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Careers in Geoscience: Geochemistry

Home > Careers in Geoscience > Geochemistry

Careers in Geoscience: Geochemistry

Geochemists are employed by organisations in many different sectors of industry, government, environment, mineral exploration, oil and gas and others. They are specialist geologists dealing in geochemical effects and responses to a wide range of phenomena. Some examples of the fields in which they work are - predicting and measuring the surface geochemical response of ore deposits, the surface chemical characteristics of certain rock types and the implications for agriculture, characterisation and assessment of contaminated water supplies, the tracking of stream flows and toxic elements in the environment. Their work can be part office and laboratory based, although extensive fieldwork is necessary to collect and test sites and drill-hole samples.


Geochemists examine the distribution of chemical elements in rocks and minerals as well as the movement of these elements into the soil, air and water systems.

Typical duties include:

  • Plan and execute scientific studies e.g. design a sampling program, visit field locations, and collect samples in order to solve specific problems or map specific natural processes
  • Analysing samples, either in the field or in the laboratory
  • Supervising the quality of analysis done by 3rd parties on behalf of the client organisation
  • Supervision of database quality and fit-for-purpose exports and reports
  • 2D and 3D modelling of geochemical data
  • Thermodynamic modelling of specific reactions or processes
  • Guide mineral, coal and oil/gas exploration using a variety of remote sensing imagery, geological and geochemical data
  • Geochemical analysis of soils to assist agriculture or mineral exploration
  • Sourcing and tracking chemical elements in the environment whether in soils, gases or water (surface and ground waters)
  • Develop remediation plans to prevent acid mine drainage and to clean up toxic waste sites
  • Contribute to natural resource use and environmental management policies
  • Data analysis (of many variables, both elemental, spectral and other sample properties measures) in order to demonstrate evidence of the process being studied
  • 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 and integrity of information and forecasts – initiating extraction processes is often very expensive and mistakes can be costly. Consequently, appropriate 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
  • Computer literacy and ability to analyse numerical and graphical data in several software packages (e.g. EXCEL, ioGas, GIS platforms, 3D packages, R and statistical packages, Access)
  • Basic understanding of statistics, particularly with reference to sampling
  • Understanding of relational databases
  • Good written and verbal communication skills
  • Geochemistry, geological mapping, rock recognition, knowledge of geophysics, GIS and spatial skills
  • Significant experience in the sector as a geologist is generally required before becoming a specialist geochemist.




University unit suggestions

Core subjects
analytical chemistry
mineral identification
Specialty subjects
economic geology
environmental geoscience
soil science
structural geology
data science/analytics


Statutory Requirements

Competent Person for reporting to ASX (mineral exploration, mining and resources) is required to have at least five years experience in the commodity and activities engaged in (generally recognised by full membership level of AIG as a minimum requirement). Registration in Australia as a Registered Environmental Geoscientist through AIG (RPGeo) is recommended for Environmental Geoscience, Contaminated Lands.
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

Exploration Geochemists are typically employed by ASX Listed mid tier mining companies, major mining companies, consulting organisations (mineral exploration, mining and resources) and to a lesser extent by Junior exploration companies. Coal mining companies, coal seam gas, state and local government (environmental geoscience, contaminated lands), large analytical laboratories (business development roles) also employ specialist geochemists. Peripheral areas where geochemists are employed are consulting and contracting companies organisations, Federal government departments, CSIRO and CRCs (geoscience, mining, exploration, environmental geoscience, contaminated lands research).





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 such as a sampling program)
  • Often involves up to 70% field time in early years reducing to around 20% experienced and consulting geochemists

Pros & Cons

  • Opportunities for travel, domestic and international
  • Varied work programs
  • Remuneration commonly above average
  • Multi skilling and multi-disciplinary teamwork required


  • Early career stage requires good exposure to multiple geological settings prior to specialising
  • 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, irregular schedules
  • Higher degree preferred
  • Specialist roles can be cyclical in mining and exploration companies


Do you work a regular length day/week?

Specialist Geochemists 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 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 geochemistry 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 has already gained broad and varied experience in their sector may develop an interest in geochemistry through their career and become a specialist by undertaking training courses appropriate to their speciality (such as ioGas, database, statistics etc) as part of their continuing professional development.

How do geochemists interact with other professional?

Specialist Geochemists carry out a consultative role. They provide essential input to the planning, execution and analysis of geochemical programs and need to liaise with project or contracting teams on the ground which may include the project geologist, field assistants and samplers as well as exploration management. Specialist Geochemists have an important role in managing 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 geochemists often travel to projects (such as exploration, mining or environmental) which occur on all the continents (except Antartica) and Australian geochemists have a good reputation in this field. The geochemist will work with local project teams advising them on appropriate sampling and analysis practices, 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.


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

RPGeo Forum Geochem (69 mins)

A panel of exploration geochemists talk about how and why they became geochemists, what they do, geochemists roles in industry and how they transitioned to be a specialist, sampling and data problems and unusual geochemical methods.


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