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GeologistAlternative titles

Kaitai Aro Whenua

This job is sometimes referred to as:

Earth Scientist
Engineering Geologist
Geotechnical Scientist

Geologists study the structure and history of the Earth and earth processes. They also give advice on natural hazards and the development and use of the Earth's resources and land.

Contact us

Call us on 0800 222 733


Pay for geologists working in government research organisations and universities depends on their qualifications and experience.

  • Geologists with Master’s degrees usually earn around $55,000-$75,000.
  • Senior geologists, who usually have PhDs, may earn $76,000-$94,000.
  • With more responsibility and experience, pay could rise to about $130,000 a year or more.

Geologists working in the private sector may earn more than this.

Source: NZBIO & Universities New Zealand, 'University Staff Academic Salaries and Remuneration', 2012.

What you will do

Geologists may do some or all of the following:

  • study the Earth's structure and processes such as the formation of soils, rocks and faults
  • collect, examine and analyse rocks, minerals and fossils
  • carry out geological research to locate oil, natural gas, water and minerals
  • monitor the geotechnical conditions of mine sites
  • survey the land and seabed to help prepare geological maps
  • draw maps using specialist computer software
  • give advice and write reports on land use, resource management and risk of natural hazards such as landslides
  • write up research results
  • teach at universities.

Skills and knowledge

Geologists need to have knowledge of:

  • the processes that shape the Earth, and the formation of rocks and fossils
  • how to identify and analyse geological samples and materials
  • research methods and how to analyse the results of their studies
  • how to perform experiments and operate scientific equipment.

Geologists working in mining need to know how a mine operates, how to extract the desired rock or mineral, and how to manage a drilling programme.

Working conditions


  • in research institutes, universities and councils often work regular hours, whereas geologists working on mine sites may work irregular hours
  • work in a range of places, including offices, laboratories and mines which may be at isolated sites, and underground in dark, dirty and cramped conditions
  • may spend time travelling to worksites in New Zealand or overseas.

What's the job really like?

David Hadley - Geologist

David Hadley

David Hadley’s work as a geologist has taken him around the world.

“A development opportunity came up to go to Venezuela and I decided to give it a go.”

A love of field trips leads to a career in geology

David’s love of geology from an early age meant a career in science was on the cards. “I loved geology and doing field trips. Also, I was good at maths and physics.”

He graduated with a PhD in geological sciences and got in touch with some contacts working in the oil industry that he’d met during his university days.

Opportunities open up around the world

Since then doors opened for David and he worked in Venezuela and Brunei for different oil companies before being transferred to Taranaki with his family, to work as a production geologist.

“I look at ways of getting oil and gas out of an existing oil field as economically as possible. It’s mainly an office-based job and involves making paper or computer-based models of the oil fields.”

David says the oil industry has given him and his family many chances to explore the world. “If you’re interested in travel and science, then this is a great job to be in.”

What's hot

  • Getting to travel and work around the world.
  • Learning about a less abstract field of science.

What's not

  • You could be working in isolated sites when doing fieldwork.
  • Time spent waiting for geological equipment to obtain samples.


Geologists starting out with a Master's degree usually earn:

per year
Senior geologists with a PhD and some work experience usually earn
$76K- $130K
per year

Updated 3 Dec 2013