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Careers in Geoscience: Oil and Gas

Home > Careers in Geoscience > Oil and Gas

Careers in Geoscience: Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas geoscientists are employed by organisations working in the hydrocarbon (petroleum and gas) extraction industry, and work with either conventional or unconventional resources. Resources can be found in both onshore (e.g. Cooper Basin, SA) and offshore (e.g. North West Shelf, WA) environments. Conventional reservoirs are naturally porous and permeable, where well bores produce free flowing oil and gas, with limited need to actively pump. In comparison, unconventional reservoirs, like coal seam gas or tight shale gas, have reduced permeability requiring more complex extraction methods. As a few examples, geoscientists in this area may work as an operations geologist, asset/development geologist, exploration geologist, well-site geologist, petrophysicist, geophysicist, or in geomechanics. They are responsible for identifying and assessing the location, quantity and quality of petroleum resources such as oil, gas and condensate accumulations, and assisting with the design for extraction of these products. Their work can be field or office based, or a mix of the two. Fieldwork activities are made up of geological mapping, drill core, chip and mud logging, and collection of samples/data for geochemical, geomechanical, or geophysical analysis. Office activities include integration of subsurface data, interpretation and analysis of geological, geochemical and geophysical surveys, 2D and 3D modelling of data including resource modelling and reporting, and planning drilling activities based on all of the above.


Activities include exploration for and development of accumulations of oil, gas and condensate. The location of these activities is restricted to sedimentary basins throughout the world where oil and gas accumulations are possible.

Typical duties include:

  • Investigating basin development and structure of sedimentary basins and the development of hydrocarbon deposits and accumulations within them
  • Surveying and mapping geological type sections and occurrences within the basins
  • Drill core logging of existing stratigraphic drill holes, and sampling for geochemical and geophysical information
  • Analysing geological, geochemical and geophysical (particularly seismic and petrophysical log) data
  • Data integration
  • Modelling of integrated data using specialist 2D and 3D computer applications
  • Ascertaining extraction parameters and risks
  • Preparation and quality control of reports
  • Planning & proposing drilling locations and campaigns based on integrated models of geological prospects & plays
  • Advising managerial, technical and engineering on the development of resources
  • Geological risking of plays and prospects, quantification, classification and reporting of in-place hydrocarbon resources and reserves.
Skills Required

The job carries a high level of responsibility, as the employee must ensure the accuracy of forecasts - initiating extraction processes is often very expensive and mistakes can be costly. Consequently, training is an important feature of the job.

Typical skills required are:

  • Knowledge of a range of sciences and their applications
  • Ability to work within a multidisciplinary team of scientists and engineers
  • Good organisational & time management skills
  • Computer literacy and ability to analyse numerical and graphical data
  • Good written and verbal communication skills
  • Geological mapping, rock identification, structural geology, good knowledge of geochemistry and geophysics, spatial skills and the ability to think in 3D.




University unit suggestions

Core subjects
basin analysis
structural geology
mineral identification
field mapping
Specialty subjects
petroleum geoscience
geospatial mapping
intro reservoir engineering
statistical analysis of data


Statutory Requirements

Competent person for reporting to ASX is required to have at least five years’ experience in the commodity and activities engaged in (generally recognised by membership level of AIG as a minimum requirement).


Job Opportunities

Oil and gas geologists are typically employed by ASX Listed Junior Explorers, mid-tier oil and gas companies, major multi-national petroleum companies, consulting organisations, oil & gas service companies. Peripheral areas of employment are exploration contracting companies, geophysical contractors, government, CSIRO and academia.  





Residential/Lifestyle Options

  • More likely based in capital city or regional centre with limited but regular periods of site work, generally remote
  • Can be campaign based (operate at exploration site for duration of work program such as drill program). These periods of work are generally on set rosters

Pros & Cons

  • Opportunities for travel, domestic and international
  • Varied work programs
  • Many potential career paths
  • Multi skilling and multi-disciplinary teamwork required


  • Absence from home for long periods of time is common and international work is often necessary
  • Long hours, shift and weekend work are also regularly required
  • Exploration does not always meet with success
  • The nature of a cyclic industry


Do you work a regular length day/week?

For office-based roles, yes. The majority of mid- to top-tier oil and gas companies employ office-based geoscientists who generally work 8.30 am – 5 pm Monday to Friday. This may vary depending on your duties. Geologists can be on-call for certain rigs or when drilling certain well designs. Rigs drill 24/7 so this may involve additional work to be completed at anytime of the day or night.
Field based roles work on a roster and often involve either 12-hr shifts (day or night) or a floating shift (required to be working for certain decision points while drilling the rig).

How much time do you spend in the bush?

Most of the field work in oil and gas is contracted out to service companies, where you would work as a well-site geologist. You would work in set rosters. Onshore, this is typically 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off. Offshore, this is typically 1 month on, 1 month off.

What is the career progression in oil and gas?

Junior Geologist

Project Geologist

Senior Geologist

Staff Geologist

Chief Geologist

Exploration Manager

Technical or Managing Director

Are there opportunities to work overseas?

Yes, economical oil and gas is found on all the continents (except Antarctica). Overseas work is highly dependent on the company you work for, so put time into researching their ‘areas of operation’ if international work is your career objective.

Should I  do science at school?

Yes, a solid grounding of mathematics and science (in particular chemistry and physics) is important for all areas of geoscience practice. If Geology/Earth Science is available at school level it is highly recommended.

Do I need to be physically fit?

Working as a geoscientist can be physically demanding.  Field work generally involves various physical activities particularly in remote areas. Whether it be walking to get to a site, mapping, collecting and carrying samples, working around drill site or working from 4WD vehicles or helicopters a good level of fitness is generally required.

As a geoscientist do you work with new technology?

Geoscience is often at the cutting edge of new technology.  Many of the current gaming platforms were developed from 3D computing technology developed within the mining industry. New technologies are constantly being used and developed within the geoscience professions to enhance our knowledge of the earth. Modelling techniques, visualisation and the use of mobile technology are widely used.


The following are video and You Tube links that are relevant to this career path.

AIG Career Session 1; Energy –  Coal, Oil and Gas and CSG (64 mins)

A panel of experienced geoscientists from the Coal, Oil and Gas and CSG industries talk about what they do each day, how they broke into the industry, transferring between industries, demand for geologist in their sector and tips for breaking into their sector.

Fact Sheets

See also sheets for related career paths