Since there are many specializations within geology, a geologist's duties within the petroleum industry may differ. Geologists are greatly needed in the petroleum industry to explore for and map potential rock samples that may have petroleum reservoirs. These oil and gas careers focus primarily on the processes leading up to the drilling - finding rocks, determining their properties, and determining the amount of oil that can be obtained. In addition, geologists must understand the risks involved in drilling at that location. It is the job of the geologist to oversee the drilling process if the decision is made to drill a well. Sometimes geologists create a reservoir model using computer simulation. Some smaller companies might employ one geologist to handle all these duties while the larger ones may have several geologists sharing these responsibilities.

Petroleum geologists working in oil and gas careers play an important role in the discovery and identification of oil deposits. These professionals must be able to interpret photos and features of rocks to identify main features. When determining whether to drill a possible oil deposit, geologists examine seven main factors of the rock: source, seal, reservoir, timing, trap, migration, and maturation. These aspects allow a petroleum geologist to get an idea of the subsurface. These oil and gas careers require technical skills and a high level of computer knowledge. Petroleum geologists must be able to use geophysical methods, such as logs, which show elastic waves and other types of seismology data. These logs show 3-D images of the source rock. Besides computer simulations, petroleum geologists may also need to create maps and diagrams showing the layers and sub-layers of the earth in order to identify oil deposits. After they determine that the deposits contain petroleum, geologists may consult with other professionals working in other oil and gas careers, such as chemists and engineers, to come up with the easiest and cheapest way to extract the petroleum.

Those interested in oil and gas careers as geologists should have specific skills and interests. A solid background in math, chemistry, and physics is essential. Excellent communication and writing skills are necessary as geologists often need to explain complex terms to others within the industry. Critical thinking, creativity, and a strong interest in technology are also needed as geologists often need to manage databases and create 3-D computer models. Those interested in oil and gas careers in the geology field can expect to take fundamental courses in geology as well as courses in petroleum systems modeling, petrophysics, well log correlation, well site operations, seismic interpretation, 2-D/3-D computer modeling, heavy oil, gravity, and magnetics.

Despite the economy and layoffs that have occurred in the petroleum industry, this is still a good time to be a geologist. The demand for geologists will grow much more as commodity prices increase. As with other oil and gas careers, salary depends on company size, location, and level of experience and education. Companies are willing to pay very high salaries to new geologists, with salaries growing by up to 20% in just the past few years. These oil and gas careers pay very well for those who have the skills and experience necessary to succeed. In fact, a geologist in the petroleum industry with a Ph.D. and two years of experience can make $80,000 annually. Six-figure salaries can be earned after gaining 10 years of experience. Veteran geologists with 20 or more years of experience can expect annual salaries of $120,000 to nearly $200,000. Oil and gas careers pay more in the industry hotspots. Houston, Texas tops the list at approximately $161,000 annually with petroleum geologists in Atlanta, Georgia earning the least at around $68,000. Depending on oil prices and demand, these salaries may decrease slightly over the next few years and then rise back up again. Although declining oil prices led to major layoffs in the petroleum industry in the late 1980s and early 1990s, this should not deter someone who is interested in oil and gas careers.

Oil and Gas Careers - Main

Last Updated: 05/15/2014