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Exploration Geophysicist

Geophysicists study the surface and internal makeup of the earth. They use physics, math, and geology. Exploration geophysicists look for oil, natural gas, water, and minerals. They most often work for business and environmental projects.

  • Avg. Salary $139,071.00
  • Avg. Wage $69.53
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary
  • Outlook below avg
  • Employed 3,900
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

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) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

Average Wage
  • Certification Provincially Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Interest Codes
The Exploration Geophysicist is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Geologists, Geochemists and Geophysicists

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

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 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 More

Updated Mar 31, 2018

Geophysicists study the 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 the subsurface.

Petroleum exploration geophysicists study information on sediments, mineral and rock makeup, and geological structure. They determine where oil and gas deposits are most likely to occur. They collect data from seismic work and gravity, magnetic, satellite or LiDAR (light detecting and ranging) surveys.

Mineral exploration geophysicists often use electrical and electromagnetic techniques to search for ore deposits.

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

Development and production geophysicists work closely with geologists and petroleum engineers. They develop oil and gas properties. They also monitor subsurface fluid distribution (from the surface). They use seismic, microseismic, electrical, and other techniques.

 Exploration geophysicists may focus in any or all of the following areas:

  • Data collection - deciding where and how to survey (the correct methods and parameters), gauging costs, planning to enter the area and watching seismic and other crews in the field.
  • Data interpretation - studying the processed geophysical data and figuring out the type, shape and location of rock structures underground.
  • Data processing - using computer software or writing programs to process the data recorded during geophysical survey work.
  • Geophysical surveys - conducting field-based geophysical surveys for near and deep subsurface interpretation.

Exploration geophysicists work with:

  • geologists
  • geotechnical engineers
  • petroleum engineers
  • mining engineers.

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

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2018

Petroleum exploration geophysicists often work in an office compiling and making 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.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 31, 2018

Exploration geophysicists need to possess:

  • an interest in geosciences, physics, math, and solving problems
  • the ability to study and synthesize data
  • excellent spatial reasoning
  • the ability to visualize
  • an inquiring mind, imagination, and creativity
  • the ability to take initiative
  • the ability to make decisions
  • the ability to work well in a team setting.

They should enjoy:

  • doing precise work
  • developing creative approaches
  • taking charge.
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2018

Exploration geophysicists require a bachelor’s (B.Sc.) degree in geophysics or a related science. It must include courses in:

  • geophysics
  • electronics
  • physics
  • chemistry
  • geology
  • mathematics
  • computer science.

Employers may prefer a master’s degree (M.Sc.). A doctoral (PhD) degree is essential for research. Many employers provide extra training in specialized techniques for oil and gas or mineral exploration.

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.

Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

Southern Alberta Institute of Technology

University of Alberta

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2018


Geologists study the nature and history of the earth's crust, and apply their knowledge to help explore for minerals and hydrocarbons, develop resources for production, build engineering foundations and stable slopes, find and evaluate ground water supplies and conduct environmental investigations. Geophysicists use the principles of physics, mathematics and geology in studying the water, surface and internal composition of the earth. Exploration geophysicists look for oil, natural gas, water and minerals for commercial and environmental projects.

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


Under Alberta's Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act, you must be a registered member of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) to practice as a professional geoscientist. You do not have to be registered if you work under the direct supervision of a professional geoscientist and do not call yourself a professional geoscientist.

What You Need

Registration as a professional geoscientist requires: (1) an approved four year bachelor's degree in geology or geophysics and at least four years of acceptable work experience under the supervision of a professional geoscientist, or an equivalent combination of education and experience, (2) at least three acceptable references, and (3) successful completion of an approved examination in law, ethics and professionalism. For official, detailed information about registration requirements, visit APEGA's website or contact APEGA.

Working in Alberta

Geoscientists who are registered and in good standing with a regulatory organization elsewhere in Canada may be eligible for registration in Alberta if registered geoscientists in the two jurisdictions have similar responsibilities and competencies. For more information, see "What if I am already certified in another province or territory?" and the Alberta regulatory authority (below).

To learn about certification for internationally educated geoscientists, see Professional Geoscientist Registration Process.

Contact Details

Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta
1500 Scotia One, 10060 Jasper Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta
Canada  T5J 4A2
Phone number: 780-426-3990
Toll-free phone number (within North America): 1-800-661-7020
Fax: 780-426-1877

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2018

Exploration geophysicists work for:

  • oil and gas companies
  • mining companies
  • geophysical data-acquisition firms
  • engineering and environmental consulting firms
  • data processing companies
  • financial institutions
  • universities
  • research organizations.

Geophysicists often start their careers in junior positions. They advance to senior positions with training and experience. Most job openings are in medium and small companies where good general knowledge is more important than specializing. The same is true of jobs in the geotechnical-environmental field.

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

Exploration geophysicists are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 2113: Geologists, geochemists and geophysicists. In Alberta, 89% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook [pdf] in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events that affect overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities that come up when people leave existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities that come up when new positions are created)
  • size of the occupation.

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.

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

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2018
Geoscientists and oceanographers

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $23.56 $69.60 $46.99 $45.64
Overall $25.40 $97.36 $69.53 $69.60
Top $30.90 $155.85 $91.51 $95.64

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.

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.

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 Mar 31, 2018

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, 2018. 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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