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Careers in Geoscience: Engineering Geology

Home > Careers in Geoscience > Engineering Geology

Careers in Geoscience: Engineering Geology

Engineering Geoscientist’s role focusses primarily on the understanding of geological and geotechnical conditions and how they may change in time and space in regard to particular engineering projects such as major construction, infrastructure, mining and resource developments and include ground and slope stabilisation, foundations characterisation and design, interpretive modelling, sourcing of suitable materials, recognition of hazards and risk factors and the forensic investigations after failures. They are specialist geologists dealing in the measurement, assessment and review of soils, water and rocks and the engineering impacts of natural processes or human activities such as construction projects, urban or industrial development, mining and resource developments and the maintenance and monitoring of the outcomes of these projects. They are employed by organisations in many different sectors of industry (particularly construction), government, mining development, oil and gas and others. Their work can be part office and part field and laboratory based, although extensive site is necessary to collect and test sites and drill-hole samples.

Activities

Engineering Geoscientists examine the structure, competence and geotechnical aspects of a site and develop a conceptual ground model for the site and assist in designing solutions tailored to the situation. This may involve investigation, analysis and prediction of ground behaviour, water conditions including ground water and will also encompass a risk assessment and mitigation of any hazards, design and supervision of earthworks, specialist ground treatments and foundations including remediation works.

Typical duties include:

  • Plan scientific studies, site investigations and field locations including geological observations and mapping, measuring soil and rock integrities and collect samples to complement these activities
  • Planning, supervision of drilling programs to test formation and rock competencies and sampling
  • Analysing samples, either in the field or in the laboratory
  • 2D and 3D modelling of rock integrity data wide variety of data from various sources
  • Understanding of licencing, permitting and design and waste management policy and regulations
  • Assisting design teams in the overall design of the project
  • Stakeholder engagement and reporting to clients, government, local councils and other stakeholders.
Skills Required

The job carries a high level of responsibility, as the employee must ensure the accuracy and integrity of a wide variety of information from different sources and forecasts and have the ability to communicate effectively on risks and hazards. Consequently, training is an important feature of the job.

Typical skills required are:

  • Knowledge of a range of sciences and their applications
  • Problem solving skills, analytical skills
  • Ability to work within a multidisciplinary team of scientists and engineers
  • Good organisational skills
  • Computer literacy and ability to analyse numerical and graphical data
  • Good written and verbal communication skills
  • Ability to work in 2D and 3D, spatial skills
  • Geological mapping, rock recognition, structure, physical properties of rocks and materials.

 

 

 

University unit suggestions

Core subjects
geology
structural geology
mineral identification
soil science
engineering
Specialty subjects
petrology
petrophysics

 

Statutory Requirements

Registration in Australia as a Registered Engineering Geoscientist through AIG (RPGeo) is recommended.
Registration

Full members of the AIG can become registered as a Registered Professional Geoscientist (RPGeo).  In several states, government organisations may require either Full membership of the AIG or registration as RPGeo to report to various authorities.  Further information on these requirements should be found at the relevant state authority.

Registration as RPGeo is recommended for geoscientists practising in these areas. For further information go to https://www.aig.org.au/about-aig/membership/rpgeo-program/

 

 

Job Opportunities

Engineering geoscientists are typically employed by major construction companies, major mining operations particularly underground, large contracting organisations (civil works), consulting organisations, state and local government (urban planning).  To a lesser extent specialist contracting and consulting companies, federal government and CSIRO also may employ engineering geologists.

 

Lifestyle

 

 

Residential/Lifestyle Options

  • More likely based in capital city or regional centre with work areas either locally or remote
  • Can be campaign based (operate at construction site for duration of work program such as drilling/testing program)

Pros & Cons

Opportunities
  • Opportunities for travel, domestic and international
  • Varied work programs, varied data sources and types
  • Multi skilling and multi-disciplinary teamwork required

 

Drawbacks
  • Long hours, shift and weekend work are also regularly required, irregular schedules

FAQs

Do you work a regular length day/week?

Engineering geoscientists often are based in major cities or regional centres and travel to their work/construction sites when field work is required. When they are working in the city office they would work a regular day/week. They may carry out field work for short periods of time although larger projects such as site drilling/testing projects may take much longer periods and may involve longer work days and/or shift work.

Are there opportunities to work overseas?

Yes, major infrastructure, construction and mining projects are occurring all around the world.  These infrastructure developments cannot happen without input from engineering geoscientists. A factor which may influence where engineering geoscientists work is any language skills that person may have (French is widely used in Canada and Africa, Spanish and Portuguese in South America).

What is the difference between an Engineering Geoscientist and a Geotechnical Engineer?

Engineering Geoscience and Geotechnical Engineering fields broadly overlap. Geotechnical Engineers are generally engineers who utilise their knowledge of geology in the design and construction of a project whether it be a civil or mining development.  They principally deal with soil, rock and ground water engineering and have mostly completed an engineering degree with minor studies in geoscience.  Engineering Geoscientists have a dominantly geoscientific education/background with additional education/training in geotechnical engineering and geo-environmental science and are more likely to work in mining rather than construction where their geological knowledge can be used to develop 3D rock models/studies that will then be utilised by engineers.

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.

Videos

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

AIG Career Session 2; Niche Geoscience Services – Hydrogeology, Engineering Geology, Geochemistry, Geophysics (63 mins)

A panel of experienced geoscientists in hydrogeology, engineering geology, geochemistry, geophysics and the consulting sector talk about what they do each day, how they broke into the industry, transferring between industry sectors, demand for geologists in their sector and interesting aspects of their work.

Fact Sheets

See also sheets for related career paths