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Careers: Geology/Question about 2nd year undergrad option choices...


Hey Keith,

First off thanks for the wonderful resource!  Secondly, I am currently about to register into my 2nd year of undergrad going for a Bsc Earth Science and have a wide range of choices for options that I can specialize in as a sort of minor.  I would like to pursue an Msc Petroleum Geology at Aberdeen, Imperial or Heriot-Watt for my graduate studies so my question to you is for someone that has ambitions in Petroleum Geology what is the best subject to minor in?  I can choose between Physics, Chemistry or Mathematical Modelling + Differential equations / Linear Algebra.

I have spent a lot of time looking at the requirements for entry into the Msc programmes but all the info they give is quite general, proven academic ability in basic geology with a Bsc Geology or Earth Science.  Which option in your opinion is going to help me the most in grad school?  On a side note, I am quite interested in petrophysics and might enjoy moving on that path after grad school since there doesn't seem to be any dedicated Msc strictly for that discipline and I have been told it comes down to your Master's thesis to help move you in that direction.

One other unrelated question is about technical / management career paths in the majors.  Do many Geologists choose to move over to the management side later in their careers and do Geologists get promoted quite readily in comparison to other oil and gas professions?  How about petrophysicists?  Do you have an opinion on the job outlook for petrophysicists compared to geologists?

Thank you so much for any help!



Petrophysics is a good area, it is very important now what with the LWD (Logging While Drilling) that is so necessary for the exploitation by horizontal well drilling of the unconventional oil and gas plays.

A friend of mine was a PhD petrophysicist, chief petrophysicist for Pathfinder a former subsidiary of Halliburton that was spun off as a private company.  He was doing very well for himself and has retired.

For that field I would say that a good grounding in physics and math is essential.  I am not sure you need a specific minor, but split your electives between classes in those areas.  I have another petroleum engineer friend who went back to school to get his PhD in PE from Stanford and he did the highlevel math route by first getting his MS in mathmatics, but for a petroleum geologist, that might be over kill.

Geology particularly Petrolum Geology has become much more quatitative than when I first started out back in 1980.  Computer science is also a big necessity.  Software runs the industry now. I help produce one of the three industry leading packages.  There is Petrel, Landmark and Kingdom.  I lead the Kingdom team of geologists and geophysicists that test the product.  I worked at Schlumberger on Petrel as well.  The software has allowed the industry to do more than was ever imagined after the massive layoffs in the late 1980's when companies laid off 40-50% of their geoscientists.  Many never returned.  Software allowed those remaining to do more.  The founder of my company, was one of those laid off and he founded his own company and eventually sold his share of it for about $200 million.    So rather focus on a minor in one area, be sure you have a good grounding in higher math, physics and computer science.  Not the geeky level of Comp Sci, but rather, the actual software. Find out what packages the school has, we give ours out for free to universities as do our competitors, since graduates then are our best advocates in the companies for which they go to work.  But some exposure to them is mandatory for being competitive when job hunting.  

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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