What Is a Geological Oceanographer?

Geological Oceanographers use geophysical technologies to examine the makeup of the ocean bedrock and the natural processes of rock movement. Often times referred to as and Geophysical Oceanographers as well.

What Does a Geological Oceanographer Do?

Geophysics is a vital tool in examining the nature of the land and the changing topography. In archaeology, it records natural and artificial features, mapping them with high precision. In environmental science, it takes vital measurements of ecological features and changes. In construction, it maps soil, rock and topography to best use the land for development. In geological and geophysical oceanography, the same principles and technology are used to understand how the Earth works beneath the oceans. It provides the data for geographic information systems to use for a wide range of purposes.

Many are employed in fossil fuel prospecting, searching for new oil and gas pockets. This is a vital role while we still rely largely on fossil fuels for our energy needs. However, this is not the only role that they fulfil. They are also involved in understanding how subaquatic tectonic plates work, mapping and dating rock formations beneath the oceans, surveying ocean geological features such as grabens and trenches and completing the map of our world in areas where humans cannot yet reach.

Some will also be employed in sustainability, ensuring that the ocean floors are treated with respect and preserved for the greater good of the ecology, the life that occupies it, and safe from human actions such as mining.

Where Does a Geological Oceanographer Work?

Most Geological and Geophysical Oceanographers work in fossil fuel prospection and detection. It was recorded in 2010 that most geological surveyors (and geoscientists as a broader term) 22% of people with these qualifications work in the petroleum industry. Around 1/6 work in engineering services (for geoscientists) but this number is likely to be lower for geological and geophysical oceanography as far less construction and engineering takes place at sea. They may be placed in areas where they may design oil and gas rigs and extraction systems for the ocean. 1/7 work in technical consulting and scientific services. 1/12 work in state government (not including education or healthcare) and 1/14 in academia.

Of all 50 states, Texas is the biggest employer by numbers. Understandable as this is where most oil companies are located and it is a large proportion of the Texan industry.

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What Is the Average Geological Oceanographer Salary?

The median salary for geological oceanographers, who fall under the broader BLS category of geoscientists, earned a median salary of $93,580 as of May 2020. The lowest 10% earned about $51,890, while the highest earned a median of $201,150. There are many variations depending on specialty and in which sector they work. The highest earners are in oil and gas extraction, where they earn a median salary of $125,670, followed by those in the federal government, who earned a median salary of $104,210.*

Geological Oceanography Jobs & Job Description

Geological and Geophysical Oceanographers study and record the physical properties and processes of the ocean. There are many components to the role of Geological and Geophysical Oceanographers; some of the requirements or duties are:

  • A Bachelor's degree in oceanography, marine geology or related field of study
  • Amount of travel will vary depending on company of work
  • Ability to travel comfortably by land transportation and watercraft
  • Time spent mainly outdoors collecting data from the ocean using submersed probes and equipment attached to buoys
  • Data analysis performed in laboratory or office - sometimes at sea - using computer software and databases
  • Ability to display accurate geological and geophysical information on graphs, charts or maps
  • Perform work in extreme weather conditions and temperatures
  • Ability to thrive in exposure to dangerous or disruptive weather and marine elements, quickly changing ocean conditions
  • Ability to take measurements of topological features in the oceans and record coordinates of features
  • Accurately map all information collected
  • Analyze geophysical sounds collected by submersed instruments and accurately log results
  • Share results with the scientific community through databases and presentations
  • Maintain and regularly calibrate instruments and equipment

Senior level Geological and Geophysical Oceanographers include the duties and components listed above of first tier Geological and Geophysical Oceanographers. This position will vary from job to job and the components or duties may include:

  • A Master's degree or Ph.D. in oceanography, geology or related field of study and experience related to the field
  • Design and develop programs for observations and data collection
  • Develop new procedures to enhance data collection and monitoring programs
  • Use a high degree of analytical and problem solving skills to complete workloads
  • Foster excellent presentation skills to present geophysical and geological data collected to clients, management and governments
  • Prepare budgets for exploration projects and place orders for required equipment and supplies
  • Manage teams of scientists and additional staff members during data collection and analysis of information
  • Provide training to staff on scientific methods and equipment utilization
  • Use knowledge and expertise to teach in an educational institute

What Is the Job Demand for Geological Oceanographer?

According to survey statistics from May 2020, demand for geoscientists is expected to grow around 7% between 2020 and 2030.* Survey has become more important in applied sciences related to geoscience, especially as pockets of fossil fuel get scarcer. The quality of surveying - for any purpose - has improved, opening up opportunities for conservation, monitoring, recording and mapping, planning and resource management. This is likely to account for much of the expected growth for ground and oceanographic surveying.

What Are the Education Requirements to Become a Geological Oceanographer?

A bachelor's degree is essential for all entry-level jobs. Students should take a degree in geology or something closely related. Where surveying is available, either as part of the course or as a minor or elective, these should be preferred over other choices. This is an applied science role where research is in the field and using instruments rather than research based. IT skills are also near essential, as are math subjects. You will spend much of your time take readings, so an understanding of technical equipment and math will put you in good standing.

A master's degree is highly recommended as this is where you will be able to specialize in Geological and Geophysical Oceanographer with dedicated education courses. Here, you will learn the theory and the practice, and have the opportunity to use survey equipment in the field. It may include extensive fieldwork and project reporting. It will closely follow the path of your intended career.

A doctorate will not be necessary except where the student has a view to teaching in academia. In some cases, project managers in industry or government research roles will have doctorates, but they will rarely take part in the physical aspect of the research. For those who want the joy of fieldwork, a master's should be enough.

Geological Oceanography - Related Degrees

What Kind Of Societies and Professional Organizations Do Geological Oceanographer Have?

This large and important field has a number of prestigious organizations including:

  • American Geophysical Union: The nation's largest society for professional geophysicists is an important body in this form of applied science. No matter which industry, AGU disseminates scientific information
  • United States Geological Survey: As a government science agency, the USGS is an organization around which professionals gather, but they also make available information for public consumption

*2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures and job growth projections for geoscientists reflect national data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed September 2021.

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