You're majoring in Geology? Great! Still choosing a major and trying to figure out whether Geology is a good fit? Learn more!
Forbes magazine lists Geology majors as the 7th most valuable college major (April 2013) - "The College Majors That Are Worth It." And in 2015, Forbes reported that "an impressive 95% of geologists out of 220,000 polled said they were satisfied with their major, the highest of any other sampled" - "Geology Students Are The Happiest On College Campus Study Finds."
Here's a non-exhaustive list of attributes, interests and skills that you may already have, or want to cultivate through a program and career in Earth Science.
You might be curious about:
- The history of life
- Interactions between life and the physical environment
- Processes that transform landscapes
- Natural hazards
- Earth's structure and movement
- Formation and evolution of the planets and solar systems
- Water quality and groundwater
You want to spend time:
- Outside (in any capacity)*
- Conceptualizing 3D space
- Looking at minerals, rocks, and fossils
- Applying biology, chemistry, and physics to the world around you
- Thinking about the bigger picture, in both space and time
You want to learn how to:
- Reconstruct earth, climate, and life history using fossils, rocks, ice, and mud
- Computationally model processes on Earth's surface and at depth
- Manage our future energy resources
- Mitigate natural hazards and climate change
*We recognize that safety in and accessibility to outdoors spaces are highly inequitable. Lacking experience in the outdoors, or preferring indoor spaces does not preclude a career in Earth Science. Many Earth Science careers do not involve fieldwork.
Career exploration starts with discovery of your personal interests, skills, and values. The UC Davis Internship and Career Center (ICC) is a great place to start your career exploration journey. Be sure to connect with your support system - family, friends, and UC Davis resources - to explore:
- What you're interested in
- What skills you have - and which you'd like to develop while in college
- What values you hold
- What personal identities inform your decisions
- What external factors inform your decisions - and how much influence these have on you
- What can I do with a Geology major?
Discover what you can do with your major.
The University of Washington also has a helpful page on what to do with an Earth Science degree.
- How can I positively impact the world?
The United Nations has set seventeen Sustainable Development Goals for the future of the world, and the geosciences are a part of every one of them. This infographic called Geoscience for the Future maps out subdivisions of the geosciences and ways that geoscientists are critical to furthering each one of these goals. See how your Geology degree at UC Davis can lead to a career path to further these goals at eps.ucdavis.edu/sustainability.
- What are employers looking for in geoscientists?
The American Geosciences Institute provides career resources and a career compass that lists skills and activities that undergraduates can do to prepare for jobs in over 20 different subdisciplines of Geology. Be sure to develop both the technical and non-technical skills that employers are looking for.
Non-technical, or “transferable” skills, include writing, communication, flexibility, ethics, time management, and more.
- Transferrable Skills from Academia to the Job Market: A Twitter Thread
- "When applying for nonacademic jobs, think creatively about your transferable skills" by Karin Bodewits
Here's some advice form a former student:
"As you know, groundwater in California is a major issue right now, and there will continue to be tremendous job growth in that sector, so getting some experience in this field will be hugely beneficial for any students looking to start a career in geology."
- Where are geoscientists employed?
Geoscience majors develop the technical and transferable skills to work in a wide variety of fields, including traditional geological careers and emerging industries.Geology majors may find themselves working in:
- Federal government (e.g. Environmental Protection Agency, US Geological Survey, NOAA, Peace Corps, Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service)
- State and local government (e.g. California Geological Survey, California Natural Resources Agency, CALTRANS, California Department of Conservation, Department of Water Resources)
- Research facilities (e.g. Bureau of Land Management)
- Non-Governmental Organizations and non-profits (e.g. Greenpeace, Nature Conservancy)
- Industry (e.g. oil & gas, geotechnical, geothermal, hydrogeology)
- Environmental or geotechnical consulting firms (e.g. Antea Group, ERM, URS, Arcadis, Kleinfelder, Wallace-Kuhl & Associates, Geocon Consultants, GEI Consultants, Formation Environmental, AECOM, Geosyntec, Environ, CH2M)
- Universities and colleges (e.g. researcher, field technician, lab manager)
- Education organizations (e.g. K-12 teaching, outreach organizations)
- Legal (law, policy, and politics)
In addition to traditional geoscience fields, alumni of the department have gone on to teaching, law school, medical school, finance, design, and many other fields.
- What are geoscience jobs like?
