working science
July 3, 2010 9:51 AM   Subscribe

In the past 6 or 7 years, what has the field outlook been like for grad students in geology, and geologists -- particularly in reference to those living and working in the American South?

I ask in order to explain what a fictional character would have been doing with herself in her twenties, in her progression from student to scientist, or at least to adjunct. (This person is misanthropic and academically inclined, and has made life choices informed by that.)

I had understood that the job market for geologists is great if you want to work for oil companies, but I realize now that I heard that a long time ago, and whether it still obtains is not clear to me. I don't know what the practical outlook has been like for geology students recently.

(Blogs and other links appreciated.)
posted by Countess Elena to Education (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just another anecdote, but by way of current geologist grad students - my friends at Colorado School of Mines seem to think the only job market is in oil companies, and almost exclusively in Houston. It sounds like it's not a sure thing market, it's all about getting an internship before you graduate.

Hope that helps!
posted by ansate at 10:07 AM on July 3, 2010

IANAGeologist but where I graduated, the energy companies dominate the engineering career fair. I know several engineers who have gotten good jobs in oil right out of college. I imagine the same is true for geologists. They're hiring a lot of people right now because they're trying to fill basically a generational gap before all the experienced workers retire. This article touches on that.

Also a quick search turns up which claims that geologists are making more than ever. The one geologist I know makes a more than comfortable salary in the oil industry in her 30s.
posted by ista at 10:11 AM on July 3, 2010

I graduated with an undergraduate physics degree, and SLB wanted to interview me for a geophysics-related position that would have presumably been in Texas. (This is notable to *me,* given just how few companies were interested in me during my job search 8 months ago)

The application process in the oil industry seemed.....slimy at best, as were the working conditions. I can't help but think that the past few months have made overall prospects in the industry much, much worse. I have no qualms about abruptly exiting the interview process.

If you're lucky, there are also, of course, academic positions, and jobs with USGS and the like, although I imagine that these are somewhat sought-after. I did some geophysics research work in Alaska at UAF during my undergrad years, and it seemed like the job market for geologists in that region was actually pretty good. However, that's pretty much the polar (ha!) opposite of the American South.

Not sure how helpful that is, but at least it's another datapoint for you to consider...
posted by schmod at 10:21 AM on July 3, 2010

I know that there is a cultural geology program in Charleston, SC and some of its alumni work in oil spill response rather than drilling.
Also there's these books, someone has to do the research for them.
posted by Duffington at 10:52 AM on July 3, 2010

What sort of geology is she interested in? I can get you info on planetary geology grad students (doing work based out of Arizona, but based on other planets), and also information about graduate students doing geologically focused paleontology.
posted by ChuraChura at 11:45 AM on July 3, 2010

I am a geologist and work in the industry. As ista mentions, the industry is dealing with the problems of what has been dubbed the "big crew change". There's a shortage of both engineers and geologists entering the industry, so the opportunity is there for your character if they want it. I also have friends that work doing environmental impact assessments in various countries, so that avenue is open and growing as an industry. Mining is less certain, due to varying mineral pricing. Gold mining in the 90s was precarious and I know several people who moved into oil because of that.
Whilst the past few months have hit the US and Gulf of Mexico hard, the industry is global and other regions are picking up activity following the recession, so you may want to make her face a choice about moving overseas.
posted by arcticseal at 2:47 PM on July 3, 2010

My stepbrother is a geologist, now in his early thirties. Here is how the progression worked for him:
1) BA from a liberal arts school in Ohio.
2) Grad degree, I think from UCLA
3) A couple of years working at a low-paying but awesome job at the Smithsonian.
4) Realized that he needs to support his family. Went to work for an oil company, doing I'm not sure what. Was sent to New Orleans. Post-Katrina, was moved to Houston.

So that's how it worked for one guy.
posted by Adridne at 8:17 PM on July 3, 2010

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