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Petroleum Geologist

Petroleum geologists are involved in exploration for and production of oil and natural gas resources.


The petroleum industry is focused on the exploration and production of oil and gas. The petroleum industry employs the largest number of geoscientists, with nearly 40% of geoscientists working in the field.  The petroleum industry historically experiences cyclical boom and busts. Employment levels fluctuate with this boom and bust cycle, normally driven by the price of oil. However, technology has helped to temper the severity of this boom and bust cycle by dramatically lowering the costs to produce oil. However, as with any commodity, lowered production costs are often coupled with lower market prices.

Additionally, the petroleum industry often leads in the development and deployment of new technological applications to the geosciences. Also, as the economy has become more global, the petroleum industry has as well, with substantial efforts in South America, the North Sea, Africa, and Southeast Asia, along with the traditional focus on the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and the Middle East.


Educational Requirements

Geoscientists need at least a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions. In several states, geoscientists may need a license to offer their services to the public. A Ph.D. is necessary for most high-level research and college teaching positions.

A degree in geosciences is preferred, although degrees in physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, engineering, or computer science are usually accepted if they include coursework in geology.


Salary Information 2018

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following information corresponds to the salaries of a Petroleum Geologist in 2018. The bottom 10% of earners made less than $74,270, the median salary was $138,060, and the top 10% of earners made more than $208,000. The variation is largely due to an individual's experience.

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Information retrieved from American Geosciences Institute: Geoscience Careers Brochure, Career Cornerstone Center: Geosciences and Bureau of Labor Statistics: Geoscientists.

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