Geologist - About the job Alternative titles
Kaitai Aro Whenua
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.
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.
- MoreBusiness.com website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Universities NZ website - 'University Staff Academic Salaries and Remuneration' (PDF–703KB)
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.
- 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’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.”
- Getting to travel and work around the world.
- Learning about a less abstract field of science.
- You could be working in isolated sites when doing fieldwork.
- Time spent waiting for geological equipment to obtain samples.
Shannon James talks about geology - 2.16 mins. (Video courtesy of Te Puni Kōkiri - for more videos go to www.maorifuturemakers.com)
I’ve always kind of wanted to do something in science but that’s relevant and practical, relate it back to sources of power and heat for residents in Rotorua and that’s what I kind of, we learnt briefly about it in high school and it kind of spiked my passion. What I was worried about was trying to keep up with the workload and if I was capable of pursuing it I suppose, being a minority was another thing I was a bit worried about, if you just find the people in your classes that you feel comfortable with working with and who you relate to then it makes everything heaps easier.
We get a lot of people - other scientists who kind of think that earth science isn’t really a science but it is a science cause we learn, like exactly the same but in practical ways rather than just theory. We went to a farm where there were cows just falling to the ground and no one knew why, we just did tests on the soil then we used like chemistry and physics and kind of found out what was the deficiency and what the problem was that was causing these cows to kind of just drop, and it was good to apply the knowledge that you learn in class to actual practical field stuff.
We learnt that our peak oil is going to reach the peak in like 2015 which is like not so far, and that’s going to affect the way in which we live. We also learn about water and when well, when the purity of water is going to start declining and what sources we’re going to use then, and you wonder why you don’t hear about this sort of stuff more often and why they kinda don’t, why they don’t kinda tell us what’s happening around us.
Considering that you’d think it would be a huge topic for Māori students to get into cause it’s earth related and it’s about the environment and stuff, but there’s really not that many, in my class there’s three of us. There’s I guess so many opportunities like you can travel with this sort of thing, like if you do volcanology there’s a worldwide sort of thing.
If I was to talk to someone who was interested about earth science I’d just say to pursue it because it’s an awesome, awesome, awesome subject and you learn so much.
To become a geologist you usually need a Masters in geology. However, a PhD in geology or engineering geology is preferred. Some skills are gained on the job.
A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter tertiary training. Useful subjects include maths with calculus and/or statistics, physics, chemistry, geography and English.
Geologists need to be:
- patient and observant, and enjoy working outside
- motivated and methodical
- good at maths and able to problem-solve
- good at planning and organising
- skilled communicators for writing reports and for other publications.
Geologists need to be fit and healthy as they may be required to walk around mines or other worksites while doing fieldwork. It is also important that geologists working at underground mines are not claustrophobic.
View information on courses in the course database
Find out more about training
- Geoscience Society of New Zealand
- firstname.lastname@example.org - www.gsnz.org.nz/index.php
- GNS Science
- (04) 570 1444 - www.gns.cri.nz
- Ministry of Economic Development - Crown Minerals
- email@example.com - www.crownminerals.govt.nz/cms
- Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand Inc (PEPANZ)
- (04) 472 1993 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.pepanz.org.nz
years of training usually required
What are the chances of getting a job?
According to Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates, the number of geologists fell by about 4% between 2010 and 2013.
In spite of this, there are still too few geologists to fill all vacancies. Because of this, geologist appears on Immigration New Zealand's immediate skill shortage list, which means the Government is actively encouraging geologists from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Increasing oil/gas and mineral exploration demanding more geologists
Job opportunities for geologists is expected to continue increasing. Strong growth in oil exploration in New Zealand has created more demand for geologists who study oil and gas. Demand will increase further due to a worldwide boom in mineral mining, leading to many local geologists taking up jobs overseas.
Geologists will also be needed to help develop New Zealand's large geothermal energy resources as the need to find renewable sources of energy becomes more pressing. If climate change predictions take affect, geologists will also be needed to help locate water sources as droughts increase.
Most geologists in New Zealand work for Crown research institutes
Crown institutes geologists work for include:
- GNS Science, the largest employer of geologists
- the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA)
- Landcare Research.
Geologists can also work for:
- consultancies and private companies, including engineering firms and mining and drilling companies
- local authorities such as regional and city councils
- Bennett, A, 'Government plans to make mineral exploration easier', New Zealand Herald, January 16, 2012.
- Hurst, T, scientist, GNS Science, Careers New Zealand interview, April 2010.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Immediate Skill Shortage List', accessed November 2013, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Isaac, M, scientist, GNS Science, Careers New Zealand interview, April 2010.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment, 'Tender opens for minerals exploration in Central Volcanic Zone', 27 August 2013, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
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Other vacancy websites
- Science New Zealand - Browse crown research institute job vacancies
- New Zealand Institute of Food Science and Technology - Browse job vacancies
- NZ Government Jobs Online - Search State sector vacancies
- My Job Space - View MyJobSpace's scientific jobs
- Rob Law Consulting - View Rob Law's science jobs
- SEEK - View SEEK's science jobs
- Trade Me - View Trade Me's science jobs
Progression and specialisations
Because geology covers many disciplines, many geologists go on to specialise in the following fields:
- volcanology (the study of volcanoes)
- marine geology.
How many people are doing this job?
Updated 29 Aug 2014