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Bright outlook for geoscience careers

By the end of the next decade, there may be a shortage of 135,000 geoscientists in the US. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment of geoscientists will increase by 16% from 2012 to 2022. This uptick in demand is spurred by hiring in the oil & gas industry and predicted retirements of geoscientists.
Bright outlook for geoscience careers

Shortage of 135,000 geoscientists predicted

The “Status of the Geoscience Workforce 2014” report from the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) offers some startling predictions.  By the end of the next decade, there may be a shortage of 135,000 geoscientists in the US. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment of geoscientists will increase by 16% from 2012 to 2022.  This uptick in demand is spurred by hiring in the oil & gas industry and predicted retirements of geoscientists.  As a result, geoscience is well positioned as a high-growth career area going into the next decade.

How much do geoscientists make?

Geoscience salaries have been in step with demand. The report notes that geoscience salaries have increased by 7% since 2009, which is significantly higher than growth in other US occupations which comes in around 4%. So how much should geoscientists expect to earn in this market? Not surprisingly, the geoscience occupation with the highest medium salary is petroleum geology coming in at US$130,280 annually. Following closely, natural science managers make US$115,730 annually and geoscientists earn a medium salary of US$90,890 annually.

In a 2013 salary survey, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) found that the average salary for a petroleum geologist with less than 2 years of experience was US$103,400 while one with over 25 years of experience could expect an average salary of US$252,000.  This doesn’t include other benefits and variable compensation like bonuses.

Who is hiring?

According to the AGI report and BLS data, the top 3 sectors that are hiring geoscientists are oil and gas extraction, professional, scientific and technical services and support activities for mining. In particular, newer technologies like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have increased the demand for geoscientists to assist in extracting previously untapped resources, in addition to studying the environmental impact of these approaches.

The BLS also notes that geoscientists will also be needed in the “green energy” sector to plan for the construction of wind farms, geothermal power facilities and solar power plants. For example, geoscientists will be responsible for planning the location of these plants, as only certain locations are appropriate for these types of energy extraction such as placing a geothermic plant near a hot groundwater source.

On the other end of the spectrum, job prospects for geoscientists in state and federal governments are predicted to diminish with budget reductions.

How to get hired as a geoscientist

Most employers look for a bachelor’s degree in geoscience, but are open to recruiting candidates with a related science degree that includes geological coursework. In addition, experience in the field or laboratory, including internships, is a plus.  Geology students should also look into field camp programs   that give them opportunities to work closely with professors and learn data collection and geologic mapping.

The future is bright for those looking to pursue a geoscience career.  However, don’t jump into it only for the potential earnings. Geoscientists find a lot of job satisfaction in their careers because they love what they do. They relish the research, peeling back the layers of the earth and coming up with solutions to complex problems.

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