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Careers: Geology/Earth Sciences/Geology as a Second Degree


Hi Keith,

I am currently completing my undergrad in accounting, but was planning on returning part-time to school and doing a second degree in the earth sciences. Ideally I'd love to do a graduate degree in science, but I doubt I have the pre-reqs for most programs, so I will probably have to do another undergrad.

My main questions are, how exactly do I know an earth sci/geology degree is what I want, what I should specialize in, and the career outlook for the next ten years?

So a bit of background on myself - I took a lot of sci courses in high school and a few earth sci electives in uni, and realized out of all the sciences I've studied (chem, physics, bio), it is in fact the earth sciences that I enjoy the most. I find field work, and more large-scale and long-term theories more interesting. For example, I would rather learn about the different geological eras than cellular respiration. Note that academically, I am not too worried in terms of coursework/GPA, though I know the move from business to science will be tough at first.

Based on those interests, do you think an earth science program is right for me? I do plan on changing careers after five or so years (enough to get my accounting designation), so my decision is not solely interest-based but also long-term for career opportunities.

In terms of specific majors in earth sciences, the only one I know much and am interested in is geoscience/geology. And even within geology, there are so many specializations. Do you have any more info about that? And what majors/skills would be most in demand? Also, what kinds of qualities/interests make up most geology students (so I can gauge if this is a profile I fit into)?

One of my greatest fears is after having completed a degree in geology, and giving up a business job, I will not be able to find any work. Do you think then, that this would be a wise career move? Or should I just stick with business?

Sorry for so many questions, but any advice you have would be helpful :) Hope to hear from you soon!


Lots of complex questions, so I'll just jump in.

First.  The best paying jobs are in the petroleum industry.  Yes it has been cyclical in the past as far as employment, but looks like it will continue strong for quite a while into the future.

Second, most "professional" level jobs require a Masters Degree.  A BS just does not teach enough problem solving or advanced level theory to make a BS holder that valuable to employers.

Some of what you describe that you like to do sounds more academic.  What I mean, is most companies do not pay people to think about theories, or study broad topics unless there is money in it.  That kind of thing is found at universities or government agencies that do not have to turn a profit.  We call them cost centers, the opposite of profit centers.  Work in those areas usually requires a PhD.

BS degree holders end up being geotech workers, doing work in labs that is pretty boring, or they are in the field collecting samples, also boring.  Environmental work is low pay, even for MS holders.  I know, been there, done that.  I was making almost 40% less than someone with my experience and training in the petroleum industry.

Right now the hot areas in petroleum are those with training or experience in shale gas oand oil recovery, the specialites of geosteering, horizontal drilling, and fracking.  

Geophysics is always a good area, it pays more than an MS in geology.   

In truth, you would need an MS, and a good well rounded BS would be what to aim for first.  Electives in Sedimetary petrology, geophysics, stratigraphy, and all the core courses would be the place to start.  An MS program looks at those to determine if you qualify.  The thesis is where you would specialize towards landing a job.  Doing research in one of the topics above, would make you a "expert" of sorts and a lot more desirable to hire by companies engaged in those activities.

Do a search for geoscience jobs and look at the job requirements to get an idea of what hiring companies are looking for to get an idea of electives that might help you. or thesis topics if you decide to go the MS route.

On the other hand, Business is always a good degree to have.  America is in the business of business, and those people are always in demand.  Unless of course, Barry and the current government fulfill their dreams of bankrupting us all.


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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