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Careers in Geoscience: Geophysics

Home > Careers in Geoscience > Geophysics

Careers in Geoscience: Geophysics

Geophysicists are employed by organisations in many different sectors of industry, government including environment, mineral exploration, oil and gas and others. They are specialist geologists dealing in geophysical effects and responses to a wide range of phenomena. Geophysical data is often collected using aerial as well as ground and seaborne surveys. The types of data collected may include electrical, magnetic, seismic, gravity, radar and topographic information. Some examples of the fields in which geophysicist may work are looking for the geophysical responses of ore deposits, coal and oil and gas resources, studying the geophysical characteristics of certain rock types or geological situations and the measurement and implications for geological and environmental hazards, agriculture, the characterisation and assessment of engineering sites or underground water supplies. Research geophysicists use similar techniques to study the internal structure of the earth and particularly aspects of the earth’s crust including earthquakes, vulcanicity, tectonic plate movements and other phenomena. Geophysical work is often divided into the specialist roles of;

  • data collection carried out by specialist contracting organisations involving a majority of site based work and
  • data analysis and modelling specialties generally carried out by specialist consultants mostly office based with irregular site visits.
Activities

Geophysicists study the structure and composition of parts of the earth's crust by measuring the physical properties of rocks and minerals and their response in electrical, magnetic, gravitational fields and to seismic events/stimulation. These measurements can be taken using aerial, seaborne or ground based surveys utilising sophisticated instruments. Analysis and modelling of the resultant data involves specialist computing programs and knowledge.

Typical duties include:

  • Planning scientific studies, visiting field locations, and collecting samples
  • Analysing physical properties of samples in the laboratory
  • Carrying out of aerial, seaborne and ground based surveys
  • Supervising the quality of surveys and data collected by 3rd parties on behalf of the client organisation
  • Analysing and modelling of geophysical data using specialist 2D and 3D computer applications
  • Guiding mineral, coal and oil/gas exploration using geophysical data
  • Contributing to the optimal extraction of natural resources and to environmental management policies
  • Measuring and analysing geophysical properties in relation to geological and environmental hazards, in agriculture and in engineering sites or underground water supplies
  • Contributing to natural resource use and environmental management policies
  • Preparing reports for clients, government, local councils etc.
Skills Required

The job carries a high level of responsibility, as the employee must ensure the accuracy, integrity of information and forecasts – initiating extraction processes is often very expensive, geological hazards can offer serious risks to communities and mistakes in any areas 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
  • Solid grounding in applied geology generally favourable
  • Problem solving skills, analytical skills
  • Ability to work within a multidisciplinary team of scientists and engineers
  • Good organisational skills
  • Sound background and knowledge of mathematics and physics
  • Computer literacy and ability to analyse numerical and graphical data
  • Ability to think and visualise in 3D
  • Good written and verbal communication skills.

 

 

 

University unit suggestions

Core subjects
geology
geophysics
rock and mineral identification
mathematics
physics
petrophysics
computing
Specialty subjects
GIS
economic geology
basin analysis
petroleum studies
structural geology and tectonics
environmental geoscience

 

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).
Transitioning to Full Member

Full members of the AIG can sign off on ASX reports given that they have sufficient experience to satisfy the “competent person” designation (under the JORC Code 2012) for the commodity and information on which they are reporting.  A Graduate Member can transition to Full Membership once they have achieved a minimum of five years relevant experience.

The JORC Code states that “a Competent Person must have a minimum of five years relevant experience in the style of mineralisation or type of deposit under consideration and in the activity which that person in undertaking”. Further information can be obtained from the JORC website and copies of the code can be downloaded.

 

Job Opportunities

Geophysicists are employed by ASX Listed mid tier mining companies, major mining companies, oil and gas companies including coal seam gas, consulting organisations (petroleum, mineral exploration). In addition, specialist geophysical service providers/contractors and consultants), State and Federal government organisations employ geophysicist within their organisations. Peripheral areas where employment may be found are junior exploration companies, exploration contracting/consulting companies and the CSIRO.

 

Lifestyle

 

 

Residential/Lifestyle Options

  • More likely based in capital city or regional centre (e.g Kalgoorlie, Mt Isa, Orange, Bendigo) with work areas either locally or remote
  • Can be campaign based (operate at exploration site for duration of work program)
  • Varies depending on the industry sector
  • Often involves up to 70% field time in early years reducing to around 20% experienced and consulting geophysicists. Field time is generally much less in the oil and gas sector.

Pros & Cons

Opportunities
  • Opportunities for travel, domestic and international
  • Varied work programs
  • Remuneration commonly above average
  • Multi skilling and multi-disciplinary teamwork required
  • More regular schedules for consultant and senior geophysicists

 

Drawbacks
  • Early career stage requires good exposure to multiple geological settings prior to specialising
  • Absence from home for long periods of time is common especially in early career and international work is often necessary
  • Long hours, shift and weekend work are also regularly required, irregular schedules
  • Higher degree preferred
  • Specialist roles can be cyclical in mining and exploration companies

FAQs

Do you work a regular length day/week?

Geophysicists have varying work patterns.  They are often are based in major cities and travel to their work sites when field work is required. When they are working in the city office they would work a regular day/week. When they are carrying out field work they may work for short periods on site or in the case of larger projects such as geophysical surveys/data collection, work for longer periods based on a roster or on a campaign.  These may involve longer work days and/or shift work.

How do I become a specialist?

A student geoscientist wishing to specialise in geophysics must make sure that their unit selection at university is appropriate to their specialty. They are also advised to consider a higher degree in that area.  However, a graduate geologist who may develop an interest in geophysics through their career may become a specialist by undertaking training courses appropriate to their speciality as part of their continuing professional development.

How do geophysicist interact with other professional?

Specialist Geophysicists carry out a consultative role. They provide essential input to the planning, execution and analysis of geophysical programs and need to liaise with project or contracting teams on the ground which may include the project geologist, field assistants and contractors as well as exploration management. Geophysicists deal with very large datasets and have an important role in managing that data within an organisation and may liaise with data managers, technical support and software providers in their areas of interest.

Are there opportunities to work overseas?

Yes, specialist geophysicists often travel to projects (such as exploration, mining or environmental) which occur on all the continents (except Antartica) and Australian geophysicists have a good reputation in this field. The geophyscist will work with local project teams advising them on appropriate geophysical methods, assisting in organising contracts, QA/QC practice, analysing datasets, planning programs and problem solving.

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.

RPGeo Forum Geophysics (72 mins)

Consultant Geophysicist Kate Hine talks about Electromagnetics and IP, how they work, uses in mineral exploration, downhole examples, discoveries by EM and IP,  with examples from Broken Hill, Cobar and Woodlawn.

Fact Sheets

See also sheets for related career paths