A geologist studies the Earth, exploring its materials, its structure, and the significance of these elements to modern life. A large part of geology is the study of how the planet has changed over time, and what that might say about Earth's history and its future.
What Geologists Do
Geologists are one of two major types of geoscientists. They analyze rocks and fossils to determine how they were created, what has happened since their formation, and what they can reveal about the evolution of life on Earth.
The most basic educational degree a geologist needs is a bachelor's degree in geology. Most geologists, however, have a master's degree. Some geologists, most often those with high-level research positions or teaching jobs, hold a Ph.D. Aside from academic training, most geologists begin their occupation in assistant-level jobs and work up to the position they desire, gaining more experience as they go.
A myriad of different branches fall under the geology umbrella. A geologist might study volcanoes, minerals, glaciers, the ocean or even the moon and other planets. With so many possibilities, it would be difficult to say exactly what a geologist might do any given day, especially considering that some geologists are employed by universities, some by the government, and some by private firms, while others are self-employed. Each type of employment is not only likely to have a specific specialization, but also a specific purpose in mind.
At its most basic, geology consists of doing three things: collecting data; analyzing that data in terms of current knowledge and how the new data might alter or add to that knowledge; and applying these findings to life on Earth now. A skilled geologist will focus not only on what happened and how it happened, but why it happened, and what can be learned from it, whether that means predicting an earthquake, finding the best place to build a building or discovering a new type of fuel.
Geologists use a many instruments to aid their studies. These may be as complex as machines that map underground rock layers using energy waves, or as simple as a small hammer or chisel and a magnifying glass. Work done in the field may require a geologist to carry equipment and any specimens collected that need to be analyzed back at camp. A geologist must have both physical and mental prowess to sustain long days of field work and operate complicated instruments, all while maintaining an academic frame of mind.
Where a geologist goes is also highly dependent upon his specialty. Some geologists work mostly indoors, while others work mostly in the field. Those in the field experience all types of terrain and weather conditions. Some sites are accessible by foot and others require all-terrain vehicles or even helicopters to access. Geologists working with marine fossils or water processes may find themselves on a ship. To study the Earth, geologists must be willing to travel it, and when necessary, get a little dirty.
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