Education and Training Requirements

High School

A strong interest in the physical and earth sciences is essential for this field. You should take basic courses in earth science, physics, chemistry, and at least four years of mathematics. Advanced placement work in any of the mathematics and sciences is also helpful. Other recommended courses include mechanical drawing, shop, social studies, English, and computer science.

Postsecondary Training

A bachelor's degree in geophysics or geoscience is required for most entry-level positions. Physics, mathematics, and chemistry majors can locate positions in geophysics, but some work in geology is highly desirable and often required, especially for certain government positions.

Graduate work at the master's or doctoral level is required for research, college teaching, and positions of a policy-making or policy-interpreting nature in private or government employment.

Many colleges and universities offer a bachelor's degree in geophysics, and a growing number of these institutions also award advanced degrees. An undergraduate major in geophysics is not usually required for entrance into a graduate program.

Other Education or Training

The American Geophysical Union offers continuing education (CE) opportunities for students and professionals at its conferences. Recent offerings included Finding Your Voice: Effective Science Communication, Career Guidance Workshop: Accessing Hidden Job Opportunities, and Career Guidance Workshop: Negotiation Strategy and Tactics. The Society of Exploration Geophysicists offers webinars, workshops, conference sessions, and other CE opportunities. Past offerings included Introduction to Field Work, Petroleum Exploration Overview, and Surveying and Mapping on Land. The Association for Women Geoscientists, Geological Society of America, Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society, and the Seismological Society of America also provide CE classes and seminars. Contact these organizations to learn more.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Some states require geoscientists and hydrologists whose work is directly related to the public to be licensed. Licensing is typically based on specific requirements in education, experience, and passing an exam. In states without licensing requirements, voluntary certification is an option. For example, the American Institute of Hydrology (https://www.aihydrology.org/hydrology-certification) offers certification for hydrologists with requirements similar to those of state licensing programs.

The American Association of Petroleum Geologists offers certification for petroleum geophysicists. Visit https://www.aapg.org/divisions/dpa/join for information on certification requirements.  

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Internships, volunteering, and part-time jobs at a government agency (such as as the National Geodetic Survey), or an oil or gas company will provide useful experience to aspiring geologists.

Successful geophysicists possess a strong aptitude for mathematics and science, particularly the physical and earth sciences, and an interest in observing nature, performing experiments, and studying the physical environment. Because geophysicists frequently spend time outdoors, they should enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking and camping, and have good stamina. Other important traits include strong communication and interpersonal skills, the ability to solve problens, and excellent critical-thinking skills.