Nature of the Work

Nature of the WorkMany students are attracted to careers in geoscience because of the opportunity to work outdoors, often in beautiful environs located far from the busy trappings of daily life.  Indeed, many geoscientists incorporate a healthy dose of field work in their careers carrying out geologic mapping, sample collection, various types of data-gathering, and the like.  Others work almost entirely in office- or laboratory-based settings; whereas still others combine both venues, switching periodically between the field and office or laboratory (or both) as the nature of the work dictates.  However, because many geoscientists find that their scientific effectiveness is significantly augmented by their cumulative experience, most geologists and hydrogeologists travel extensively throughout their careers to attend meetings, visit colleagues, participate in field trips, and examine the geology of far-off places.  A consequence of this observation is the fact that most geoscientists find themselves becoming better and better as their careers progress and the total amount of their geoscientific experience increases.

The work of many geoscientists is much like that of a detective in that the scientist concentrates on clues indicative of events that occurred in the past and tries to decipher both what happened and why it transpired.  In a typical investigation, a geoscientist gathers data of many types – often from the field or from samples, or both – and looks for relationships that can be explained through application of basic principles of geology and other sciences.  Using data and observations, geoscientists typically construct detailed models to explain their findings, discuss their ideas with colleagues, and present the conclusions both orally and in print.  Many geoscientists are attracted to the geosciences because of the fascinating complexity and interconnectedness of natural systems and by the thrill they experience in making new discoveries.  Not surprisingly, a survey published in the early 1990’s by Money magazine rated geology near the top of all professions in terms of job satisfaction!

The work of geoscientists and hydrogeologists is typically interdisciplinary in nature, involving application of principles from biology, chemistry, physics, and more.  As a result, most geoscientists combine broad scientific backgrounds with strongly focused research or work-related expertise.  Because of the complex nature of the natural systems that they investigate, most geoscientists tend to work as part of teams in which each member contributes expertise.  Multi-authored research papers and work-related reports are common, as indicated by many of the bibliographical entries included in the Faculty pages.  Effective interpersonal skills are often a key ingredient to successful and highly enjoyable careers.

Now, perhaps, more than ever, many students decide to pursue careers in geoscience because of a commitment to help others and to assist in global efforts to preserve and safeguard the natural environment.  Studies indicate that increasing numbers of people worldwide are choosing to live in geologically at-risk areas including low-lying coasts, landslide-prone regions, areas where fresh water supplies are limited or face imminent threat of pollution, and locations subject to serious volcanic- or earthquake-related hazards.  As a result, the future likely holds many opportunities for newly minted geoscientists to use their expertise to help avert disasters and perhaps save lives.