What is geology?


Geology is the scientific study of the Earth, including the materials that it is made of, the physical and chemical processes that occur on its surface and in its interior, and the history of the planet and its life forms.


What do geologists do?


Geology is a multi-faceted field with many different areas of specialization. Listed below are some of the more common ones.


Earth Science Teachers: teach 'earth science' (a mixture of geology, oceanography and climatology) in junior and senior high schools. A teaching certificate from a professional education program is also normally required.


Economic Geologists: explore for and help produce metallic (iron, copper, gold, etc.) and non-metallic (coal, granite dimension stone, limestone aggregate, sand and gravel, etc.) rock and mineral resources of economic value.


Engineering Geologists: investigate the engineering properties of rock, sediment and soil below man-made structures such as roads, bridges, high-rise buildings, dams, airports, etc.


Environmental Geologists: study the environmental affects of pollution on ground and surface waters and surficial materials (rock, sediment and soil), and also recommend solutions to environmental problems. They are also interested in understanding, predicting and mitigating the effects of natural hazards, such as flooding, erosion, landslides, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, etc.


Geochemists: investigate the chemical composition and properties of earth materials, especially polluted ground and surface waters, fossil fuels (such as petroleum and coal) and other resources of economic value.


Geology Professors: teach geology courses and conduct research in colleges and universities.


Geomorphologists: study the origin and evolution of landscapes on the continental surfaces.


Geophysicists: use the principles of physics to investigate the structure of the Earth's deep interior, explore for economic resources in the subsurface, and monitor pollution in ground water.


Glacial or Quaternary Geologists: study the history of geologically recent (Quaternary period) glaciers as well as the sediment deposits and landforms they produced.


Hydrogeologists: are concerned with water in the Earth's subsurface, including its sources, quality, abundance and movement.


Hydrologists: are concerned with water on the Earth's surface, including its precipitation, evaporation and runoff, and its abundance and quality in streams and lakes.


Marine Geologists: study the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of the sediments deposited on the ocean floors and the rocks that underlie them.


Mineralogists: investigate the origins, properties and uses of the minerals occurring within the Earth's rocks.


Paleontologists: study the remains of ancient animals and plants (fossils) in order to understand their behaviors, environmental circumstances, and evolutionary history.


Petroleum Geologists: explore for and help produce petroleum and natural gas from sedimentary rocks.


Petrologists: study the origins and characteristics of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks.


Sedimentologists: investigate the origins and characteristics of sediment deposits and the sedimentary rocks that form from them.


Seismologists: are geophysicists who study earthquakes, both to better understand the physical processes involved and to interpret the deep internal structure of the Earth.


Stratigraphers: investigate the time and space relationships among sedimentary and other rocks on local to global scales, and are also interested in the geochronology (absolute dating by radiometric methods) and fossil content of rock layers.


Structural Geologists: study the folding, fracturing, faulting and other forms of deformation experienced by rocks below the Earth's surface, and are also interested in how these processes relate to global Plate Tectonics.


Volcanologists: investigate volcanoes, especially their eruptions and deposits, in order to better understand physical processes involved and to predict volcanic eruptions.


Where do geologists work and how much are they paid?


The principal employers of geologists are, in order of decreasing numbers of jobs:


1. environmental consulting firms;


2. government federal and state geological surveys and the Environmental Protection Agency, plus various other regulatory agencies that are mostly concerned with environmental matters;


3. oil and gas industry;


4. schools junior high/high schools and colleges/universities; and


5. mining industry.


Annual salaries for geologists with a baccalaureate degree generally range between $35,000 and $55,000. Most of the better-paying jobs for geologists require a master's degree and offer annual salaries in the $45,000 to $75,000 range. A doctoral degree is required for university professorships and other research-intensive positions, and these jobs pay salaries in the $50,000 to $70,000 range.


According to the U. S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook (2002-2003 Edition), "employment of environmental scientists and hydrologists [including environmental geologists and hydrogeologists] is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2010. The need for companies to comply with environmental laws and regulations is expected to contribute to the demand for environmental scientists and some geoscientists, especially hydrologists and engineering geologists."


How do I become a geologist at the University of Toledo?


Students with a broad interest in geology should pursue the Bachelor of Science degree in Geology, whereas those with interests in both environmental issues and geology may work toward a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science following the "Geology Track". Students with both kinds of baccalaureate degrees are encouraged to pursue the Master of Science degree in Geology in order to acquire expertise in an area of specialization and so prepare themselves for a specific geological discipline and a better-paying job.