Despite catastrophes like the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and subsequent oil spill, oil and other fossil fuels remain an essential element of life in the 21st century. Operations geologists are among the professionals involved with locating fuel reserves and retrieving the contents. The industry offers both challenge and reward for those who pursue careers in the field.
Operations geologists are involved in the entire operation of retrieving fossil fuels from wells located on dry land, as well as offshore drilling platforms. They analyze potential sites for their oil or gas content, along with potential risks associated with drilling. Operations geologists also prepare reports based on samples and assist the drilling team in the actual preparation work associated with the well. The position serves as a point of contact for workers involved in other aspects of a particular project, including independent contractors.
Community colleges offer associate degrees in science technology or related areas; such degrees prepare workers for positions as technicians, or provide the foundation for transfer to a bachelor's degree program. Basic courses include paleontology, mineralogy, petrology, structural geology and stratigraphy. Other important courses include chemistry, physical sciences and computer studies. Operations geologists often pursue their education beyond the undergraduate level; researchers and college instructors require doctoral degrees. Employers outside of academia often prefer or require candidates to have Master's degrees to advance beyond entry-level positions.
Many students interested in careers as operations geologists complete internships and co-op positions to gain practical experience along with their academic preparation. Verbal communications skills are important for interaction with other workers; written communication skills are useful in preparing reports. Operations geologists should also possess mechanical aptitude, high analytical thinking skills and meticulous attention to detail also. Some states require licenses for workers who deal with the public. Organizations such as the American Institute of Hydrology offer certification programs for workers who wish to enhance their credentials even if they are not required to obtain a license.
As the 21st century continues, environmental factors play an increasingly important role in fossil fuel operations. Operations geologists analyze environmental impact as a part of their work in developing and evaluating drilling sites and retrieving oil and gas from rigs and wells. Job opportunities outside of academics or companies directly involved with drilling include positions with architectural and engineering firms. The federal government is also a major employer, providing positions within the Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of the Interior for the U.S. Geological Survey.