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Geoscientists in the Workforce: An Overview

Jump Down To: What degree is needed for different types of careers? | How much do geoscientists earn?

What do geoscientists do?

Earth Science Careers: Not Just Rocks
This video provides an overview of several Earth Science career fields within the U.S. Geological Survey. The program features several interviews with USGS employees in which they relate how they became interested in their chosen Earth Science field and how they apply their education and background to their work at the USGS.
People with geoscience expertise can be found in many parts of the workforce. If there is a job out there with inputs from or effects on Earth or the environment, then there is a geoscientist somewhere filling that role. Just to name a few, there are geoscience professionals in all these and more:

Many professional organizations provide information about geoscience careers and the geoscience workforce. Below are a few examples of videos and other resources that describe geoscience careers, including technological careers that require an associates degree. You can find a more extensive list of resources across the geosciences on the Professional Society Career Resources page.

Another way to explore careers in the geosciences is use the Department of Labor My Next Move website.

What degree is needed for different types of careers?

There are many pathways into the geoscience workforce, ranging from those that require an associates degree to that that require a PhD and post-doctoral experience. The chart below illustrates some of the workforce possibilities for those with different degrees. Of course, the specific requirements for a position might be different for different employers, in different locations, and for geoscientists with different levels of experience. Check out the Career Pathways page for more information on what kinds of jobs are typically available at particular levels of qualification.

Geoscience Occupations by Degree
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Examples of the degree(s) necessary to qualify for certain kinds of jobs in the geosciences.[creative commons]
Provenance: Karin Kirk, Independent Educational Consultant
Reuse: This item is offered under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license You may reuse this item for non-commercial purposes as long as you provide attribution and offer any derivative works under a similar license.

How much do geoscientists earn?

The answer to this important question is "It depends." Income for geoscience careers tends to be quite competitive, but it is also highly dependent on education, location, and occupation. Listed below is information from several sources breaking out the available income data in several different ways.

US Department of Labor
The US Department of Labor Occupational Outlook provides information about various careers (workplace, entry-level education, employment outlook, median salary, and more). The dollar figures listed constitute the median pay for that position in 2010 from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey.

Career Cornerstone Center
The Career Cornerstone Center, using data from the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, gives the median income for all geoscientists = $79,160. The median income in particular industries employing a lot of geoscientists are: Note that these data are for industries as a whole, not for particular jobs in those industries.

AGI Geoscience Workforce Program Reports
The American Geosciences Institute conducts extensive surveys of the geoscience workforce and puts together periodic reports on the state of affairs in the sector. The most recent report was published in 2011 but previous reports are also available.

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