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What is a Field Geologist?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 21, 2024
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Geology, the study of the Earth's natural rock and mineral features, has great use in the modern world. In addition to researching and understanding the history of Earth as it was before humans evolved, geology can also give a clear picture of the structure of Earth today. A field geologist typically performs surveys on specific areas of land in order to create detailed pictures of the contained geology. These pictures, often seen as geological maps, can be of great benefit to human industry and existence, as well as give clues to the formation of the planet and the rules of planetary evolution.

Although the question of how the Earth was made has fascinated humans for centuries, geology was greatly hindered by fears that it would contradict popular religious beliefs about the world's creation. Not until the enlightenment era of the 18th century did it become even mildly acceptable to truly study the Earth's makeup and question the age of the planet. Even then, geological findings were often criticized as blasphemous and looked upon with suspicion.

Early field geologists in the 18th and 19th centuries were often visionary and quite frequently considered crazy. Many were independently wealthy men who could devote their time and fortunes to extensive field study. Geology may seem like a sedate scientific pursuit, but the first great days of discovery were peppered with furious and occasionally violent disagreements about the formation of the earth. More than one obsessed field geologist ended in financial ruin after running through their fortune to continue their research.

Today, despite continued disagreements in some areas of the field, geology has become a somewhat less unsettled and eruptive science. Modern geologists can work in a variety of fields, from education to research to consulting for construction firms. Field geology still plays a vitally important part in the continued study of the planet, however, as only a fairly small amount of the planet's navigable surfaces have ever been formally surveyed by geologists.

Working as a field geologist includes plenty of time outdoors, as might be expected. Field geologists must take carefully monitored samples of rock material for testing and possible carbon dating. They also may take detailed measurements and descriptions of the natural features of the land. Rivers, hills, valleys, and cliffs are all related to geological processes that move the Earth and dictate the face of the planet.

A field geologist may work with a specific goal or test a specific hypothesis about the area he or she is studying. Some may be hired to determine the likelihood of profitable minerals in an area, or to test the structural safety for mine-building or oil wells. Other field geologists may be working to create geological maps for an overall survey of land features.

A field geologist will typically possess at least one degree in science. A four-year university degree is often the minimum for any job in geology, but many may also hold additional scientific degrees as well. Students studying geology often have opportunities to work as field interns with geologists. These jobs can help them better understand the working conditions and requirements of being a geologist, as well as giving them vital opportunities to test out their scientific skills.

Many field geologist jobs are not constant, full-time positions. For that reason, many geologists will also work as a researcher or professor in their time away from the field. By combining educational work with field research, geologists have a chance to work year-round in their field, constantly finding new sources of interest or experiencing the joy of bringing new minds into the field.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis , Writer
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for All The Science. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.

Discussion Comments

By anon977435 — On Nov 11, 2014

As a geologist student in the field, what do I do and where do I start my work?

By anon292308 — On Sep 19, 2012

As a geologist for 30 years, I can say that most companies require at least a masters degree to hold a professional level position. A BS is a tech level. Field geologists are becoming more and more scarce. In the past they generally were involved in geologic mapping and sample collection. Today, most areas have been mapped, and now satellite images can allow a lot of mapping to be done in the office. Paleontologists a specialized geologist still do a lot of field work looking for fossilized remains.

Jessica Ellis

Jessica Ellis


With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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