Geoscientists and oceanographers (NOC 2113)

Scientist with rock sample and magnifier

Minimum education: Bachelor's, Graduate or First Professional Degree

  • Average salary
  • Occupation size
  • Job stability
  • Demand growth
  • Below Average
  • Excellent

Profile last updated: August 31, 2016

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01 Overview

Geoscientists include geologists, geochemists and geophysicistsPeople in this occupation:

  • conduct programs of exploration and research to extend knowledge of the structure, composition and processes of the earth. .  locate, identify and extract hydrocarbon, mineral and groundwater resources and to assess and mitigate the effects of development and waste disposal projects on the environmentexamine earth surface processes, such as stream flow and bank erosion, to assist in design works
  • are employed by petroleum and mining companies, consulting geology, geophysics and engineering firms, and by governments and educational institutions, or are self-employed


  • conduct programs of exploration and research on ocean processes and phenomena, biological, chemical and physical characteristics of oceans, interactions with atmospheric and geological environments and impacts of human activity on oceans and marine ecosystems
  • are employed by governments, educational institutions and private companies engaged in exploration of seafloor deposits and seafarming areas, or they may be self-employed


02 Earnings

Provincial median salary


Source: Estimated median employment income based on 2015 Job Bank median hourly wage rate (median annual salary = hourly wage rate x 40 (hours per week) x 52.14 (weeks per year))

Provincial hourly rate

  • $21.98/hr
  • $36.92/hr
  • $59.52/hr

03 Duties

Geoscientists perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Conduct theoretical and applied research to extend knowledge of surface and subsurface features of the earth, its history and the operation of physical, chemical and biological systems that control its evolution
  • Plan, direct and participate in geological, geochemical and geophysical field studies, drilling and geological testing programs
  • Plan and conduct seismic, electromagnetic, magnetic, gravimetric, radiometric, radar and other remote sensing programs
  • Plan, direct and participate in analyses of geological, geochemical and geophysical survey data, well logs and other test results, maps, notes and cross sections
  • Develop models and applied software for the analysis and interpretation of data
  • Plan and conduct analytical studies of core samples, drill cuttings and rock samples to identify chemical, mineral, hydrocarbon and biological composition and to assess depositional environments and geological age
  • Assess the size, orientation and composition of mineral ore bodies and hydrocarbon deposits
  • Identify deposits of construction materials and determine their characteristics and suitability for use as concrete aggregates, road fill or for other applications
  • Conduct geological and geophysical studies for regional development and advise in areas such as site selection, waste management and restoration of contaminated sites
  • Recommend the acquisition of lands, exploration and mapping programs and mine development
  • Identify and advise on anticipated natural risks such as slope erosion, landslides, soil instability, subsidence, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions
  • May supervise and co-ordinate well drilling, completion and work-overs and mining activities.

Oceanographers perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Conduct theoretical and applied oceanographic research programs and expeditions to extend knowledge of the physical, chemical and biological properties and functioning of oceans
  • Plan, direct and participate in sampling and analysis of seawater, plankton, fish, sediments and rocks
  • Study physical properties of oceans to develop models, charts and computer simulations of ocean conditions, such as tides, waves, currents and sediment transport
  • Explore ocean floor and submarine geological structures, conduct seismic surveys and study formation of ocean basins and other structures to map ocean floor, coastal erosion, sediment accumulation and areas for offshore oil and gas exploration
  • Plan and conduct investigations on ocean chemical properties and processes, ocean floor and marine atmosphere and undersea volcanoes to study impacts of environmental changes
  • Study marine life and interaction with physical and chemical environments to assess impacts of pollutants on marine ecology and to develop ecologically-based methods of seafarming.


04 Work environment

Geoscientists spend time both in an office and outdoors conducting field work. Field work locations also vary depending on the specialization of the work and the location of the work site. As an example, geologists or geomorphologists may frequently travel to remote field sites by helicopter or other means and cover large areas on foot, whereas geological and geophysical oceanographers often collect data while at sea. Exploration geologists and geophysicists often are required to relocate, as their work requires them to live in different communities adjacent to work sites, in remote areas of B.C., other parts of Canada or overseas.

Geoscientists usually work regular hours; however, they may be required to work longer hours when required due to seasonal site access limitations, remote location or data gathering equipment requirements. Those working in corporate, consulting or research positions may experience stress when facing deadlines to submit proposals, research grant applications and technical reports.

Field work in locations, such as mines, drill sites or rugged terrain, may expose individuals to safety hazards, which can be minimized with safety precautions. Geoscientists may experience exposure to extreme weather conditions, insects, wildlife and other outdoor hazards while working in the field. Field work such as gathering samples may require geoscientists to hammer, dig, use tools, and come in contact with water, snow and ice. Physical stamina is important for doing field work, since this requires carrying rock samples and heavy equipment.

