Careers in Geoscience

You're majoring in Geology? Great! Still choosing a major and trying to figure out whether Geology is a good fit? Learn more!

Be happy.

​​​​​​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
Career Exploration
  • What can I do with a Geology major?
  • Discover what you can do with your major.

    See what UC Davis Alumni have done with their degree on the LinkedIn UC Davis Alumni page (LinkedIn login required).

    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
  • 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.


    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
  • Coursework
  • 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

    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).

  • Research
  • 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.

  • Internships
  • 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.

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.

    The UC Davis School of Education offers a teaching credential program, an undergraduate minor, and advice about a career in teaching.

  • 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
  • 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
Graduate School
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: