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Exploration Geophysicist

Geophysicists study the water, surface, and internal makeup of Earth. They use geology, math, and physics. Exploration geophysicists may look for oil, gas, water, contaminants, ore, and minerals.

Also Known As

Development and Production Geophysicist, Environmental Geophysicist, Geophysicist, Geoscientist, Geoscience Professional, Mining Geophysicist, Petroleum Exploration Geophysicist, Physical Scientist

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Geologists, Geochemists and Geophysicists (2113) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Geologists, Geochemists and Geophysicists (C013) 
  • 2011 NOC: Geoscientists and oceanographers (2113) 
  • 2016 NOC: Geoscientists and oceanographers (2113) 
  • 2021 NOC: Geoscientists and oceanographers (21102) 
Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Geologists, Geochemists and Geophysicists

2006 NOC: 2113

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group

Interest in synthesizing information to plan and direct field studies, drilling and testing programs, and seismic, electromagnetic, magnetic, gravimetric, radiometric, radar and other remote sensing programs to extend knowledge of the earth; in assessing deposits and geological age; and in determining characteristics and suitability of materials for use as concrete aggregates, road fill and other applications


Interest in precision working with instruments to identify deposits of construction materials; and in participating in remote sensing programs and in analyses of core samples, drill cuttings and rock samples to identify chemical, mineral, hydrocarbon and biological composition


Interest in consulting to recommend the acquisition of lands, exploration and mapping programs, and mine development; and in advising in areas such as waste management, route and site selection and the restoration of contaminated sites; may supervise and co-ordinate well drilling, completion and workovers, and mining activities

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 

It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective, and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes for this NOC group is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn About Interests


Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Updated Apr 11, 2022

Geophysicists study Earth’s interior by measuring responses to seismic and electromagnetic waves. They also study gravity and magnetic and electric fields. Their findings provide them with an image of what is below the ground, called the subsurface.

Energy exploration geophysicists study information on sediments, mineral and rock makeup, and geological structure. When searching for hydrocarbons, they determine where oil and gas accumulations are most likely to occur. To find sources of geothermal energy, they search for areas with higher underground temperatures. They collect data from seismic work. They also conduct gravity, magnetic, satellite, or LiDAR (light detecting and ranging) surveys.

Mineral exploration geophysicists search for ore deposits using electrical and electromagnetic techniques. If exploring for minerals dissolved in groundwater, they may use seismic data to understand geological structure.

Environmental geophysicists gauge ground water quality and assess hazards. In general, they conduct all aspects of collecting data and processing it. They use seismic, electrical, and electromagnetic techniques. They also use ground-penetrating radar.

Reservoir geophysicists develop oil and gas projects. They develop hydrocarbon properties or carbon sequestration projects. From above ground, they monitor the distribution of fluids under the surface. They use seismic, microseismic, electrical, and other techniques. They work closely with geologists and petroleum engineers.

Exploration geophysicists may focus on 1 or more of the following areas:

In data collection, they conduct field-based geophysical surveys for near and deep subsurface interpretation. They:

  • Decide what area to survey
  • Choose the best survey methods and parameters
  • Estimate survey costs
  • Make plans to enter the area to be surveyed
  • Watch seismic and other crews in the field

In data interpretation, exploration geophysicists:

  • Study the processed geophysical data
  • Figure out the type, shape, and location of rock structures underground

In data processing, they use computer software or writing programs to process the data recorded during geophysical survey work.

Exploration geophysicists work with:

They may supervise a team of other professionals, technologists, and support staff.

Working Conditions
Updated Apr 11, 2022
  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg

Energy exploration geophysicists often work in an office. They compile and make sense of data collected in the field. Some may work in the field for part of the year directing the search for oil and gas deposits.

Mineral exploration and environmental geophysicists may spend a lot of time in the field. They sometimes work in remote locations. They may have to lift up to 20 kilograms.

Traits & Skills
Updated Apr 11, 2022

Exploration geophysicists need:

  • An inquiring and creative mind
  • An interest in geosciences, physics, and math
  • The ability to study and synthesize data
  • The ability to imagine features in 3D from 2D information
  • Problem-solving and decision-making skills
  • Accuracy and precision
  • The ability to work well in a team setting

They should enjoy:

  • Doing precise work
  • Developing creative approaches
  • Taking charge
Educational Requirements
Updated Apr 11, 2022
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary

Exploration geophysicists require a Bachelor of Science degree in geophysics or equivalent. It must include courses in:

  • Chemistry
  • Field techniques
  • Mathematics
  • Mineralogy and petrology
  • Physics
  • Sedimentation and stratigraphy
  • Structural geology

For detailed information on acceptable educational programs, see Certification Requirements.

Some employers prefer a master’s degree (M.Sc.). Research positions require a doctoral degree (PhD).

Many employers provide specialized training as well.

Required Education

The following schools offer programs and courses that meet this occupation’s educational requirements. Other eligible programs and courses may be available.

University of Alberta
University of Calgary

Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated Apr 11, 2022
  • Certification Provincially Regulated

Certain professional titles or duties within this occupation are protected by provincial legislation. Requirements vary if you use these titles or perform these duties.

The related legislation is shown below. If there are multiple related legislations, select a certification heading to learn about each one.

Prior to 2014, APEGA awarded the titles of professional geologist and professional geophysicist. These titles remain valid for those who hold them, but new applicants can only be given the title of professional geoscientist.


Geologists examine rocks from Earth’s surface and subsurface to study the nature and history of the earth’s crust. Geophysicists study the water, surface, and internal composition of Earth.

Before 2014, APEGA awarded the titles of professional geologist and professional geophysicist. These titles remain valid for those who hold them. New applicants can only receive the title of professional geoscientist.


Under Alberta’s Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act [pdf] and Engineering and Geoscience Professions General Regulation [pdf], you must register as a member of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) to practice as a Professional Geoscientist or engage in the practice of geoscience.

You do not have to register if you work under the direct supervision of a professional geoscientist and do not call yourself a Professional Geoscientist.

For information on what you need and other details, visit the certification profile Geoscientist.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Apr 11, 2022

Exploration geophysicists work for:

  • Oil and gas companies
  • Mining companies
  • Geophysical data-acquisition firms
  • Exploration, engineering, and environmental consulting firms
  • Data processing companies
  • Government departments
  • Universities
  • Research organizations

Exploration geophysicists most often work for business and environmental projects.

Geophysicists often start their careers in junior positions. They advance to senior positions with training and experience.

Most job openings come from small to medium companies where good general knowledge is more important than specialization.

Experienced geophysicists may move into private consulting or advance to management positions.

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 2113: Geoscientists and oceanographers occupational group, 86.0% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

In Alberta, the 2113: Geoscientists and oceanographers occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 1.4% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 59 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: 2019-2023 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Apr 11, 2022

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Geoscientists and oceanographers

2016 NOC: 2113
Average Wage
Per Hour
Average Salary
Per Year
Average Hours
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 2113 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production), and other forms of compensation.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $24.04 $79.82 $53.75 $52.05
Overall $37.44 $84.13 $65.53 $62.82
Top $40.00 $109.85 $78.97 $76.88

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information

Oil & Gas Extraction
Public Administration
Professional, Scientific & Technical Services

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years
Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties
Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months
Vacancy Rate
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Computer and Information Technology
  • Environment, Forestry and Related Studies
  • Mathematics
  • Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Apr 11, 2022

Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) website:

Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists (CSEG) website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 31, 2022. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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