What Is the Best Degree Path for Becoming a Geophysicist?

Deciding what to study in college is a tough choice. Even if you know that your field of interest lies in science, what program of study is right for you? If you make the decision to major in physical and biological sciences and pursue a career as a geophysicist, you’re preparing for an exciting and profitable occupation. Geophysicist is the top paying job among physical and biological science majors, with experienced professionals earning a median salary of $123,000 per year. The first step to achieving your goal of becoming a geophysicist is earning a degree.

Choosing a Geophysicist’s Educational Path

Even for entry-level positions in the field of geoscience, earning a bachelor’s degree from a college or university is necessary. Some research positions require candidates to hold master’s degrees or Ph.D.’s.

Geophysicists apply physics concepts and techniques to study the gravitational, magnetic and electric fields of the earth and further scientists’ knowledge of both the planet’s interior and surface. They must be able to conduct research both in the field and in laboratories, write reports, create maps and charts of their findings and analyze rocks, photographs and other pieces of data. To accomplish all this, aspiring geophysicists need a specialized education. A degree in geosciences specifically is appealing to employers, but students can also prepare by majoring in subjects of study such as physics, biology, engineering, chemistry, mathematics or computer science, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. For students who choose a major besides geoscience, it’s important to take plenty of geology courses.

What Aspiring Geophysicists Need to Learn

Ultimately, students must learn structural geology, mineralogy, petrology and the computer skills to operate geoscientists’ software, analyze data and create digital models and maps. They should also take advantage of all opportunities to gain real-world experience. Aspiring geophysicists should expect to spend time learning in the classroom, in the field and in laboratories.

Obviously, skills taught in the classroom are very important for aspiring geophysicists. However, other skills are important, too, and they may not be the same skills you work to develop in the geosciences classroom. For example, geoscientists spend a lot of their time outside when they are working in the field, so the BLS reported that they must possess “outdoor skills” like camping and operating boats, aircraft and other vehicles. Because they spend so much time in remote locations, it’s essential that geophysicists also have the physical stamina to carry necessary equipment on their hikes to locations of study.

If you have these abilities and want to learn more about the concepts of physics and the study of the earth, there’s a good chance you will be happy working as a geophysicist. The career was ranked 55th out of 100 among the “Best Jobs in America 2013” by CNN Money, considering factors such as low work stress, high median and top earnings, a positive job outlook and a high rate of personal satisfaction among geophysicists.

Brenda Rufener

Julie McCaulley

Carrie Sealey-Morris