Geoscientist salary & career outlook
If you're a hands-on person who would rather learn about our planet by hammering away at its crust than reading about it in a textbook, then you might want to become a geoscientist.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, geoscientists "study the physical aspects of the Earth, such as its composition, structure, and processes, to learn about its past, present, and future." This entails collecting and analyzing rock samples, making geologic maps and charts, preparing written scientific reports and much more.
Becoming a geoscientist typically requires a bachelor's degree in geosciences or a related field. Coursework in geology is important, as is being skilled in communication, critical-thinking, interpersonal relations and problem-solving, as well as outdoor skills and physical stamina. Several states require a license, which often includes an exam.
The mean annual wage for geoscientists in America — excluding hydrologists and geographers — as of May 2013 was $108,420, with the lowest-paid 10 percent earning an annual wage of $48,890 and the highest-paid 10 percent earning an annual wage equal to or greater than $187,199.
Those numbers can fluctuate depending on which industry you're in. The top-paying industries in America for geoscientists as of May 2013, according to the BLS, were:
- Oil and gas extraction ($154,230 annual mean wage)
- Petroleum and coal products manufacturing ($152,370 annual mean wage)
- Support activities for mining ($137,010 annual mean wage)
The state you live in can also factor into how much you make as a geoscientists. The top-paying states in America for geoscientists as of May 2013, according to the BLS, were:
- Texas ($151,560 annual mean wage)
- Oklahoma ($132,130 annual mean wage)
- Alaska ($120,150 annual mean wage)
And, of course, which city you live in can affect pay. The top-paying metropolitan areas in America for geoscientists as of May 2013, according to the BLS, were:
- Tyler, TX ($177,120 annual mean wage)
- Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX ($167,530 annual mean wage)
- Midland, TX ($164,900 annual mean wage)
Outside of Texas, the highest paying metro areas for geoscientists are Bakersfield-Delano, Calif., with an annual mean wage of $146,500, and Tulsa, Okla., with an annual mean wage of $143,670.
Job outlook for geoscientists
Employment of geoscientists, except hydrologists and geographers, is projected to grow by 16 percent nationally between 2012 and 2022, which is faster than the average for all occupations. That adds up to roughly 6,000 new jobs across the country.
Many explanations exist for the projected growth. "The need for energy, environmental protection, and responsible land and resource management is projected to spur demand for geoscientists in the future," according to the BLS. An expanding population, which will inevitably lead to an increase in the use of space and resources, will spur demand for geoscientists, as well as new technologies such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
Certain states are expected to have higher growth than others, according to state labor department aggregated by the University of Utah's Projections Central. According to those statistics, the states with the best projected job growth through 2020 are:
- Colorado: 40.4%
- Montana: 39%
- Ohio: 34.4%
In addition, looking at past data can help make an educated guess about where there might be strong employment possibilities in the future. And the American metropolitan areas with the highest employment level for geoscientists as of May 2013, according to the BLS, were:
- Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX
- Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO
- Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA Metropolitan Division
It's a job that can pay well and that's in a field that's growing, so enrolling in a geoscience program might be a rock-solid investment in the future.
Occupational Employment and Wages for Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers, Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2013,
Long-Term Projections for Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers, Projections Central,