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Geoscience Career References

The resources and references listed below address topics related to professional careers in the geosciences. If you are a student considering a geoscience career or an educator recruiting and advising such students, you may find them helpful.

Jump down to General Resources * Geoscience Employment Data and Attitudes * Employers' Perspectives * Educators' Perspectives

General Resources

  • AGI's Geoscience Workforce program page, with links to Geoscience Program Workforce Reports and related news.
    These reports sythesize a wealth of data from the American Geological Institute. The Status of the Geoscience Workforce 2009 report integrates a variety data sources into a comprehensive view of the human and economic parameters of the geosciences, including supply and training of new students, workforce demographics and employment projections, to trends in geosciences research funding and economic indicators.
  • AGI's Guide to Geoscience Careers and Employers
    This page, by the American Geological Institute, provides data on geoscience employment "supply and demand," as well as information specific to various geoscience employment sectors, including industry, government, and education.
  • Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy, 1996, Careers in Science and Engineering: A Student Planning Guide to Grad School and Beyond
    How to choose a career path, what educational background and other skills you will need for that career, and more.
  •'s Finding a Job is a veritable wealth of resources about science, math, and engineering careers. This page focuses on what you need to know to get a job as a scientist, including information about the labor market and non-academic careers.
  • The Sloan Career Cornerstone Center Geoscience Careers Overview
    An overview of geoscience employment opportunities, followed by links to information about specific industries, career preparation, employment statistics, earnings, a career path forecast, and more.

Geoscience Employment Data and Attitudes

  • AGI, Employment Statistics for the Geosciences in the United States
    Geoscience employment by sector, by age, and by geographic region; mean annual salaries in the geosciences; and jobs held by people whose highest degree is in geoscience.
  • AGI, Student and Faculty Employment Attitudes in the Geosciences, 2006 (Acrobat (PDF) 181kB Jan8 07)
    In spring of 2006, AGI surveyed 1,358 students and 558 faculty members (representing 262 different schools) about their attitudes toward career opportunities in the geosciences.
    In general, AGI found that students are most interested in careers state or federal government or in the environmental industry, with careers in academia (or continuing education for a higher degree) lagging somewhat behind those options, and other careers in industry being less popular. Since industry is the most likely sector to experience job growth opportunities in the near future, the authors of the survey feel this lack of student interest in those jobs is problematic.

    Another interesting result of this survey is the comparison of what faculty advisors recommend to their students, and what their students are interested in. Faculty are much more favorable about careers in the environmental industry (89% would recommend them) and as K-12 teachers (67%) than their students are (61% and 26% interest, respectively). Similarly, while only 48% of students reported an interest in careers in academia, 68% of advisors would recommend such a career. The authors conclude that we need to improve communication with our students about career opportunities.

  • AIP Statistical Research Center, What's a Bachelor's Degree Worth? (PowerPoint 139kB Jan8 07)
    This graph of job offers for 2005-06 graduates, based on data collected by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, shows that the range of starting salaries for someone with a bachelor's degree in geology compares favorably to the starting salaries for bachelor's degrees in other STEM disciplines. At the high end, it is exceeded only by degrees in engineering or computer science.
  • Golde and Fiske, 1997: Graduate School and the Job Market of the 1990s: A Survey of Young Geoscientists
    In the mid-1990's, Golde and Fiske surveyed users of the American Geophysical Union job center to find out about their career goals, their perceptions of the job market in geoscience, and their satisfaction with their graduate education.
    Respondents were fairly representative of the geoscience graduate student & postdoc population in general, although with a particularly strong showing from top-rated research institutions - arguably those most likely to get jobs in their chosen fields.

    Survey respondents were, on average, quite pessimistic about the job market for geoscientists. About a third of them had considered leaving grad school, and half of those cited the job market as one reason they'd thought about it. (The job market was the most-often cited reason.) If they had to do it over again, many would have chosen a different sub-discipline or taken more "technical" classes in an attempt to make themselves more marketable.

    The authors suggest that, while such adjustments are a good idea, they do not go far enough. "One interpretation of our findings, which may well apply across disciplines, is that young scientists are not being shown career options outside of traditional research science [including academia]. When alternatives are visible, they are often described as lesser choices."

