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Careers: Geology/Careers in Geology: Searching for Minerals / Plate Tectonics


Mr. Patton,

I already have a B.S. in Digital Art & Design. I have been completely unable to find work in this field and have suffered from immense frustration and confusion as to why this field is not satisfying to me. After many long periods of reflecting back on my early childhood and considering the things I loved the most, Geology and the Earth Sciences inevitably surface as my favorites. They were the classes I didn't have to even crack the textbook because the information I learned in class was so intriguing to me that I was (and still am) able to remember most all of it.

The two areas of interest that I find most attractive in the Geological field are Plate Tectonics and the search for precious stones (which I would assume would fall under Mineralogy). I have two main questions for you.

1. Are there even jobs for these fields?


2. While I am not afraid of working at it, I've always struggled with higher Maths (as you can probably surmise from my degree choice). If I chose to go back to school and shoulder the immense weight of debt, how would I best prepare myself for the Math?

I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for your time.


Sorry to ruin your new year, but there aren't many jobs in minerals.  Most mining companies employ a few, but not many and most of them are overseas.  The preeminent mining countries are Canada, Australia, and South Africa. Where petroleum companies may employ hundreds, mining companies may employ a mere handful per mine.

On the plate tectonic side, that is more research and is limited to governmental sponsored organizations or universities.  I had a co-worker at Phillips Petroleum in the 1980's she was eventually forced to take a job with the US Geological Survey.  The reason being is that a lot of academic types want to pursue their interests, and forget that companies pay us for our skills to make them money.  They do not indulge us to pursue our interests. If they happen to coincide, that's great, but if they don't and you insist on spending their money in pursuing them, they will ask you to go elsewhere.  

So both your subject areas are the realms of academia, which in order to pursue them, you would likely need a PhD.  Most employers require a MS degree for geologists and geoscientists as well.

You need to keep in mind that in order to support yourself, you need to find a company that is willing to pay you to study plate tectonics.  There are not many money making endeavors based on it.  Mineralogy hit it's heyday in the early 1800's when it was the astrophysics of the scientific world.  Everybody who was anybody was striving to find the next mineral and name it.  Eventually the pretty much defined the limits of the field and found all the naturally occurring minerals there were to find, classified them and all the crystal classes etc and there was not much more to do.  Today ceramics uses the same science, but traditional mineralogy is not a great place for employment out side of academia.  Check out the Mineralogy Society of America's website here:

From the website:
Where do mineralogists work?

    The vast majority of mineralogists teach at universities. Smaller numbers work at the U.S. Geological Survey and some state geological surveys. There are also members employed at the national laboratories. Some mineralogists work as museum curators.

So as you can see, in almost all cases you would need a PhD to find employment.  The career path is essentially dead unless you want to teach.  Mineralogy and Petrology is a necessity for geologists as a tool in their tool box, but it is no longer a viable career path in and of itself.

As far as the math goes, I hated math too, but managed to wade through it all up to and including calculus.  If you can take the minimum math requirement that meets you needs, and study study study.  The best way to learn it is to work lots and lots of problems.  The sad part is after all that work, you will rarely use it.  In 35 years I have not worked one integral or differential equation, and very little algebra.  

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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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