Petroleum Geologist

Petroleum geologists are involved in exploration for and production of oil and natural gas resources.



The petroleum industry is focused on the exploration and production of oil and gas. The petroleum industry employs the largest number of geoscientists, with nearly 40% of geoscientists working in the field.  The petroleum industry historically experiences cyclical boom and busts. Employment levels fluctuate with this boom and bust cycle, normally driven by the price of oil. However, technology has helped to temper the severity of this boom and bust cycle by dramatically lowering the costs to produce oil. However, as with any commodity, lowered production costs are often coupled with lower market prices.

Additionally, the petroleum industry often leads in the development and deployment of new technological applications to the geosciences. Also, as the economy has become more global, the petroleum industry has as well, with substantial efforts in South America, the North Sea, Africa, and Southeast Asia, along with the traditional focus on the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and the Middle East.


Educational Requirements

Geoscientists need at least a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions. In several states, geoscientists may need a license to offer their services to the public. A Ph.D. is necessary for most high-level research and college teaching positions.

A degree in geosciences is preferred, although degrees in physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, engineering, or computer science are usually accepted if they include coursework in geology.


Median Salary

The petroleum, mineral, and mining industries offer higher salaries, but less job security, than other industries because economic downturns sometimes cause layoffs. Median annual wages for the industries employing the largest number of geoscientists are as follows:


Oil and gas extraction


Federal Executive Branch


Architectural, engineering, and related services


Management, scientific, and technical consulting services


State government



Want to know more?

American Association of Petroleum Geologists

Profiles of Geoscientists-Career Cornerstone Center

Bureau of Labor Statistics-Geoscientists


Careers in Geosciences

Science Buddies-Geoscientists


Get Connected

Belonging to professional organizations & LinkedIn groups can provide you with networking, informational interviewing, & job shadowing opportunities, as well as assist you with finding internships and jobs.

American Association of Petroleum Geologists

List of Geoscience Professional Societies

Geology Professionals LinkedIn Group

List of Professional Organizations

The Career Connector for Purdue College of Science Students & Alumni


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Companies that hire Geoscientists

Research & Internship Listings


Find a Job

American Association of Petroleum Geologists

Geologists on Job Market LinkedIn Group

Geology Professionals LinkedIn Group

USA Jobs

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Information retrieved from,, 

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