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.
To become a geologist you usually have to complete a degree in science or applied science with a major in geology, geoscience, applied geology, geophysics or earth sciences. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, mathematics, chemistry, earth and environmental science, physics and biology are normally required. Most universities in Australia offer degrees in these areas. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. For full details, refer to the entries on the website at www.goodcareersguide.com.au or university handbooks.
Geologists may perform the following tasks:
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.
Geologists work for mining and petroleum companies involved in the exploration, extraction and production of minerals and hydrocarbons; geological, engineering and environmental consultancy firms; geological survey organisations; and state, territory and federal government departments. Employment opportunities also exist in the securities industry and financial sector where geologists are employed as industry analysts and/or advise on the economic viability of particular mining projects. Geologists may progress to exploration managers and company managers or directors. They are highly mobile, both within Australia and internationally. There are some opportunities for self-employment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A mathematical geologist models the outcome of geological processes by devising and applying the most appropriate data and computer models.
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.
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.
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.