As described at the top of this page, geoscientists get to impact the world in so many ways. You can work outside or inside, in a large organization or a small one, and in industries that connect the study of the earth with the people inhabiting this earth. Geoscientists tend to be satisfied with their career field. And there are so many disciplines within the earth sciences that you have hundreds of potential jobs titles you could pursue. As a geoscientist, you can develop a career that matches your values - whatever those may be.
- On the Occupational Outlook Handbook and O*NET Online you can search for job titles, salary information, career outlook, education level, skills, tasks, interests, and activities associated with thousands of careers. Visit the pages for geosciences - as well as related careers that will complement your skills and interests.
- CA Career Zone pulls information from O*NET Online, but includes information specific to California—salaries, number of job openings, etc. It also has helpful career assessments, which you can use this to get insight about your interests, skills, and values and how they might relate to career opportunities. They also have videos about dozens of different careers to help you get a sense of what working in a field is like.
- Transparent California allows you to see the annual salary of people who work for the State of California.
- Career OneStop is similar to career exploration resources offered by O*NET and CA Career Zone, but this this resource also offers information about different types of trainings available for various career fields, job search tips on networking, resumes/cover letters, interview and negotiation skills, and more. They also have helpful tips for job seekers in specific groups—veterans, entry-level workers, young adults, workers with a criminal conviction, and people with disabilities.
- CareerWise, administered by Minnesota State, is a helpful career exploration tool.
- Geoscience Resources on Opportunities in the Workforce (GROW) | A collection of non-academic career resources for geoscience students, mentors, and departments. Use this tool to discover career pathways, explore occupations, view career profiles, and learn how to find a geoscience position that fits your skills and interests.
Get experience and build skills
Talk with your advisor about the skills you want to develop through formal coursework. Geology majors can benefit from coursework in Computer Science, Chemistry, Engineering (ECI 171/L), Environmental Science, Geographic Information Systems (ABT/LDA 150, ESM 186), Hydrology (ESM 100, HYD 144, HYD 146/GEL 156), Math, Physics, or Soil Science (SSC 100). Many of these courses count as major electives. Take PLS 21 to learn about basic computer skills. Data Science is increasingly becoming vital to all areas of earth science, and is taught in classes like STS 101. Consider also courses in writing, communication, or cultural studies to expand your transferable skills and world view. Check the Geology Major planning page for more information about courses.
Read about recommended coursework that aligns with different career paths at eps.ucdavis.edu/sustainability.
The Geologist-In-Training (GIT) exam that's required for the Professional Geologist License in California recommends that you have some experience in hydrology (ESM 100 or HYD 144 for example) and soil science (SSC 100).
Participating in undergraduate research can be a great way to gain work experience or prepare for graduate school. A good way to get started is to think of areas you want to learn more about, then speak with faculty members in that area or who have taught classes you enjoyed. Talking with graduate students and teaching assistants is another effective and approachable way to get involved. Email them or visit them at office hours with a short introduction of yourself and your interests and a little about what you hope to learn. It's appropriate to follow up over email or reach out to multiple faculty or graduate students in order to find a good fit. Learn more at Geology Research.
- Senior Thesis
A Senior Thesis is a research project that is more formalized and spans two academic quarters. Completing a senior thesis is a great way to go more in-depth on a research project, especially as practice for graduate school work.
Students can complete research (GEL 99 or 199), a senior thesis (GEL 194A-194B), or a senior honors thesis (GEL 194HA-194HB) for units by getting permission from the faculty member they will be working with then visiting the undergraduate advisor for a CRN. These classes can count for electives (with a cap on thee units) or the capstone requirement in the Geology major with prior approval; see the General Catalog for more information.
Unlike undergraduate research, internships usually involve working in industry learning the daily tasks of a particular job. Internships can provide a useful networking opportunity, teach technical and transferable skills, and sometimes lead to a job after graduation. Our students have found internships through networking with their peers and recent alumni, professional organizations, job boards, and strategies learned through the Internship and Career Center Internships page.
Students can complete internships for units by registering for GEL 92 or 192. If you have secured an off-campus internship, contact Vice Chair Ryosuke Motani for permission to register for the internship, and then get the CRN from the undergraduate advisor. These units can count for electives (with a cap on these units) in the Geology major; see the General Catalog for more information.
- Blog post: How to Get an Internship as a College Student
- A Guide to Internships | learnhowtobecome.org
It is UC Davis Earth and Planetary Sciences Department policy that paid research, senior thesis, or internship positions can also give unit credit.
