How Much Money Does a Marine Geologist Make per Year?

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Marine geologists explore the earth's crust and layers undersea.
Marine geologists explore the earth's crust and layers undersea. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes marine geologists as geoscientists. As of May 2010, the national average salary for geoscientists was $93,380, or $44.89 hourly. Marine geologists research and explore the earth's surface and layers beneath ocean waters. Typical employers for marine geologist jobs include the federal government, colleges, universities and research facilities, and the oil and gas industry.

Salary Percentiles

The BLS reports the following salary percentiles for geoscientists except hydrologists and geographers as of May 2010: the 10th percentile earned $43,280 annually and the 25th percentile earned $57,820 annually. The median annual salary for geoscientists was $82,500, while the 90th percentile in the profession earned $160,910. A job posting by the U.S. Geological Survey for a geologist performing coastal and marine research indicates a salary range of $56,172 to $73,019 as of August 2011. This job description indicates that education and previous work experience are used as a basis for establishing actual salary.

Educational Requirements

The BLS forecasts excellent employment for marine geologists with master's degrees between 2008 and 2018, with jobs expected to increase by 18 percent. Marine geologists working in colleges and universities typically have doctorate degrees as do many research jobs. Geoscience majors with bachelor's degrees may find work as research or geology technicians, but a graduate degree is the minimum educational requirement for most geologist jobs.

Average Salaries by Industry

The BLS reports average salaries for industries employing marine geologists. As of May 2010, marine geologists in oil and gas extraction earned the most with an average annual salary of $132,210. Federal government agencies paid an average annual salary of $95,580, while management, scientific and technical consulting firms paid an average annual salary of $73,900. State government agencies paid an average annual salary of $62,880. State and federal budget cutbacks may reduce current annual salaries and compensation packages. Marine geologists employed in state universities and colleges may also face funding cutbacks and find grant funding opportunities increasingly competitive.

Factors Impacting Employment and Salaries

Marine geologists may be required to be at sea for extended periods of time; they face hazardous working conditions when at sea. Budget constraints on geological research negatively impacts research projects and funding. The BLS notes that marine geologists working for oil and gas companies may experience cyclical hiring and layoffs connected with commodity prices; when oil and gas prices plunge, layoffs occur, but when prices increase, exploration for new sources of oil and gas increase. The BLS reports that ecological and environmental concerns, combined with the need for additional fuel supplies, were contributing to job growth for geoscientists as of December 2009.

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