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Petrology is the study of rocks. This field is regarded as a subfield of geology or earth science, and people in this field are known as petrologists. There are a number of applications for petrology, including opportunities in the lab, field, and classroom for people with petrology degrees. People who are interested in working in this field can receive training at colleges and universities with petrology departments, and may want to consider obtaining advanced degrees so that more career opportunities will be available.
Researchers in this field are interested in how rocks form, what they contain, how changes in conditions during formation can lead to changes in composition and structure, how rocks weather, and how rocks can be utilized. In the field, petrology can involve identification of various rock types, along with study of rock strata and various geologic structures. Petrologists can use a variety of technologies to take core samples and conduct imaging studies which allow them to see into the Earth's crust.
In the lab, some petrologists do things like synthesizing rocks and manipulating conditions in the lab to experiment with formation in different kinds of environments. In this subfield, known as experimental petrology, researchers can test hypotheses or duplicate conditions found in nature to learn more about the process of rock formation. Laboratories also have equipment which can be used to analyze rock samples, such as mass spectrometers which can be used to identify the composition of a rock.
People may use the terms sedimentary petrology, igneous petrology, and metamorphic petrology to describe different areas of study within this field, which focus on the three major rock types. On occasion, there is some overlap between petrologists with different areas of focus, as rocks rarely confine themselves to neat categories for the convenience of scientists. Depending on one's area of interest, opportunities in the field can be found everywhere from active volcanoes to the desert.
In industry, petrology is applied by numerous mineral companies and in the oil industry. Specialists in this field can also act as consultants for people like sculptors and masons who want to learn more about the materials they work with, and they can work with engineers on projects involving rock. Petrologists can also work as curators in facilities which store rock samples for historic value or study opportunities, maintaining the collections and working with people who are interested in viewing collections of rock samples.