  • NAS, 1995: Reshaping the Graduate Education of Scientists and Engineers
    Although not specific to the geosciences, this report includes graphs of where PhDs in the physical sciences find employment, charted over time. From 1973 to 1991, employment shifted from academia toward business/industry. In 1973, ~ 50% of PhDs in the physical sciences were employed in academia; by 1991, fewer than 40% were. By 1991, business/industry had grown to be a greater source of jobs (for PhD scientists) than academia.
  • U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, 2005: Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers.
    Salary and industry profiles for geoscience, including information on which industries employ the greatest numbers of geoscientists, salaries in the highest-paying geoscience industries, and states and cities with the greatest numbers of geoscience employees. For data on hydrologists, geographers, and educators, browse the Burear of Labor Statistics List of Occupations.

Employers' Perspectives

We are conducting a series of interviews of geoscientists in industry and government positions to gather their perspectives on what they look for in making entry-level hires.

  • Gardiner, L., 1994. Redesigning Higher Education: Producing Dramatic Gains in Student learning: ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report 7, Washington D.C., George Washington University.
    Gardiner compiled a list of "critical competencies" for citizens and workers from leaders in business, industry and government, but not specific to geoscience.
    • personal responsibility,
    • ability to act in principled, ethical fashion,
    • skill in oral and written communication,
    • interpersonal and team skills,
    • skills in critical thinking and problem-solving,
    • respect for people different from oneself,
    • ability to change,
    • ability and desire for lifelong learning.
  • Heath, 2000. "The Technical and Non-Technical Skills Needed by Canadian-Based Mining Companies." Journal of Geoscience Education 48: 5-18.
    Heath surveyed 46 Canadian mining companies about the skills needed for entry-level jobs (mostly requiring only a Bachelor's degree). He found that geoscience knowledge comprised only half of what they were looking for; the rest was skills and attitudes. Skills: computer competency, communication skills, critical thinking, teamwork, ethics, problem solving, planning/project management. Attitudes: enthusiasm and willingness to work hard.
  • Heath, 2000. "Technical and Non-Technical Skills Needed by Oil Companies." Journal of Geoscience Education 48: 605-16.
    Similarly, Heath surveyed 29 British oil companies about what they look for in the hiring process. The results are nearly identical to his survey of mining companies, with the addition of competence in math/statistics.
  • Whisonant and Philley, 1998. "Registration and Testing of Practicing Geologists - Implications for Academic Programs." Journal of Geoscience Education 46: 449-51.
    Registered geologists across 12 states show remarkably strong agreement (according to the authors' survey) about how much time they spend on particular tasks, how important those tasks are, and what level of proficiency is required (on those tasks) to become licensed. A table on p. 450 of this article lists specific skills needed within each of several fields/subdisciplines.

Educators' Perspectives

The NAGT Workshop on Teaching Hydrogeology in the 21st Century deveoped a list of goals for undergraduate courses in hydrogeology – essentially a list of what a student who has taken an undergraduate course in hydrogeology might be expected to be able to do.

The NAGT Workshop on Teaching Sedimentary Geology in the 21st Century developed a list of goals for undergraduate courses in sedimentary geology – essentially a list of what a student who has taken an undergraduate course in sedimentary geology might be expected to be able to do.

  • Niemitz, Jeffrey William, 1996. "Preparing Geology Majors for their Future by Assessing what Works for Students and Faculty." Journal of Geoscience Education 44: 401-7.
    The Dickinson geology department revised their curriculum, over a period of many years, to better prepare their majors for careers in geoscience and to educate their non-majors to be science literate citizens.
    They created a program Jeff describes as "research across the curriculum," which is driven by these two goals, both in its content and its pedagogy. They felt students should be able to read critically, communicate clearly (in writing or speech), think creatively, work in teams, solve problems, integrate ideas, formulate a plan of action, and learn how to learn. They also felt it essential that their majors have a balanced load of geology courses, be computer proficient, and have significant field experience.
  • Thomas, John Jenks, 1998. "Career Advising at a Small Liberal-Arts College." Journal of Geoscience Education 46: 267-73.
    Thomas describes the 5-prong career awareness and advising program his department uses.
    • An annual departmental meeting (with students) to discuss field camp, the job market for geologists, job applications (including handouts on writing a resume and cover letter), and graduate school.
    • An internship program, heavily utilizing alumni contacts.
    • Student research
    • Maintaining alumni contacts
    • Geoscience activities (clubs)

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