- Preparing to be a K-12 teacher
Interested in teaching science at the middle school or high school level? Want to find out more about teaching as a career? Then be sure to take courses offered by the UC Davis CalTeach/Mathematics and Science Teaching program (CalTeach/MAST). They offer internships in local K-12 classrooms, courses in effective teaching practices, and a professional network that will prepare you for a career in science education. Participation in any one CalTeach/MAST course will give you the prerequisite classroom hours for a teaching credential program.
- UC Davis Health Professions Advising
Health Professions Advising (HPA) is a resource at UC Davis dedicated to helping students preparing for a health or medical career. Their workshops and advising are even available to alumni!
- Entrepreneurship isn't just about starting your own company - it can also include developing skills to think differently, solve problems creatively, or work on management skills. The UC Davis Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is a great place to start exploring these skills and more.
Finding a job
- How do I prepare for the job search?
The Internship and Career Center can help you:
- Create and review your resume
- Learn how to make a cover letter
- Learn how to find an internship or job
- Get Transcript Notation for your internship
Check out their workshops and events.
Here are some additional links:
- Career Fairs
Local companies often visit the Internship and Career Fairs each year - and they're specifically looking for geoscientists! Be sure to Prepare for the Fair with the Internship and Career Center's helpful tips, or by talking to advisors and your professional network. Here are some companies to look out for at the fairs:
- Antea Group
- California Department of Conservation
- California Department of Water Resources
- Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
- SAGE Engineering
- Tetra Tech, Inc.
- Wallace-Kuhl & Associates
- US Army Corp of Engineers, Sacramento branch
Networking with professionals and professional organizations can help you learn about possible career paths and current job openings. It is true that networking gives you an advantage in securing these jobs, and can be an intimidating process. Remember that everyone you know is part of your network and can help you in your career path. This includes instructors, advisors, peers, alumni, professionals, family members, and friends. Consider networking events as opportunities to learn and grow rather than a test of your knowledge and ability to mingle.
Here is just one way job searching and networking can look, from a 2013 alumnus:
"I started out just doing searches on [Handshake], indeed.com, and linkedin.com. There are often Student Assistant positions with the state on jobs.ca.gov, and federal positions on usajobs.gov. But what I have found to be the most effective way to find positions is to just look up companies and see if they have any jobs posted on their website. I just search for geological consulting, geotechnical engineering, environmental consulting, or any other similar companies and see what I can find. It's also easy to find companies on linkedin. I'm getting to the point now where I am going to start contacting companies that don't have any jobs posted on their website just to make a contact in case they are looking for someone in the future. There are a lot of consulting and engineering companies in Sacramento that hire geologists and many of them offer internships as well."
- Professional Organizations
Joining a professional organization is a good way to learn about careers and meet career professionals, who may even be looking to hire recent graduates for entry-level positions. Many national organizations have student chapters and cheaper - or free - annual membership costs. There are many professional organizations in the geosciences, including:
- AGI Member Societies
- American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG), UC Davis student chapter
- American Geophysical Union
- Association for Women Geoscientists (AWG), UC Davis student chapter
- Members get access to resume review
- Geochemical Society
- Geological Society of America
- Groundwater Resources Association of California
- International Association of Hydrogeologists
- Sacramento Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists
These organizations host events, and they love to see students there ready to learn and connect.
- AGI Member Societies
Professional organizations across the country will often host an annual conference to bring together scientists to share their research and latest developments. There are poster and oral presentations, networking sessions, and casual interactions – all great ways to meet other scientists, practice networking, and learn about career paths. Students can often get funding for travel to conferences. If you participate in undergraduate or graduate level research, talk to your faculty advisor about presenting your work there - which is excellent experience for your future career or graduate school.
Here are some common conferences for students to attend:
- American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting (usually local, so it's cheaper to travel to!)
- Geological Society of America Connects Annual Meeting (very student friendly!)
- GSA Cordilleran Section Meeting
- These are smaller and have career events for students
- Lunar and Planetary Science Conference
- Southern California Earthquake Center Annual Meeting
- Bay Area Planetary Science Conference
- Seismological Society of America Meeting
- What kinds of licenses or certificates will I need to be a geologist?
Becoming licensed as a Professional Geologist can help you advance your career, make a higher salary, and demonstrate your expertise in Geology. Certification as a Geologist-In-Training (GIT) is the first step toward licensure as a Professional Geologist. GIT certification gives you credibility when applying for jobs in both private industry as well as with the State of California. Many students take the Fundamentals of Geology (FG) exam for the GIT senior year or soon after graduating, as it uses knowledge from your Bachelor's level coursework. The Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Geology at UC Davis satisfies the coursework requirements to take the FG, while Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) degree students would need to take additional coursework. View a very informative presentation on the GIT program given by Laurie Racca (a licensed Professional Geologist with over 25 years of experience in environmental and geotechnical consulting) during a visit to the Earth and Planetary Sciences department in January 2016.
