Geoscientists and oceanographers (NOC 2113)

High opportunity occupation

About this job

Geoscientists and oceanographers include geologists, geochemists and geophysicists.

Geoscientists do exploration and research to gain knowledge of the earth's structure, composition and processes. They locate, identify and extract hydrocarbon, mineral and groundwater resources to find out how development and waste disposal projects affect the environment and to lessen the effects. They also examine earth surface processes—for example, stream flow and bank erosion. 

Oceanographers do exploration and research on:

  • ocean processes and phenomena
  • biological, chemical and physical characteristics of oceans
  • interactions with atmospheric and geological environments
  • impacts of human activity on oceans and marine ecosystems

Want to learn more? Watch this WorkBC Career Trek video and see what it’s like to work in this type of career.

Geoscientists may be self-employed or work for:

  • petroleum and mining companies
  • geology, geophysics and engineering consulting firms
  • governments
  • educational institutions

Oceanographers may be self-employed or work for:

  • governments
  • educational institutions
  • private companies engaged in exploring seafloor deposits and sea farming areas
Common job titles
  • biostratigrapher
  • co-ordinator, well site - geology
  • geochemist
  • geodesist
  • geologist, consulting / development
  • geologist, environmental / exploration



  • 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.


  • 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.


Special duties

Geoscientists may specialize in a number of different areas based on their fields.


  • may specialize in coal geology, environmental geology, geochronology, hydrogeology, mineral deposits or mining, petroleum geology, stratigraphy, tectonics, volcanology or in other fields.


  • may specialize in analytical geochemistry, hydrogeochemistry, applied or mineral exploration geochemistry or petroleum geochemistry or in other fields.


  • may specialize in areas, such as petroleum geology, earth physics, geodesy, geoelectromagnetism, seismology or in other fields


  • may specialize in biological, chemical, geological or physical oceanography, or in other fields related to the study of oceans.

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.

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 report 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 that 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 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.

Career paths and resources

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.

Additional resources