How to become a Geophysicist

Geophysicists study the structure and composition of zones below the surface of the earth by taking measurements using seismic, gravity, magnetic and electrical data collection methods. The two main divisions of geophysics are exploration geophysics, which deals with the search for Earth's resources, and global geophysics, which uses the same techniques to study Earth as a whole and study earthquakes, magnetic fields and other phenomena. Geophysicists often specialise in areas such as seismology and seismic interpretation, borehole geophysics, mineral exploration, engineering geophysics, environmental or groundwater geophysics, or computer processing and software development.

Personal requirements for a Geophysicist

  • Enjoy technical and engineering work
  • Alert and analytical mind
  • Enjoy applying physics and mathematics in practical ways
  • Good oral and written communication skills
  • Able to work independently or as part of a team
  • Willing to work in remote areas

Education & Training for a Geophysicist

To become a geophysicist you usually have to complete a degree in science with a major in geophysics, geoscience or a combination of geology and physics, preferably at honours level. 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, physics and biology are normally required. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information.


Additional information

The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) website has a range of geoscience career and education information, including a list of recognised courses. After a qualifying period, graduates may be eligible for membership with the Australian Institute of Geoscientists, the Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists and AusIMM. Student memberships are available with the Australian Institute of Geoscientists and AusIMM.

Duties & Tasks of a Geophysicist

Geophysicists:

  • Supervise the collection and processing of seismic data for petroleum exploration, and interpret and map prospects on which to drill a well
  • Plan, conduct and interpret geophysical surveys in exploring for mineral commodities such as gold, base metals, diamonds and coal using various electrical techniques and magnetic or gravity surveys
  • Design, develop and operate computer systems and software for processing and interpreting geophysical data sets
  • Plan, conduct and interpret geophysical surveys to locate and estimate quantities of recoverable groundwater reserves, the distribution and extent of salinity in agricultural areas or the extent of pollution in the ground or atmosphere
  • Carry out geophysical surveys of areas prior to the construction of major engineering structures such as dams, bridges or roads
  • Study earthquakes and earthquake risk, time variations and the distribution of the earth's magnetic and gravity fields, the physics of rocks and minerals, and fluid dynamics of molten rock (magma), oceans and atmosphere
  • Research new methods and instrumentation
  • Develop instrumentation for taking physical measurements in surveys, including gravity meters, magnetometers, seismic recorders, radiometric systems, and electrical, electromagnetic and radar transmitters and receivers
  • Develop mathematical models as an aid to interpreting geophysical survey results.

Tasks

  • Determines the resources present by sampling, examining and analysing geological specimens, rock cores, cuttings and samples using optical, chemical, electronic and mechanical techniques..
  • Surveys variations in the earth's gravitational and magnetic fields to determine its physical features..
  • Performs laboratory and field studies, as well as aerial, ground and drill hole surveys..
  • Investigates the propagation of seismic waves to determine the structure and stability of the earth's mantle and crust..
  • Studies the causes of earthquakes and other stress states of the earth's crust..

Working conditions for a Geophysicist

Geophysicists often work as part of a team of geoscientists. Some carry out fieldwork, which may involve a lot of travel, often to remote areas.


Employment Opportunities for a Geophysicist

Most geophysicists are exploration geophysicists, employed by oil and mineral exploration companies. They are also employed by data processing centres, computer software development companies, environmental groups, state government geological survey teams, the Australian Geological Survey Organisation, the Australian Bureau of Mineral Resources, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and universities. There are some opportunities for self-employment as geophysical consultants. Because the skills of geophysicists can be applied in other areas, alternative employment is available when activity in the mineral or petroleum industries declines.


Specializations

par - The two main divisions of geophysics are exploration geophysics, which deals with the search for Earth's resources, and global geophysics, which uses the same techniques to study Earth as a whole and study earthquakes, magnetic fields and other phenomena. Geophysicists often specialise in areas such as seismology and seismic interpretation, borehole geophysics, mineral exploration, engineering geophysics, environmental or groundwater geophysics, or computer processing and software development.


Geophysicist

Geophysicists study the structure and composition of zones below the surface of the earth by taking measurements using seismic, gravity, magnetic and electrical data collection methods. The two main divisions of geophysics are exploration geophysics, which deals with the search for Earth's resources, and global geophysics, which uses the same techniques to study Earth as a whole and study earthquakes, magnetic fields and other phenomena. Geophysicists often specialise in areas such as seismology and seismic interpretation, borehole geophysics, mineral exploration, engineering geophysics, environmental or groundwater geophysics, or computer processing and software development.

  • Average age
    Average age
    42 years
  • Future Growth
    Future Growth
    Very strong
  • Gender Share
    Gender Share
    20% female
  • Average full-time
    Average full-time
    44 hours
  • Weekly Pay
    Weekly Pay
    $2,192
  • Skill level rating
    Skill level rating
    Very high skill
  • Unemployment
    Unemployment
    Lower unemployment
  • Full-Time Share
    Full-Time Share
    84% Full-Time
  • Employment Size
    Employment Size
    1,100 workers
  • Employment Size
    Employment by state
    ACT: 5.9%
    NSW: 12.1%
    NT: 0.5%
    QLD: 12.9%
    SA: 9.9%
    TAS: 4.5%
    VIC: 10.4%
    WA: 43.8%
  • Employment Size
    Age brackets
    15-19: 0%
    20-24: 2.1%
    25-34: 28.3%
    35-44: 26.7%
    45-54: 22.5%
    55-59: 8.5%
    60-64: 7.4%
    65 and Over: 4.5%
  • Employment Size
    Education level
    Advanced Diploma/Diploma: 1.3%
    Bachelor degree: 45.4%
    Certificate III/IV: 1.6%
    Post Graduate/Graduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate: 48.3%
    Year 10 and below: 0%
    Year 11: 0.4%
    Year 12: 3%
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