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Geophysical Technologist


Geophysical technologists study the Earth by measuring responses to different types of sound and electromagnetic energy. They study the Earth's physical structure and behavior including earthquakes, fault lines and volcanoes. They use scientific instruments to measure the electrical fields, gravity fields, or sound waves traveling through the Earth. They also develop theories about the slow flow of rocks and earth plates over geological time.

Geophysical technologists generally specialize in one of three areas: petroleum exploration, mineral exploration or the environment. The majority of technologists these days are involved in petroleum extraction. Petroleum exploration technologists study and interpret information on sediments, mineral and rock compositions and geologic structure to determine where oil and gas deposits are most likely to be found. They obtain their data and research from seismic operations and occasionally, from gravity, magnetic or satellite surveys.

Seismology is a technique that involves sending vibrations into the ground and recording how they bounce back. Geophysical technologists work with geophysicists to closely analyze the data which gives the technologists a good idea about what kind of rock layers are under the surface area.

Geophysical technologists involved in mineral exploration often use electrical and electromagnetic techniques to search for ore deposits. They find precious sources of minerals, such as limestone and calcium to use for research and the production of medicines and other important products. Environmental geophysical technologists use electrical and electromagnetic techniques and other techniques such as ground penetrating radar to evaluate ground water quality. They are concerned with studying the environment from a geological point of view, examining the earth's natural resources including groundwater. Environmental geophysicists are often responsible for all aspects of data acquisition and processing.

Geophysical technologists may also work in the production or management side of technology. Those in production might prepare and maintain subsurface or surface survey plans, and conduct mineral grade control studies. Alternatively, management geophysical technologists maintain databases, prepare cost and budget estimates for various resource projects, and supervise logistical maneuvers related to exploration programs.

Although geophysical technologists work in laboratories, they spend the majority of their time outdoors, doing field research. Therefore, they have a solid understanding of the raw information of the field. Although they also do some work on the computer, the technologist performs much of the hands-on work.
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  Interests and Skills  
What characteristics does it take to become a geophysical technologist? First, an interest in geosciences, physics, math and problem solving, coupled with the ability to analyze and synthesize data. Geophysical technologists have the ability to work well both individually and in a team environment, including supervising the work of technicians.

Most geophysical technologists have excellent spatial reasoning abilities, an inquiring mind, initiative, imagination and creativity, excellent decision-making skills, and organizational skills. They should enjoy work that requires precision and outdoor skills.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Conduct or direct geophysical surveys, prospecting field trips, exploratory drilling and well logging instruments and equipment
  • Prepare notes, sketches, geological maps and cross sections
  • Take and record magnetic, electromagnetic, gravity and resistivity measurements
  • Transcribe or analyze seismic, gravimetric, well log or other geophysical and survey data
  • Assist engineers and geologists in the evaluation and analysis of petroleum and mineral reservoirs
  • Prepare or supervise the preparation of rock, mineral or metal samples and perform physical and chemical laboratory tests
  • May supervise oil and gas well drilling, well completions and work-overs
  • May conduct or supervise studies and programs related to mine development, mining methods, mine ventilation, lighting, drainage and ground control
  • May assist engineers and metallurgists in specifying material selection, metal treatments or corrosion protection systems
  • May develop specifications for heat treatment of metals or for welding, design welding fixtures, troubleshoot welding processes or quality problems and supervise welding projects
  • Geophysical technologists often work in laboratories and offices, conducting experiments and on the computer. Lab work can be noisy, dusty and involve the use of chemicals therefore, safety precautions including proper ventilation must be followed. Some geophysical technologists will spend three to six months a year working in the field, sometimes in remote locations. They may travel for long distances to just get to work locations. Considerable overtime and weekend work may be required during fieldwork.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Companies and organizations employ geophysical technologists in the public and private sectors. They work for oil and gas or petroleum companies, mining companies, geophysical data acquisition companies, engineering and environmental consulting companies, data processing companies, financial institutions, universities, research organizations, and various government agencies.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Geophysical technologists usually start their careers in junior positions and, with ongoing training during employment, advance to more senior, supervisory positions. Most job opportunities are in medium and small companies where breadth of knowledge is more important than having a particular specialization. The same is true of jobs in the environmental field. Experienced geophysical technologists may become geophysicists with further education and move into private consulting or management positions.

  Educational Paths  
Geophysical technologists require the completion of a two- or three-year college program in geophysical or geological technology or a closely related discipline. Certification in geophysical technology or in a related field is available through associations of technologists and technicians and may be required by employers. A two-year period of supervised work experience is required before certification.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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