student interest in careers, the department was able to reverse the enrollment trend in its classes.
  • NAS, 1996 , Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
    This book offers guidance to students on planning careers, especially careers outside of academia, and discusses how to set and achieve education and skills goals that are necessary for particular careers. Various career paths are illustrated with profiles of science and engineering professionals.