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For Prospective Students

Frequently Asked Questions

What do our students do after graduation?


Megan Chaisson, '06 , a National Parks employee

Our students have moved into a wide array of fields following graduation. Many go to graduate school for an advanced degree – we encourage student to pursue at least a Masters degree, since that it is very useful in many employment sectors. However, a PhD is essential for some career tracks, especially if you want to go into university teaching or a position in a research lab. Students often work for a year – or a few years – before returning to school for an MS or a PhD. A graduate degree allows you to more readily advance to positions of greater responsibility or to do more in-depth science.

Regardless of your degree, careers in geology span a range of fields, and the dominant employment sectors have varied through time. In recent years, many of our students have sought and found employment in environmental or engineering firms after graduation, especially if they have taken courses in groundwater and related fields. Other fields include energy resources, mineral exploration, independent drilling and other support for industry, state geological surveys, the U.S. Geological Survey, teaching (from elementary to university level), research at national labs, and a variety of specialized positions in banks, insurance companies, law firms, and other businesses.

The pie charts at right show the general fields that people with a Bachelors, Masters, and PhD in geology have gone into, as of 2000. These data are from the American Geological Institute, which maintains an interesting website featuring people in specific geology-related jobs as well as a lot of links to companies who hire geologists. Visit the careers guide at AGI for much more information about careers in geology in general, http://www.agiweb.org for a lot of general information about the field of geology, and check out this advice from the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists (PDF).

In some careers, it can be helpful to have a double major or at least have taken extra courses in another field. For example, geology and engineering is a natural combination. However, we caution students that it is more important to have a solid major in geology with depth and breadth rather than 2 majors where neither of them is exceptionally strong.

Some of our students pursue careers outside geology. We hear from them that regardless of where they ended up they have used valuable skills and analytical ways of thinking that they developed in studying geology.

Geology is a science that has undergone great change in the past few decades. For example, plate tectonics provides an explanation of earthquakes and tsunami events, volcanic eruptions, mountain-building processes, and even the locations of geothermal fields. As we begin to understand the complexities of our Earth's climate, we are drawing on geologic studies of how ancient climates are recorded in glacial lake sediments, deep ocean sediments, and rock strata exposed on land. Rocks may appear to be static and silent, but geologists use all kinds of techniques to extract information in the quest to deal with both scientific and societal problems.

More Information about Careers