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Frequently Asked Questions

What will I earn as a geoscientist?

This mainly depends on the sector of employment that you enter. Generally speaking the ‘public sector’ (schools, universities, councils and government agencies) offers more average salaries but increased annual leave and a less stressful environment. The ‘private sector’ – privately owned companies that are not controlled by the state and may appear on the stock market etc – typically offers larger salaries but will expect you to work longer hours and be more flexible. Within the private sector, oil and gas companies are usually where the greatest financial rewards are gained. However there are distinct cycles of supply and demand where natural resources are concerned, so financial security is not guaranteed.

Apart from the sector of employment, the relevance of the content of your degree, and the quality (eg 2:1/ 2:2) are major factors.

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What are the opportunities for travel as a geoscientist?

If you want to see the world then geology is the right career! Working in exploration within the petroleum, mining/quarrying and engineering industries are most likely to bring travelling experiences. Opportunities are increased if you join an international company with offices overseas. However, fieldwork abroad can be difficult and sometimes dangerous, with irregular working hours. Take a look at the career profiles section to see where geoscientists are working at the moment.

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I’m a mature student. Will making a career as a geoscientist be harder for me?

Mature students may find entering certain sectors harder than younger graduates, partly because their expectations of salary and promotion can be greater, and partly because the lifestyle offered in some industries is not always suitable for a mature graduate who may have a family and not be as open to extensive travelling and long hours.

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Will work experience on my CV mean that I’m more likely to succeed? How do I arrange a work placement?

See the section ‘Work experience and placements’ for specific information on this topic.

In general terms, some demonstration of your interest and enthusiasm for the subject will be advantageous. Local knowledge/membership of clubs is a really good way of showing your commitment. The Society supports a network of Regional and Specialist groups and you could attend some of their meetings. Obviously membership of the Geological Society, either at Candidate Fellow or Fellowship level, will show that you are serious.

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If I don’t become a geologist, what other sorts of careers do geology graduates do well at?

As problem solving, thinking in three-dimensions, team work, numeracy and good communication are all needed in most geological disciplines, these same skills equip the geology graduate for a wide variety of alternative careers.

Many geology graduates become accountants or enter the financial sector. Teaching is also popular, as the general science background makes graduates eligible.

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What are the advantages of gaining Chartership (CGeol) status?

Chartered status demonstrates to employers and society at large that you have attained the highest level of professionalism. The Geological Society offers two chartered titles: Chartered Geologist and Chartered Scientist. Chartered Geologist is particularly highly valued in certain sectors, eg the quarry industry and engineering geology. It provides a route to other qualifications, such as European Geologist, SiLC (Specialist in Land Condition) and CSCS cards. Chartered Scientist provides a passport to mobility as it is set at a benchmark level throughout the science professions.

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Do I really need a degree?

Geotechnical staff who do not have degrees are employed by oil and gas companies, engineering and water companies, academic and research institutes. 

Technical jobs include well-logging activities, obtaining and processing geophysical data, preparing geological maps and sections, laboratory testing of soil and rock samples and teaching support. Entry requirements vary but leaving school with one A level/Scottish Higher and roughly 5 C-grade or above GSCE subjects will allow you to gain access to further training such as Higher National Diplomas, which are required for some geotechnical posts. 

However, a geoscience degree will equip you for a career as a professional geoscientist – although many employers now ask for a postgraduate qualification such as an MSc or PhD as well. You will also need a degree to be admitted for a postgraduate teaching qualification ( PGCE) to enable you to join the teaching profession as a geoscience educator in schools.

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