Skip to the main content
Alberta Supports Contact Centre

Toll Free 1-877-644-9992

Edmonton 780-644-9992

Guest Account Sign In Sign Up

Exploration Geophysicist

Geophysicists use the principles of physics, mathematics and geology to study the surface and internal composition of the earth. Exploration geophysicists look for oil, natural gas, water and minerals for commercial and environmental projects.

  • Avg. Salary $128,940.00
  • Avg. Wage $65.85
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary
  • Outlook below avg
  • Employed 6,000
  • 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) 
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 Dec 14, 2016

Geophysicists study the earth's interior by measuring responses to seismic and electromagnetic waves, and gravity, magnetic and electric fields. These responses are processed and interpreted to provide an image of the subsurface. 

  • Petroleum exploration geophysicists study and interpret information on sediments, mineral and rock compositions and geologic structure to determine where oil and gas deposits are most likely to occur. To obtain this information, they usually collect data from seismic operations and, occasionally, from 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, and other techniques such as ground penetrating radar to evaluate ground water quality or assess hazards. They often are responsible for all aspects of data acquisition and processing.
  • Development and production geophysicists work closely with geologists and petroleum engineers to develop oil and gas properties and to monitor subsurface fluid distribution from the surface using seismic, microseismic, electrical and other techniques.

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

  • data acquisition or collection, determining which areas to survey and the appropriate survey methods and parameters, estimating the costs of operations, making arrangements to enter the area, and monitoring the activities of seismic and other crews during field operations
  • data processing,using existing computer software or writing programs to process the data recorded during geophysical survey operations
  • data interpretation, studying the processed geophysical data and determining the type, shape and location of rock structures underground.

Exploration geophysicists work with geologists, geotechnical engineers, petroleum engineers, mining engineers and other professionals, and may be responsible for the supervision of a team of other professionals, technologists and support staff.

Working Conditions
Updated Dec 14, 2016

Most petroleum exploration geophysicists work in an office environment, compiling and interpreting data collected from the field. A few work some months of the year in the field, directing the search for oil and gas deposits.

Mineral exploration and environmental geophysicists may spend a considerable amount of time in the field, sometimes in remote locations. Lifting up to 20 kilograms may be required.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Dec 14, 2016

Exploration geophysicists need the following characteristics:

  • an interest in geosciences, physics, math and problem solving
  • the ability to analyze and synthesize data
  • excellent spatial reasoning and visualizing abilities
  • an inquiring mind, initiative, imagination and creativity
  • excellent decision making skills
  • the ability to work well in a team environment.

They should enjoy work that requires precision, developing innovative approaches and taking charge of situations.

Educational Requirements
Updated Dec 14, 2016

The minimum education requirement for exploration geophysicists is a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree in geophysics or a related science with courses in geophysics, electronics, physics, chemistry, geology, mathematics and computer science. A master's degree (M.Sc.) may be preferred; a doctoral (PhD) degree is essential for research. Many employers provide additional 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

University of Alberta

University of Calgary

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

Certification Requirements
Updated Dec 14, 2016


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 find more information on the certification process for internationally educated geoscientists, see Professional Geoscientist Licensing Process on the website.

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 Dec 14, 2016

Exploration geophysicists are employed by:

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

Geophysicists usually start their careers in junior positions and, with ongoing training during employment, advance to more senior positions. Most job opportunities are in medium and small companies where breadth of knowledge is more important than having a particular specialization. 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 in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Over 2,200 Albertans are employed in the Geologists, geochemists and geophysicists occupational group. This group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 0.9% from 2016 to 2020. As a result, 20 new positions are forecast to be created each year, in addition to job openings created by employment turnover. Note: As exploration geophysicists form only a part of this larger occupational group, only some of these newly created positions will be for exploration geophysicists.

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

Wage & Salary
Updated Dec 14, 2016

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 $23.00 $82.05 $46.90 $48.08
Overall $31.27 $96.84 $65.85 $64.97
Top $40.67 $152.56 $90.31 $83.00

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 High School Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Computer and Information Technology
  • Environment, Forestry and Related Studies
  • Mathematics
  • Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Dec 14, 2016

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

Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists (CSEG) website:

For more information on career planning, education and jobs call the Alberta Supports Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-644-9992 or 780-644-9992 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Mar 31, 2014. 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.

Was this page useful?