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Careers: Geology/career and university choice


Dear Keith,

You have dearly responded to my inquests in the past and was very pleased with that. However, I would still want to know the following. I know there are schools out there with good industry links like aberdeen/imperial/manchester/leeds etc. here in the UK. This means these schools tend to be very competitive to get in and there tuition is very high(average 10k excluding living expenses) I cannot meet the financial side of things to get into those schools. However I have found many other non-industry linked university masters program in more academic oriented geology/geophysics courses that give the option to specialize  in applied geophysics and/or sedimentary processes which are all relevant to geoscience/geotechnical graduate recruitment program with schlumberger/BP/Exxonmobile, you name it. So, I see myself taking a masters in geology/geophysics at a university that isn't known to have good links with the industry but have a good academic reputation like UCL/Southampton/Edinburgh etc. My intention is to apply and compete to get my foot in upstream exploration. I can do this Master degree in marine geophysics at southampton which will cost me a third of those industry linked university tuition. In the end not everyone can make it into Imperial or Aberdeen wright? 500 applicants each year at imperial, only 50 gets in, and of which only 20 will get funding from the industry. You see where this is heading wright? So I can afford to go to Southampton and still get a descent msc in geophysics with good courses in seismic acquisition/processing/interpretation taught by world class professors at the national oceanography centre of the UK.

Will this make me fall short if I decide to go this path? Or better take a year out and get a job as a mudlogger for a year and save the money towards the high tuition at Imperial/Aberdeen and try to get in these schools a year later?

I would appreciate your advice a lot.

I hope to hear from you soon.


Everything you said is correct.

If you go to a good school, and choose a good relevant thesis subject, you still have a good chance at landing a job with a company.

I worked for Schlumberger.  A warning.  If you want to do exploration or want a job with advancement a service company might not be the best choice.  I worked in Dubai with them and in Houston.  I would best sum up their attitude toward foreign nationals is they still have a "colonial" outlook when it comes to how they treat their field personnel.  Well site engineers, mudloggers etc are a disposable commodity.  I saw them hire and fire Indian and Pakistani nationals in Dubai like they changed their socks.  This was due in part to the demands of the job...they could brook no slackers or people not showing up...time was money.

It was also due to the large number of people competing for the same positions.  They could fire someone on the spot and a replacement was only a phone call away.

Back on point.  The university can give you advantages, but it cannot land the job for you.  If you pick a good thesis subject, one that is relevant to the companies needs and interests you should do fine.  I have interviewed otherwise competent people that we did not choose, because they interviewed poorly, were not prepared, or their thesis was on a subject that sadly was not relevant to the industry any more.  Beware of working on a subject that is too "theoretical" and would mark you as suitable only for continuing for a Phd.  This can happen when your adviser picks your thesis subject for you or directs you into an area that is his specialty or area of interest.  There is a reason a lot of professors teaching have never had a real job in the industry.  Their specialty is not of any commercial value or interest to the industry except in a marginal way.  Remember companies hire you for the skills you possess.  They want value for their money, if you have nothing they want to pay for, do not expect them to hire you.  Remember that you are the master of your fate and future, you should direct the course you take, not your professor.  You are HIS boss as you are paying his salary.
Do make sure that the professors at whatever university you choose, have the skills to assist you on whatever thesis subject you choose.

Also remember that your interview is the mother of all final exams.  Prepare for it that way.
Study the company, what it is doing and where.  What technologies are they those as well so you can at least talk about them or ask questions.  Practice interviewing using books available with interview questions. Be prepared.  I ask up to 60 questions, what we call situational questions.  Where I ask for real world examples from your experience where you have encountered various problems or situations.  For example:  Give me an example of a situtation where you worked in a team environment...what was the problem you were working on....give me an example of a workplace did you resolve it....give me an example of a crisis problems solving situation that you were involved did you resolve the crisis...etc etc.  Be prepared to think.  Also work on your verbal and written communication skills.  A person can be brilliant but what good are they if they cannot communicate their knowledge to others in a concise and intelligable manner?

Careers: Geology

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Keith Patton


Career and educational options open for fledgling geoscience students. What courses you should take to prepare for the current job market.


24 years experience in Petroleum, Environmental Consulting and geological and geophysical computer software development.


Registered Geologist in Texas
Certified mapping scientitst in RS

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