Nov. 12, 2009 - While recent years have seen the U.S. ecomony slow and unemployment rise, not so for the prospects of graduates with degrees in the geosciences. The recent escalation in oil and gas prices as well as other commodities and hightened concern about global warming has led to a surge in demand for trained geoscientists. We have included excerpts from a few of the many recent news media articles highlighting these recent employment trends,
Brittan Jones passed up a $100,000- a-year job at a mining company last December when he finished his degree in geology. The 24-year-old Canadian said he's confident he'll get a better offer.``I'm lucky to have graduated when metal prices are so high,'' said Jones, who has traveled to the Arctic Circle, British Columbia and the U.S. on mining internships. ``There's a lot you can do with this degree.''
Mining companies such as Barrick Gold Corp., Teck Cominco Ltd., BHP Billiton Ltd. and Rio Tinto Group are paying geology grads 44 percent more than three years ago, giving them higher salaries than the average Master of Business Administration in the U.S. Demand from developing nations including China helped gold, copper and silver prices more than double in that time. Gold reached a record $1,001.50 an ounce today in New York.
``There is a chronic shortage of skilled people, and wages have skyrocketed,'' said Bart Melek, commodity strategist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto. ``There's no relief in sight.'' Salaries for geology undergraduates jumped to an average C$90,000 ($91,776) from C$62,500 in 2004, according to Norman Duke, a professor at the University of Western Ontario, who has been a consultant for companies including Teck Cominco. Geologists' pay tops the average for new U.S. MBAs..
Geologist Amy Simonson loves her work. She spends her days in the countryside around Charlottesville, Virginia, measuring stream flow and groundwater levels for the state's Department of Environmental Quality . The job, she says, is exactly what she wanted. Simonson, 25, began her job hunt in 2007 after getting a master's degree in geology from the University of Delaware , Newark. She had one condition: She wanted to spend as much time as possible in the field, not in front of a microscope or a computer. Taking a scattershot approach, she applied for jobs in geophysics, engineering, environmental consulting, and geographic information system mapping. She didn't have to wait long. "I got offered a lot of stuff," she says.
"In general, the market is hot," says Cindy Martinez, who analyzes geoscience workforce issues at the American Geological Institute (AGI) in Alexandria, Virginia. "Functionally, there's no unemployment of geoscientists right now."
In the petroleum, mining, and environmental consulting industries, a desperate quest for new talent has sent companies scrambling to hire new graduates. Traditionally, a master's has been the professional degree of choice for industry employers. But the need for new hires within these fields is such that even graduates with bachelor's degrees are finding jobs, particularly in environmental consulting--although a master's is generally needed to move up the ladder from fieldwork to the office.That intense competition for new hires has raised starting salaries in these industries, especially oil: Graduates now entering the petroleum industry earn $82,500 a year, on average, according to AGI.
The LA Times Business Section (May 2006) states:
University of Texas senior Thuan Phan switched majors from computer science to geological sciences, figuring the field trips would make it more fun. Now his degree turns out to be lucrative too. "The pay's really good, and it's just exciting," said Phan, who might pursue a master's degree while he works.
William Fisher, dean of Texas' Jackson School of Geosciences, saw something this year he'd never seen before: A student received a signing bonus for a summer internship. "My guess is the demand for geoscientists is roughly twice the supply," Fisher said.
There is solid interest from big companies such as BP (hiring 235 fulltimers from American campuses this year, up from 163 last year), but also mid-size ones such as Devon and Anadarko Petroleum Corp in the Woodlands, Texas. In geoscience, a master's degree is still the entry ticket for many jobs. But experts say companies are becoming more flexible about hiring and training undergraduates. They will have to. Keane said the industry would need as many as 30,000 more experts over the next decade, but at current rates, U.S. universities will produce only half that many graduate degrees.
Oil companies aren't the only place to go with a geoscience degree. Kim Nguyen, a senior hydrology major at Texas, said she didn't pursue oil company jobs for ethical reasons but found work with an environmental consulting firm. Matt McDonald, a master's candidate in geophysics, said he "was kind of blown away by all the offers" from the oil industry. Still, for now at least, he turned down Shell in order to pursue a doctorate, which would leave open an academic career. Nguyen said two older sisters who studied business and engineering questioned her choice of field a few years ago. But the engineer later discovered that many of the companies she was targeting were looking for geologists. "It's kind of cool to be in demand," Nguyen said, "when everyone had doubts."
These are only a sampling of the articles available on the burgeoning demand for geologists. A recent National Public Radio podcast available at www.npr.org also does an excellent job of discussing employment opportunites and future trends. It's GREAT to be a geoscientist!!