Where are geoscientists employed?
The most rapidly growing employer of young geoscientists is the environmental services industry, with 40% of all graduates with a BS or BA degree being hired by an environmental or geotechnical consulting company in 2015 (AGI Geoscience Currents, No. 108: "Industries Hiring Recent Geoscience Graduates in 2015"). "Environmental services" is a broadly defined industry, but commonly their work involves environmental remediation efforts related to groundwater, construction, and resource extraction, as well as site assessment for development (including risk appraisal for natural hazards such as flooding, landslides or seismicity). It may also include aspects of hydrogeology, geomorphology, geotechnical engineering, or soil mechanics.
The traditional career path for geoscientists was in the oil and gas industry, and oil companies still hire about 16% of graduating geoscientists nationally. But with the recent downturn in the fossil fuel industry, those well-paying jobs are becoming more difficult to get. If you’re interested you’ll need a Master’s degree, especially from those select universities that funnel students into national oil companies.
The federal or state governments hire many geoscientists with the BS/BA degree, while those with aptitudes in computer applications may find work in information services. A number of geoscientists become teachers in middle schools and high schools. And other industries, such as non-profit companies and non-governmental agencies, are beginning to see the value in trained geoscientists as well.
Alumni of the Earth and Planetary Sciences department have parlayed their geology degrees into a wide variety of careers. Many work for environmental/geological consulting companies like URS, Arcadis, Kleinfelder, Wallace-Kuhl & Associates, Geocon Consultants, GEI Consultants, Formation Environmental, AECOM, Geosyntec, Environ, CH2M, and many others.
Several alums have established careers with the state government of California, including the California Geological Survey, CALTRANS, the Department of Conservation, and the Department of Water Resources. Others now work for federal agencies, such as the USGS, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Forest Service. Some of these governmental agencies require a Master’s degree, while others may hire those with the BS/BA at entry-level positions.
Many of our BS/BA graduates begin their careers in water-related fields. The advantage these former students had was that they had taken a hydrology class or two, including groundwater and basic hydrologic science. Of course many companies can hire someone with a hydrology degree, but nobody other than geologists can think in four dimensions as well as geologists. We have an innate ability and the training to visualize what’s deep beneath the surface and to relate those spatial dimensions to the fourth dimension of deep time. That’s one of your key advantages and that’s why many companies will hire you with only a course or two in the hydrologic sciences.
Some of our former BS/BA graduates have pursued unconventional careers, using their geoscience background to follow alternative paths. One of our former students is currently (2016) working for the Peace Corps in Tanzania and is considering either a job with a non-governmental agency or grad school after her adventure comes to a close. Another former graduate (BS, 2010) took a few post-baccalaureate courses (microbiology, organic chemistry), studied for his MCAT exams, and got into medical school. He’s now a practicing doctor. Other unconventional careers that branch off from a geoscience background include environmental law, environmental education and outreach, and finance.