Industry sources also report that the globalization of mineral exploration has resulted in many B.C.-based geoscientists working on projects in other countries and climates around the world, often in developing countries in remote rural settings. As such, the risk of infections, diseases and simple injury (because of the distance from modern medical care facilities) is now greater. However, this is a controllable risk if it is well managed.

Some geochemists may be exposed to health or safety hazards when handling certain chemicals; however, there is little risk if proper procedures are followed.

05 Workforce and employment statistics

Workforce characteristics

1,900 workers are employed
56 % of workers are working mostly full time

Employment by gender

Labour force by age group

Source: 2011 National Household Survey

06 Job requirements

Education, training and qualifications

Geologists, Geochemists and Geophysicists must complete a bachelor’s degree in geology, environmental geoscience, geochemistry, geophysics or a related discipline. In order to achieve the required registration by the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia (APEGBC) geoscientists must:

  • take a certain number of required university courses (an honours degree from most universities will meet most of these academic requirements)
  • gain several years of supervised work experience under a professional geoscientist
  • pass a professional ethics examination.

For more information, see the Canadian Council of Professional Geoscientists™ national guidelines document for the profession at:

Other beneficial qualifications for a person in this career include:

  • a master's degree or a PhD is required for some positions
  • business administration education for geoscientists working in project management
  • first aid certification is also beneficial for workers that conduct field assessments
  • Geoscientists require a university degree in geology, geochemistry, geophysics or a related discipline.
  • A master's or doctoral degree in geophysics, physics, mathematics or engineering may be required for employment as a geophysicist.
  • Registration with a provincial or territorial association of professional engineers, geologists, geophysicists or geoscientists is usually required for employment and is mandatory to practice in Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
  • Geologists and geophysicists are eligible for registration following graduation from an accredited educational program and after several years of supervised work experience and, in some provinces, after passing a professional practice examination.
  • Oceanographers require a university degree in science, mathematics, statistics or engineering and usually require a graduate degree in oceanography.

07 Subject Areas & Training Resources


08 Career paths

New graduates may work as a geoscientist in training (G.I.T.) in order to obtain work experience necessary to become professionally designated. Industry sources report that recent graduates typically obtain positions as a field geoscientist or mapping geologist.

With further training and experience people may move between specializations in this group or they may advance into senior positions, such as project geologist, project manager, senior geoscientist, senior hydrogeologist, manager exploration, principal geologist, partner, VP exploration.

09Employment outlook

N/A - Data not available or not provided due to data quality issues

Provincial Outlook:

Unemployment rate

  • 6.2%
  • 5.2%
  • 4.5%

Job openings

  • 2015
  • 110
  • 60

10 Insights from industry

New job openings will result from both the creation of new jobs and retirement.

There will be good opportunities for job seekers due to the relatively limited number of experienced workers available to fill job openings. Industry sources report that due to low levels of career recruitment and retention in the 1980’s and 1990’s, there are an insufficient number of highly qualified geoscientists available to replace experienced geoscientists who retire. Much of this gap is expected to be filled by immigration.

Industry sources also report that more geoscientists are expected to be based in the Lower Mainland, and less in other areas of B.C. Improved travel and instant communications make it easier for geoscientists to reside centrally and work remotely. There will be more opportunities for workers who have their Geoscientist In Training (G.I.T.) or Professional Geoscientist (P.Geo) designation.

New jobs in this occupational group will likely come from oil, gas and mining exploration activities in the province, or from activities in other part of the world being undertaken by companies based in B.C. Prices of oil, gas and certain metals and minerals have soared in recent years due to increased world demand, which will generate some new job opportunities. In particular, industry sources reportit’s been reported that demand for workers in the minerals sector is currently strong, and there is an insufficient supply of new graduates to fill job vacancies.

Industry sources also reports that opportunities will also likely become available in the environmental geosciences sector. This sector employs the second highest number of geoscientists and is currently experiencing a significant shortage of qualified graduates.

Many of the growth opportunities for geologist, geochemist and geophysicist specialties are also expected to come from growth in business services that provide geological services, either internationally or to local companies involved in international exploration.

Industry sources report thatT there is expected to be a greater demand of geoscientists for land use planning, risk assessment and water resources management, and less demand of geoscientists for surveying and mapping. Sources also suggest that there is currently greater demand of geoscientists to work on independent power projects in B.C.

In addition, new graduates will be needed in field-oriented jobs, as older workers may have moved to senior positions or no longer wish to work in the occupation.

Industry sources also reportIt is also reported that the globalization of mineral exploration has resulted in many B.C.-based geoscientists working on projects in other countries and climates around the world, often in developing countries in remote rural settings. As such, the risk of infections, diseases and simple injury (because of the distance from modern medical care facilities) is now greater. However, this is a controllable risk if it is well managed.

11 Additional resources