Education and Training Requirements

High School

Because you will need a college degree in order to find work in this profession, you should take a college preparatory curriculum while in high school. Such a curriculum will include computer science, history, English, and geography classes. Scienceclasses are also important, particularly earth science, chemistry, and physics. Math classes should include algebra, trigonometry, and statistics.

Postsecondary Training

A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for entry into lower-level geology jobs, but a master's degree is usually necessary for beginning positions in research, teaching, and exploration. A person with a strong background in physics, chemistry, mathematics, or computer science may also qualify for some geology jobs. For those wishing to make significant advancements in research and for teaching at the college level, a doctoral degree is required. Those interested in the geological profession should have an aptitude not only for geology but also for physics, chemistry, and mathematics.

A number of colleges, universities, and technical institutes offer degrees in geology. Programs in geophysical technology, geophysical engineering, geophysical prospecting, and engineering geology also offer related training for beginning geologists.

Traditional geoscience courses emphasize classical geologic methods and concepts. Mineralogy, paleontology, stratigraphy, and structural geology are important courses for undergraduates. Students also complete an internship or co-op at a geological services firm or a government agency such as the U.S. Geological Survey. Those interested in environmental and regulatory fields should take courses in hydrology, hazardous waste management, environmental legislation, chemistry, fluid mechanics, and geologic logging.

In addition, students should take courses in related sciences, mathematics, English composition, and computer science. Students seeking graduate degrees in geology should concentrate on advanced courses in geology, placing major emphasis on their particular fields.

Other Education or Training

The Geological Society of America offers short courses, training workshops, field trips, seminars, internships, and other continuing education (CE) opportunities. Past sessions at its Annual Meeting & Exposition included Geology in the National Parks: Research, Mapping, and Resource Management, Geoscience Learning and Practice Enabled through Cyberinformatics and Technology, and Forensic Geoscience: Advances and Applications. The American Geophysical Union, American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Association for Women Geoscientists, Association of American State Geologists, Society for Sedimentary Geology, and the Society of Economic Geologists also provide CE opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG) grants the certified professional geologist (CPG) designation to geologists who have earned a bachelor's degree or higher in the geological sciences and have eight years of professional experience (applicants with a master's degree need only seven years of professional experience and those with a Ph.D., five years). Candidates must also undergo peer review by three professional geologists (two of whom must be CPGs) and pay an application fee.

The institute also offers the professional member designation to geologists who are registered in various states and are not seeking AIPG certification. Applicants must have at least a bachelor's degree in the geological sciences with at least 30 semester hours of geology, be licensed by the state they wish to work in, undergo peer review, and pay an application fee.

The American Association of Petroleum Geologists offers certification for petroleum geologists and coal geologists. Visit for information on certification requirements.  

More than 30 states require geologists to be registered or licensed. Most of these states require applicants (who have earned a bachelor's degree in the geological sciences) to pass the Fundamentals of Geology exam, a standardized written exam developed by the National Association of State Boards of Geology.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Internships, volunteering, and part-time jobs at an oil or gas company, government agency (such as the U.S. Geological Survey), or environmental engineering firm will provide useful experience to aspiring geologists.

In addition to academic training and work experience, geologists who work in the field or in administration must have skills in business administration and in working with other people. Computer modeling, data processing, and effective oral and written communication skills are important, as is the ability to think independently and creatively. Physical stamina is needed for those involved in fieldwork.