Employment Prospects


Approximately 32,000 geoscientists (including geologists) are employed in the United States. Only a tiny fraction of these workers specialize in the field of astrogeology. One major employer of astrogeologists is the U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona, which receives nearly all of its funding from the NASA Office of Solar System Exploration. Other major centers for research in exogeology include the Lunar and Planetary Institute (https://www.lpi.usra.edu) in Houston, Texas; NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (https://lunarscience.arc.nasa.gov) in Moffett Field, California; the Planetary Science Institute (http://www.psi.edu) in Tucson, Arizona; and the Southwest Research Institute (https://www.swri.org) in San Antonio, Texas. Some astrogeologists hold faculty positions at colleges and universities and most of these combine their teaching with research.

There are many potential employers for geologists. The majority of geologists are employed in private industry. Some work for oil and gas extraction and mining companies, primarily in exploration. The rest work for business services, environmental and geotechnical consulting firms, or are self-employed as consultants to industry and government. The federal government employs geologists in the Department of the Interior (in the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Reclamation) and in the Departments of Defense, Agriculture, and Commerce. Geologists also work for state agencies, nonprofit research organizations, and museums.

Starting Out

After completing sufficient educational requirements, preferably a master’s degree or doctorate, the geologist may look for work in various areas, including private industry and government. For those who wish to teach at the college level, a doctorate is required. College graduates may also take government civil service examinations or possibly find work on state geological surveys, which are sometimes based on civil service competition.

Geologists often begin their careers in field exploration or as research assistants in laboratories. As they gain experience, they are given more difficult assignments and may be promoted to supervisory positions, such as project leader or program manager.

Advancement Prospects

An astrogeologist with a bachelor’s degree has little chance of advancing to higher-level positions. Continued formal training and work experience are necessary, especially as competition for these positions grows more intense. A doctorate is essential for most college or university teaching positions and is preferred for much research work.

Tips for Entry

Read publications such as the Lunar and Planetary Information Bulletin (https://www.lpi.usra.edu/publications/newsletters/lpib/) to learn more about developments in the field.

Visit the following Web sites for job listings: https://astrogeology.usgs.gov/about/careers and https://nasajobs.nasa.gov.

Join geology professional associations to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities.

Participate in internships or part-time jobs that are arranged by your college’s career services office. Additionally, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Science Center (https://astrogeology.usgs.gov/about/careers) and the Planetary Science Institute (http://www.psi.edu/epo/internships.html) offer information on internships at their Web sites.

Land an entry-level job at NASA or the U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Science Center to learn about the field and make valuable industry contacts.