Geologists study the nature, composition and structure of the earth to locate materials and minerals, and to increase scientific knowledge. They also advise on the extraction of minerals, as well as on environmental protection, the rehabilitation of land after mining and on civil engineering projects.

Duties & Tasks

Geologists may perform the following tasks:

  • explore specific areas of the earth to determine its structure and the types of rocks or minerals that are present
  • study rock cores, cuttings and samples
  • study geostatistics and sampling theory
  • study fossilised life forms and date rock strata
  • study the nature and effects of natural events such as erosion, sedimentation, glaciation, earthquakes and volcanic hazards
  • locate and manage groundwater resources, investigate groundwater contamination and land salinity
  • undertake geochemical sampling of stream sediment and soils
  • undertake ground or airborne magnetic, gravity and other geophysical surveys
  • examine geological specimens in laboratories using optical and electron microscopes, X-ray diffraction and other electronic, chemical and mechanical techniques
  • advise on determining the economic viability of extracting earth resources
  • advise on the geological suitability of sites for structures such as tunnels, roads, coastal installations, bridges and water supply schemes
  • contribute information about land use, planning and rehabilitation, and the effects of pollution on seabeds to environmental assessments
  • use computers to integrate and interpret data sets of geological information
  • prepare geological models to describe processes and predict future situations
  • prepare geological reports and maps.


Database Geologist

A database geologist maintains and updates the database of drilling and assay results acquired during exploration and mining. This involves receiving incoming new data, uploading it, and constantly ensuring that data is correct and up to date.

Engineering Geologist

An engineering geologist works with engineers to carry out detailed geological mapping before major construction work, assesses the qualities of building stone and quarry rocks used for building and road construction, and assesses geological structures for open-cut and underground mine stability and safety, and foundations for building.

Environmental Geologist

An environmental geologist studies the nature of ground and surface waters, soil movement, erosion and degradation, salinisation and coastal erosion; the effects of pollution and human activity on rivers and seas; and the environmental effects of mining, nuclear energy and waste disposal.

Field/Exploration Geologist

A field/exploration geologist carries out surveys to determine the geological structure, distribution and age of rocks and investigate where particular natural resources are likely to be found.


A geochemist/mineralogist/petrologist studies the mineral and chemical composition of rocks using equipment such as optical and electron microscopes, X-ray diffraction, atomic absorption and mass spectrometry. They may also be involved in examining the transport of pollutants through rock masses.


A geomorphologist studies the evolution and age of landforms and land surfaces.


A hydrogeologist evaluates and manages the quality, quantity, reliability and sustainability of all aspects of water resources. They are concerned with groundwater and the soil-moisture variation, amount, speed and direction of groundwater flow, extraction and replenishment of groundwater, and water chemistry and pollution.

Mathematical Geologist

A mathematical geologist models the outcome of geological processes by devising and applying the most appropriate data and computer models.

Mine Site Geologist

A mine site geologist monitors and controls the grade (or quality) of the ore mined. They also advise on assessments of the areas of an ore body that should be mined at a particular time, and on defining the ore limits at the mine based on economic considerations.


A palaeontologist examines, classifies and describes animal and plant fossils found in sedimentary rocks. Understanding the evolutionary order of the fossil record is particularly important in oil exploration.

Petroleum Geologist

A petroleum geologist explores and charts stratigraphic arrangement, composition and the structure of the Earth's surface layers to locate petroleum and natural gas. They estimate the size and distribution of reserves using seismic and geological survey evidence and recommend the most appropriate drilling and production methods.


A stratigrapher deals with the order in which sedimentary rock strata have been deposited, their age and the processes by which they were formed.

Structural Geologist

A structural geologist studies rock structures in field mapping and in laboratory studies to reveal the history of folding and faulting, and how these structures can influence mine engineering and building foundations. They also conduct studies in water flow in aquifers.

Working Conditions

Geologists work in laboratories, offices and in the field. They may work independently or as members of a mixed team of professional and non-professional staff. They may have contact with the public, especially if needing permission to go onto private land. Fieldwork can involve spending time in remote desert, tropical or Antarctic/Arctic regions. The hours of work can be irregular and it may be necessary to spend long periods away from home.

Personal Requirements

  • enjoy technical and scientific activities
  • willing to adhere to safety requirements
  • able to work independently or as part of a team
  • able to prepare accurate records and reports
  • able to cope with the physical demands of the job
  • prepared to work outdoors in a range of environments and on irregular schedules.

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