Why Study Geology?

Do you want to have a meaningful career that addresses issues of importance to society without being tied to a desk? Are you interested in learning more about the planet we live on or how it has changed over time? Maybe you're interested in natural resources and mining, or hope to assess natural hazards and help save future lives?

If any of these ideas sound appealing for a career path, a future in the geological sciences may be for you!

Geological science involves the study of the Earth, including its structure, composition, processes, and evolution. Studying the Earth takes many forms, and encompasses virtually all scientific disciplines, including physics, chemistry, biology, engineering and environmental science. Geological science addresses critical societal issues such as energy, water and mineral resources, climate, preparing for and reducing natural hazards, and stewardship of the environment.

Debris flow in the Yakima River Canyon
Undergraduate students measuring the height of a recent debris flow
channel in the Yakima River Canyon.

Because of the complex and hidden nature of many geological problems, a degree in the geological sciences can be extremely beneficial for future career opportunities where complicated and intricate problems often arise. In addition, solving diverse geological issues and problems that affect populations can provide focus and a great feeling of accomplishment and is often directly related to happiness for professional geologists.

Not only does majoring in the geological sciences allow students to work on many of society’s most important challenges, but it also unlocks lucrative and personally rewarding careers in government, industry and research, business, law, academia, and other professions in which an understanding of the earth and a background in science are important. Geoscientists have employment opportunities everywhere, from local communities to remote locations around the globe. Because of the range of careers geology degrees can fill, geological sciences are in high demand. A shortage of 118,000 geoscientists is projected over the next decade as new economical and environmental problems arise, and an older generation of geologists continue to retire. (American Geosciences Institute, 2019)

Future Careers

Employement for students who graduate with a degree in the geologic sciences are promising. Many geology graduates enter professions relating to their research interests directly out of college, often through alumni networking in our department. Geology salaries vary by the employment sector, with petroleum starting pay between $60k and $80k, while environmental positions are generally up to 10% less starting pay. However, because environmental geology positions are not resource driven, they are often more stable positions.

Overall, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics place Geoscientists median pay at approximately $91,000 with starting pay ranging from $43,500 to $52,000. Many Engineering Geologists can expect salaries well over $100,000 with most professional geologists making at least $70,000 annually. The American Geosciences Institute also indicates that the majority of geoscience-related occupations have higher median salaries than other related occupations, reinforcing the benefits of a degree in the geological sciences.

GeoScience Pay

Fortunately, future careers in the geological sciences are expected to continue to grow as an older generation of geologists prepare to retire. In addition the continued need for energy, materials, and natural-hazard mitigation continue to stimulate geologist employement numbers. Responsible stewardship of land and resources are regularly being deployed in energy fields that focus on renewable resources such as hydrothermal power which require an extensive geologic understanding of fault mechanics and permeability of bedrock types.

Rattlesnake Ridge Landslide
The Rattlesnake Ridge Landslide is a large but slow-moving landslide at
Union Gap caused by the undermining of beds of Columbia River Basalt
that lie directly on a weak sedimentary bed.

In addition to natural resources, geologic hazards continue to maintain robust employement numbers. Landslides, earthquake, flooding, volcanic, and aquifer contamination are all modern problems that will only continue to rise as populations increase and move towards problematic and sensitive housing and community locations. This demand for geologists and hydrogeologists continue to be a large provider of job opportunities for earth scientists in both the United States and globally.

Why Geological Sciences at CWU?

Excellent Location