The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences has funds to help pay for the GIT Exam; see Geology Honors, Scholarships, and Awards.
- Where can I find internships and jobs?
A few of the many job boards and companies that Geology majors might consider:
- American Geosciences Institute internships
- Association for Women Geoscientists Career Opportunities
- BP Student Opportunities
- California Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education
- California Internship Network
- California Water Boards Internships
- Caltrans Student Assistants and Volunteers
- Careers with the state of California | All state internships and jobs are posted here.
- Careers with the federal government | All federal internships and jobs are posted here.
- Pathways internship program | Get started working for the federal government
- Chevron Earth Science Internships
- Earth Science Jobs email list
- Earth Science Women's Network - faculty, postdoc, and graduate student jobs
- GeoCareers | Geological Society of America
- GeoCorps™ America | The Geological Society of America offers temporary paid summer positions working in national parks, national forests, and BLM land through this program
- Geological Society of America job board
- Geoscientists-in-the-Parks (GIP) program | National Park Service
- GIS Jobs Clearinghouse
- Green Jobs Board
- Handshake | UC Davis Internship and Career Center
- IRIS Summer Internship Program
- Josh's Water Jobs | A global collection of jobs in water
- Sign up for their weekly email list
- Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Internships
- Sign up for custom job alerts
- Mosaics in Science Diversity Internship Program | National Park Service
- National Energy Technology Laboratory Professional Internship Program
- NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)
- NOAA Volunteer Opportunities
- NOAA Jobs
- Schmidt Marine Jobs Board
- Southern California Earthquake Center Internships
- UC Center Sacramento
- UC Center Washington
- UC Davis Department of Environmental Science and Policy Internship list
- UC Davis Department of Environmental Science and Policy Undergraduate Research Opportunities
- UC Davis Global Learning Hub | Global opportunities after graduation
- UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center Volunteer Opportunities, Internships, and Jobs
- US Department of Energy Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship
- USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program
- USGS Pathways Internship program
- Where have our alumni worked?
- Antea Group
California Bureau of Mine Reclamation
California Department of Conservation
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
ICC data on alumni outcomes
More coming soon!
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the workplace
- How do I apply to State and Federal Government jobs?
Applying to government jobs comes with extra steps, but you have help in navigating this process - and it's worth it! Government jobs tend to pay well, have great benefits, and provide a lot of opportunities. The Internship and Career Center runs workshops each quarter on applying to state and federal jobs.
Federal government jobs are always posted on usajobs.gov. Federal jobs are classified in a “series” or “grade”; learn more at https://www.usajobs.gov/Help/faq/pay/series-and-grade. Grades GS-5 through GS-7 are appropriate for students with a Bachelor's degree. You can qualify for GS-9 positions if you have a master's degree, and for GS-11 positions if you have a doctorate. And here is advice on what to include in your federal resume.
Tips on getting a federal job:
California state jobs are posted at calcareers.ca.gov.
- Preparing for and Applying to Graduate School
- See more at https://eps.ucdavis.edu/students/careers/gradschool
Putting it all together
It can be very valuable to talk through your career self-exploration with your major advisor and faculty advisors to explore your path to a geosciences career. The Internship and Career Center Career Advisors can help you explore and develop your individual career path, as can the advisors at Pre-Graduate and Law School advising, Health Professions Advising, or CalTeach/MAST.
You will want to take the useful information you discover about your interests and skills and turn them into goals and plans with the help of your advisors and your personal support system.
Here are some resources to help you put this all together:
- Internship and Career Center Career Resource Manual. See page 4 for a "4-Year Plan of Career Development"
- Roadmap for Geology majors
- Take career assessments to help you match your interests and skills to careers.
- CA Career Zone Assessments: Connect your interests, personality, skills, and more to various career options. This is free, general tool that utilizes workforce data from the state of California.
- O*Net Interest Profiler: Connect your interests to career options. This is free, general tool that utilizes workforce data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Other free and at-cost career assessments are available through Student Health & Counseling.
- UC Davis Success Coaching can help you with decision-making strategies and bring your values in to your decision making.
- Community Resources can help you make meaning of the career information you have learned within the context of understanding yourself.