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Job title: Engineering Geologist (UK)
What are your qualifications?
A levels: Maths, Physics and Geology.
BSc Hons in Geology from Royal Holloway, University of London
PhD in Rock Mechanics from the University of Leeds
What exactly does an Engineering Geologist do?
Engineering geologists are broadly concerned with the engineering characteristics of the ground. For a typical construction project, we would start by carrying out a desk study of a site to gather as much information as possible, followed by the physical investigation of the ground by boreholes and trial pits which then allow us to characterise the ground and to design suitable foundations or other structures. There is considerable variation in how a project may develop, though, which means that no two jobs are ever the same.
Apart from formal qualifications, what other skills or characteristics do you need?
Two characteristics stand out: the willingness and enthusiasm to learn new skills - and a sense of humour! Without the former you will never develop into an experienced and well rounded engineering geologist. Without the latter you will never survive the cold, wet, muddy days on site, or the good-humoured banter that invariably flies around the office.
What sort of organisation do you work for? Who else employs engineering geologists?
I work for a large firm of Consulting Engineers which is to say a large, multi-disciplinary company with offices throughout the world. Engineering geologists are employed by all aspects of the engineering industry, including client organisations, consultants, contractors and specialist companies who concentrate on certain aspects of engineering geology.
If this wasn’t your first job after your studies, what did you do in between?
Apart from a year working for American Express between my degree and PhD, I have gone straight from university into the industry.
Do you travel within the UK or overseas very much?
I’ve travelled throughout the length and breadth of the UK over the years, and spent some time overseas. The opportunities to travel anywhere around the world are available to you in a large, global company if you allow yourself to be flexible and willing to travel at a moments notice. If you’d rather concentrate on work in the UK, that is easily achievable too.
Do you work a regular length day/week or are shifts involved?
I work a regular Monday to Friday week, and generally the hours are 9 to 5, or thereabouts. When deadlines approach, work hours may be longer. One also tends to spend more time working when on site. The flipside is that days on site always seem to go much faster than days in the office!
What do you enjoy about your job?
First, the variety of work is immense - if you make the effort to get out there and get on with it. In the last year I’ve had days working on a geotechnical data management system in the office, and others abseiling on a steep rock face to assess its stability. Second, my job brings me into contact with a great bunch of funny, down-to-earth people who are (usually!) a pleasure to work with. Finally, I’d say that my job gives me the opportunity to see a project through from start to finish, which is immensely satisfying.
What advice or extra information do you wish you’d had before starting this career?
I was lucky in that my father also worked in engineering, so I pretty much knew what I was letting myself in for. That said, I would like to have spent some time working for an engineering geology related company before I completed my education, maybe as a vacation student. I was never really aware that this was an option, but I now know that many large companies are glad to have work-experience students helping out over the summer months, I’d encourage people to follow this route if they can.
What position would you like to hold in five years' time?
I’d like to be in a position where I was still getting the variety of work that I enjoy now, with a good mix desk work and being out and about. I’d like to be still involved in the interesting, technical side of my job, without being too bogged down in "management speak". But mainly I’d just like to still be having fun doing what I do, and finding time to laugh during the day!