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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.

Shannon James talks about geology - 2.16 mins. (Video courtesy of Te Puni Kōkiri - for more videos go to www.maorifuturemakers.com)

I’m Shannon; I am from Rotorua, Ngāti Whakaue. I’m studying Earth Science specialising in geothermal and volcanology, I want to be an expert in the field.

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.


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 29 Aug 2014