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Geologists apply their knowledge of the earth's crust in exploring for minerals and hydrocarbons (for example, oil and gas), developing resources for production, building engineering foundations and stable slopes and finding and evaluating ground water supplies. 

  • 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

Geoscientist, Geoscience Professional, Petroleum Geologist, Physical Scientist, Planetary Geologist, Sedimentologist, Stratigrapher, Surficial Geologist, Volcanologist

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 5 kg
Interest Codes
The Geologist 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

Geologists work in industry, government and academia in teams with geophysicists (see the Exploration Geophysicist occupational profile), engineers (see Geotechnical Engineer and other engineering occupational profiles), landmen and technologists (see the Geological and Geophysical Technologist occupational profile).

In general, geologists:

  • collect and interpret rock samples and drill cores
  • classify fossilized life forms, rocks and minerals
  • collect and analyze soil and sediment samples in geochemical surveys
  • study the effects of erosion, sedimentation and tectonic deformation
  • record and interpret geological information from maps, reports, boreholes, well logs, sample repositories, air photos, satellite imagery, geochemical surveys and other sources
  • conduct geological surveys, subsurface and field studies
  • participate in the study and mitigation of natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes and mud slides
  • prepare geological maps, cross-sectional diagrams and reports from field work and laboratory research
  • conduct three-dimensional geological data modeling
  • supervise the work of technologists and technicians.

During the various stages of their work, geologists use a wide variety of instruments such as hammers, diamond drills, geopositioning devices, gravity meters, microscopes, spectroscopes and x-ray diffraction equipment. They work with computers, both in the field and in the office. They also need to be familiar with geographical information systems (GIS) and the fundamentals of science (chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics) and business (accounting, economics).

Geologists may work in a variety of areas:

  • Coal geologists locate and characterize coal resources and determine their suitability for coal mining and coal bed methane (gas) development.
  • Computing geologists develop software applications (for example, database systems, geographic information systems, statistics packages) and use them to analyze data and information.
  • Economic geologists locate, evaluate and characterize mineral deposits.
  • Engineering geologists analyze geological data to advise government agencies and construction companies on the suitability of locations for buildings, dams, highways, airfields and tunnels. They also work with other engineers in oil and gas and mineral exploration and production and in environmental clean-ups.
  • Environmental geologists assess the environmental impact of the development or use of mineral, hydrocarbon (oil, gas, coal) and water resources, and assist in restoring disturbed land back to its original condition or to a more valuable land use (reclamation).
  • Geochemists study the chemical makeup of minerals, rocks and fluids and their interactions to understand the distribution and migration of materials in the earth's crust.
  • Geochronologists determine the ages of rocks by studying the radioactive decay of key elements.
  • Geomorphologists examine landforms and processes that cause the earth's surface to change (for example, erosion and glaciation).
  • Hydrogeologists study the properties, amount and composition of groundwater and formation waters. They may search for potable water or be involved in environmental issues such as groundwater contamination, landfill siting or liquid waste disposal by deep injection. For more information, see the Hydrologist occupational profile.
  • Marine geologists study coastal and marine environments and their evolution, and investigate ocean basins for mineral and petroleum potential.
  • Mineralogists analyze, identify and classify minerals and precious stones according to their composition and structure, study the properties of minerals and develop industrial and environmental uses.
  • Mining geologists locate, analyze and study the earth's mineral and rock resources with a view to their efficient and safe exploitation.
  • Paleontologists study fossils for a variety of purposes (for example, establishing relative age, petroleum exploration, the study of evolution and ancient environments).
  • Petrographers describe and classify rocks, usually after a microscopic study.
  • Petroleum geologistsuse information gathered from boreholes, geophysical and geochemical data, geological maps, rock samples and remote sensing imagery to decide where to drill for oil and gas, and help petroleum engineers to optimize the extraction process by determining the geological characteristics of an underground reservoir and the fluids in it.
  • Planetary geologists study the nature and history of planets and satellites in the solar system.
  • Sedimentologists study the processes that result in the formation of sedimentary rocks and apply this knowledge to help locate coal, petroleum and other types of mineral resources.
  • Shale-oil and shale-gas geologists locate and study oil and gas resources in very low permeability reservoirs and unconventional resevoirs.
  • Stratigraphers study arrangements of sedimentary rock layers by examining the fossil and compositional content of boreholes and diamond drill cores to help locate coal and petroleum.
  • Structural geologists study the geometry and elements of brittle and plastic rock deformation, including the evolution of mountain building and earth structures useful in resource extraction.
  • Surficial geologists study sediments and rock layers close to the earth's surface. Their findings are used in road and building construction, landfill siting, mineral exploration, environmental contamination, groundwater production and global change studies.
  • Volcanologists study active and dormant volcanoes to predict eruptions and minimize potential damage and to learn about the physics and chemistry of volcanic processes.
  • Well site geologists work closely with drilling crews in the field to help ensure that wells penetrate target zones and coring samples are taken at required intervals.
Working Conditions
Updated Dec 14, 2016

In Alberta, most geologists work in the energy industries and spend much of their time working in office environments. They may spend some time at rig sites. Mineral and mining geologists are more likely to be involved in field work. Some geologists spend three to six months each year doing field work, living and working in remote areas. They must cover large areas by foot and by various means of transportation including float planes, helicopters, boats, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles and trucks. Mining geologists may work underground part of the time. Considerable travel is required for geologists involved in international exploration.

Physical requirements for geologists vary greatly depending on the nature of the work. Geologists working in laboratories may do little or no significant lifting; those collecting samples in the field may be required to lift items weighing up to 20 kilograms. Collecting samples also may involve covering considerable distances on foot.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Dec 14, 2016

Geologists need the following characteristics:

  • good communication skills
  • an open, inquiring, analytical mind
  • an aptitude for mathematics and science
  • excellent decision-making skills
  • attention to detail
  • the ability to visualize three-dimensional objects from two-dimensional drawings
  • strong writing skills
  • the ability to work well in a team environment.

They should enjoy being outdoors working in the field, doing work that requires precision and developing innovative approaches and taking charge of situations.

Educational Requirements
Updated Dec 14, 2016

The minimum education requirement for geologists is a bachelor of science (B.Sc.) degree in geology. Ongoing professional development is required to keep up to date.

Required Education

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

Mount Royal University

University of Alberta

Related Education

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

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

Geologists are employed by:

  • consulting firms
  • shale-oil and shale-gas exploration firms
  • resource, exploration, engineering and environmental companies
  • government departments and agencies
  • science centres and museums.

A B.Sc. degree is required for entry level positions. Advanced degrees are required for positions of greater responsibility such as research and post-secondary teaching positions.

Geologists 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 geologists form only a part of this larger occupational group, only some of these newly created positions will be for geologists.

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
  • Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Dec 14, 2016

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

Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences (CFES) website:

Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists (CSPG) 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 27, 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.

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