Geophysicist Job Description

Geophysicists study the earth through seismic, electrical, magnetic and gravitational methods. It is a broad term used to describe scientists who apply knowledge of the earth to further a company’s objectives. There are several types of geophysicists, including:

  • Electrical geophysicists
  • Exploration geophysicists
  • Magnetic geophysicists
  • Environmental geophysicists
  • Mining geophysicists
  • Petroleum geophysicists
  • Marine geophysicists
  • Seismologists

The best industries for geophysicists are the mining and oil industries, as they play a huge part in the acquisition of natural resources. Environmental agencies also employ geophysicists to identify and remedy threats to the environment. The work environment for geophysicists depends on their subfield. Mining and petroleum geophysicists spend a lot of time on-site, while research geophysicists spend most of their time in the lab studying samples and computer models. Regardless of the industry, this is a salaried position that typically includes weekends and holidays off.

Research geophysicists who work at a university answer to the head of their department. Mining and petroleum geophysicists advise project managers and stakeholders.


Geophysicist Duties and Responsibilities

As there are several different types of geophysicists, the following list reflects general duties and responsibilities:

Prepare and Deliver Project Bids

Most geophysicists work for firms that rely on client acquisition to generate business. Geophysicists prepare and deliver the technical information in all project bids.

Plan and Conduct Field Tests

Gathering geophysical data is an essential duty for geophysicists. They create the parameters for a certain study and then work on-site with other project team members to implement their data collection procedure.

Analyze and Interpret Data

Geophysicists rely on geophysical data processing and modeling software to make meaning of data collected through their field experiments. The content of the data and analytical software used depends on their subfield.

Present Regular Reports to Project Stakeholders

No matter their specialization, a primary responsibility of geophysicists is presenting geophysical data to stakeholders in a way that helps them make better decisions.

Comply with Health, Safety, and Environmental Standards

Geophysicists have to regularly refresh their knowledge of the standards relevant to their particular subfield as they are responsible for making sure everyone on a project conforms to the standards.


Geophysicist Skills and Qualifications

While specialized knowledge and technical expertise play a huge role in success as a geophysicist, a passion for geophysics and a child-like curiosity are equally as important. Here is a list of some of the skills employers are looking for:

  • Expertise in GIS – geographic information systems (GIS) are informational models that play a role in all professions that involve the study of the earth, helping geophysicists to make sense of all of their geophysical analysis
  • Subfield expertise – employers are looking for candidates who have expertise in their subfield of choice
  • Data collection and management – geophysicists use a variety of field tools to collect data, relying on standard data collection and management techniques
  • Data analysis – geophysicists depend on geophysical processing and modeling software to make sense of the data they collect in the field
  • Communication skills – presenting regular reports to project stakeholders explaining technical data in layman’s terms takes strong written and verbal communication skills


Geophysicist Tools of the Trade

The following are just some of the tools geophysicists use during the course of their day:

  • Seismic processing software (SeisUP)
  • Seismic monitoring equipment
  • Magnetometer
  • Gravimeter
  • GIS software
  • Geophysical processing software


Geophysicist Education and Training

Geophysicists need at least a bachelor’s degree in geoscience or geophysics; some positions in academia require a graduate or doctorate degree. Coursework covers seismology, earth science, statistics, geophysical mapping, and related topics.


Geophysicist Salary and Outlook

The National Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the demand for geoscientists, which include geophysicists, will rise 14 percent through 2026. Since this is a broad position that includes several subfields, the following salary range varies wildly. According to Payscale, the national median salary for geophysicists is $92,492. Those in the bottom 10 percent make below $49,841, while those in the top 10 percent make above $174,745.


Geophysicist Helpful Resources

Do you think you’d excel as a geophysicist? If so, have a look at the list of resources below:

The American Geosciences Institute – Founded in 1948, the American Geosciences Institute unites several smaller organizations that relate to the different subfields of geoscience.

52 Things You Should Know About Geophysics – This book is an anthology of 52 essays written by 52 of the most successful geophysicists in the industry. It contains many nuggets of wisdom that are especially relevant for those who want to specialize as a petroleum geophysicist.

American Association of Petroleum Geologists – This is the go-to organization for those who want to become a petroleum geophysicist. Besides providing professional networking resources, this organization offers the industry’s only petroleum geophysicist certification.

A Geophysicist’s Memoir: Searching for Oil on Six Continents – Written by Albert Hrubetz, this book covers his 63-year career as a geophysicist. It’s a great way for aspiring geophysicists to get a first-hand account of the position.

Society of Exploration Geophysicists – This organization was founded in 1930 and now has over 27,000 members in 28 different countries. It has specific publications and a whole digital library of resources available to members.


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