Earth as well as the processes and history that has shaped it. Geologists usually engage in studying geology. Geologists, studying more of an applied science than a theoretical one, must approach Geology using physics, chemistry and biologyas well as other sciences. Geologists, compared to scientists engaged in other fields, are generally more exposed to the outdoors than staying in laboratories; although some geologists prefer to perform most of their studies in the lab.
Geologists are engaged in exploration for mining companies in search of metals, oils, and other Earth resources. They are also in the forefront of natural hazards and disasters warning and mitigation, studying earthquakes, volcanic activity, tsunamis, weather storms, and the like; their studies are used to warn the general public of the occurrence of these events. Currently, geologists are also engaged in the discussion of climate change, as they study the history and evidence for this Earth process.
Training / Schooling
Students at geology field school, University of Zimbabwe
Their training typically includes significant coursework in physics, mathematics, and chemistry, in addition to classes offered through the geology department; historical and physical geology, igneous and metamorphic petrology and petrography, hydrogeology, sedimentology, stratigraphy, mineralogy, palaeontology, physical geography and structural geology are among the many required areas of study. Most geologists also need skills in GIS and other mapping techniques. Geology students often spend portions of the year, especially the summer though sometimes during a January term, living and working under field conditions with faculty members (often referred to as “field camp”). Many non-geologists often take geology courses or have expertise in geology that they find valuable to their fields; this is common in the fields of geography, engineering, chemistry, urban planning, environmental studies, among others.
Geologist mud logging, common in petroleum and water-well drilling
Areas of specialization
Geologists may concentrate their studies or research in one or more of the following disciplines:
- Dendrochonology: the study of dating based on tree ring patterns.
- Economic geology: the study of ore genesis, and the mechanisms of ore creation, geostatistics.
- Engineering geology: application of the geologic sciences to engineering practice for the purpose of assuring that the geologic factors affecting the location, design, construction, operation and maintenance of engineering works are recognized and adequately provided for;
- Geophysics: the applied branch deals with the application of physical methods such as gravity, seismicity, electricity, magnetic properties to study the earth.
- Geochemistry: the applied branch deals with the study of the chemical makeup and behaviour of rocks, and the study of the behaviour of their minerals.
- Geochronology: the study of isotope geology specifically toward determining the date within the past of rock formation, metamorphism, mineralization and geological events (notably, meteorite impacts).
- Geomorphology: the study of landforms and the processes that create them
- Hydrogeology: the study of the origin, occurrence and movement of groundwater water in a subsurface geological system.
- Igneous petrology: the study of igneous processes such as igneous differentiation, fractional crystallization, intrusive and volcanological phenomena .
- Isotope geology: the study of the isotopic composition of rocks to determine the processes of rock and planetary formation.
- Metamorphic petrology: the study of the effects of metamorphism on minerals and rocks.
- Marine geology: the study of the seafloor; involves geophysical, geochemical, sedimentological and paleontological investigations of the ocean floor and coastal margins. Marine geology has strong ties to physical oceanography and plate tectonics.
- Palaeoclimatology: the application of geological science to determine the climatic conditions present in the Earth’s atmosphere within the Earth’s history.
- Palaeontology: the classification and taxonomy of fossils within the geological record and the construction of a palaeontological history of the Earth.
- Pedology: the study of soil, soil formation, and regolith formation.
- Petroleum geology: the study of sedimentary basins applied to the search for hydrocarbons (oil exploration).
- Sedimentology: the study of sedimentary rocks, strata, formations, eustasy and the processes of modern day sedimentary and erosive systems.
- Structural geology: the study of folds, faults, foliation and rock microstructure to determine the deformational history of rocks and regions.
- Volcanology: the study of volcanoes, their eruptions, lavas, magma processes and hazards.
The rock hammer and hand lens (or loupe) are two of the most characteristic tools carried by geologists in the field.
Professional geologists work for a wide range of government agencies, private firms, and non-profit and academic institutions. They are usually hired on a contract basis or hold permanent positions within private firms or official agencies (such as the USGS).
Local, state, and national governments hire geologists to work on geological projects that are of interest to the public community. The investigation of a country’s natural resources is often a key role when working for government institutions; the work of the geologist in this field can be made publicly available to help the community make more informed decisions related to the exploitation of resources, management of the environment and the safety of critical infrastructure – all of which is expected to bring greater wellbeing to the country. This ‘wellbeing’ is often in the form of greater tax revenues from new or extended mining projects or through better infrastructure and/or natural disaster planning.
An engineering geologist is employed to investigate geologic hazards and geologic constraints for the planning, design and construction of public and private engineering projects, forensic and post-mortem studies, and environmental impact analysis. Exploration geologists use all aspects of geology and geophysics to locate and study natural resources. In many countries or US states without specialized environmental remediation licensure programs, such as Rhode Island and North Carolina, the environmental remediation field is often dominated by professional geologists, particularly hydrogeologists, with professional concentrations in this aspect of the field. Petroleum and mining companies use mudloggers and large-scale land developers use the skills of geologists and engineering geologists to help them locate oil and minerals, adapt to local features such as karst topography or earthquake risk, and comply with environmental regulations.
Geologists in academia usually hold an advanced degree in a specialized area within their geological discipline and are employed by universities.