Career Guide: Do you want to be a Geologist?

Geology is an area of study that encompasses the history, evolution, structure and composition of rocks, crystals, mineral sediments, fossils and the process that developed and transformed them. Geologists use theoretical knowledge, technique and research data to search for mineral resources such as metals, coal, oil and ground water. They also advise on conditions of the ground and how it affects buildings, dams, high ways, tunnels, mines and other structures. Geologists assist with environmental problems and provide technical assistance and support.


Increasingly, geologists, geophysicists, and other earth scientists are being referred to as geological scientists; however, Geology can be broken down into well – defined topics and geologists may be called after their specialist areas. These specializations include:

Mineralogists: They analyze and classify minerals and precious stones according to their and composition.

Petrologists: They study the nature, composition, texture and origin of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks and the mineral they contain.

Sedimentologists: The study the process that forms sedimentary rocksand the products they contain.

Economic geologists: They access the value of oil and mineral reserves and the cost of mining them.

Engineering geologists: They investigate potential sites for civil engineering works such as roads, railways and tunnels.

Petroleum geologists: They explore oil and gas, on shore and at sea.

Geophysicists: The make use of physics and mathematics to investigate the earth’s physical properties and are concerned with forces with forces such as magnetic, gravitational and electrical forces that affect the earth.

Geochemists: They are concerned with the chemical composition of the earth and the physical, chemical and biological processes that have affected the distribution of minerals.

Palaeontologists: The study fossils found in geological formations and trace the history of life on earth.

Geochronologists: They use radioactive dating and techniques to estimate the age of rocks and sample from explosion sites.

Whatever the area of specialization, measures and analysis are the fundamental techniques used by geologists. There are still more areas of specialization in geology such as exploration geologists, who are involved in the identification of sites for mineral and petroleum mining, hydrologists who study the nature and distribution of water around the earth, and so on.


Secondary school: relevant subjects include Mathematics, Computer Science, Physics, Chemistry and Biology.


A Bachelor’s degree in Geology, or related geological science such as geological science, petroleum geology or mining geology from any Nigerian University or any tertiary institution, is the usual basic requirement. Traditional geology covers, crystallography, invertebrate paleontology, mineralogy, petrology and tectonics (structural geology). Some specialization may be available in physics, geochemistry, hydrology, hazardous waste management and geologic logging. All courses include field work. Some entrants may have first degrees in physics, chemistry, computer science4, mathematics or civil engineering.

Most professional geologists now follow a specialist postgraduate course that leads to a Masters or Ph.D.  A Masters degree is usually necessary for research, teaching and exploration. Most training is on the job, although some large companies run training programmes involving a planned series of project at different locations combined with a sponsored postgraduate course. Some geological technicians and geological field assistants follow a full time Higher – Diploma course in geological technology, but most training is on the job combined with part time study.


Most geologists end up working for oil companies such as Shell petroleum, Conoil, Oando or State oil corporations like the NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation). Other geologists work in special geological consultancies dealing with seismic activities. The petroleum industry is subject to cyclic fluctuations depending on the world wide price of oil. When prices are high, more geoscientists are recruited mainly for exploration activities in order to meet demand. However, when petroleum prices are low, exploration activities dwindle and geoscientists are made redundant.

Apart from the petroleum industry, the main employers of geoscientists are the mining, quarrying, civil engineering, water industries and government supported scientific establishments, such as geological or Antarctic surveys. Some geologists with much experience are employed as teachers in higher institutions and in museums where they take care of specimen and carry out researches.

There are reasonable career opportunities for experienced geologists to become self – employed as consultants to private industry or government. A lot geologists work abroad on long term projects or short term specialists assignment. Job opportunities for geologists are predominant in the British Common Wealth Countries, USA, Africa, And The Middle East. For many of these posts a relevant postgraduate qualification, such as in Petroleum Geology is essential.

Geologists often begin their career in field work, particularly in exploration, or as research assistants in laboratories. After substantial experience they may be promoted to project leaders, programme managers or to management or research positions, but prospects vary with different employers. A geologist with a Bachelor’s degree may have limited promotion prospects. Postgraduate qualifications are helpful. More senior position are less likely to involve field work.


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