Geochemists have a propensity for solving puzzles and a natural curiosity about the Earth and its composition. Geochemical jobs typically involve a lot of outdoor work that entails collecting samples in the field and often analyzing them in the field.

Typical Job Functions

Geochemists study the composition, structure, processes, and other physical aspects of the Earth. They examine the distribution of chemical elements in rocks and minerals, and the movement of these elements into soil and water systems.

There is a wealth of information buried in the liquids, gases, and mineral deposits of rock. Geochemists try to understand this information and make informed decisions on a range of industrial and scientific research applications. Understanding the chemical composition of rocks might:

  • Tell oil companies where to drill for oil
  • Enable scientists to put together broad-based theories about the way the earth is changing
  • Help environmental management companies decide how to dispose of a toxic or hazardous substance
  • Steer mining companies toward use of natural resources with a minimum environmental impact
  • Help to predict the occurrence of earthquakes

This is a field for people who like to work outdoors, since geochemists spend a lot of time in the field, gathering data and analyzing samples on site. Travel can be extensive and the hours irregular.

Typical geochemist work could include:

  • Planning scientific studies, visiting field locations, and collecting samples
  • Analyzing samples in the field or a laboratory
  • Contributing to natural resource use and environmental management policies
  • Guiding oil and gas exploration using aerial photographs and geological data
  • Developing remediation plans to clean up toxic waste sites

Career Paths

Some careers in industry or environmental management, or governmental policy, may not require an advanced degree. But an advanced degree in geochemistry (especially a master’s degree) is expected for most positions. To go into research, a Ph.D. and postdoctoral work are required.

Getting Started

A degree in geosciences is preferred to enter the field of geochemistry. Degrees in physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, engineering, or computer science may be acceptable.

Analytical chemistry is vital for a career in geochemistry. Other valuable courses include:

  • Computer science
  • Engineering
  • Geology
  • Mathematics
  • Mineralogy
  • Petrology
  • Physical sciences
  • Structural geology

Useful skills and abilities to bring to a career in geochemistry include:

  • Problem-solving
  • Critical thinking and data analysis
  • Physical stamina, including the ability to travel to remote or difficult terrain
  • Written and oral communication skills
  • Computer skills, including familiarity with computer modeling, data analysis, and digital mapping

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