A geoscientist interprets geophysical, geochemical and geological data to develop models of the earth’s subsurface with the aim of discovering commercially viable and exploitable reserves of natural resources, such as oil and gas. Geoscientists provide the foundation for the exploration and production of natural resources and for the discovery, development and management of water supplies. They are also involved in the production of reserves and may provide specialist advice for engineering projects.

Geoscientists work in a variety of roles within the natural resources sector. Terms such as geophysicist, geochemist and sedimentologist are also used for specialist roles within geoscience.

Typical work activities

In the natural resources sector, geoscientists find commercially viable oil and gas reserves by assessing the characteristics of the earth’s subsurface. They are involved not only in the exploration and appraisal of new areas, feasibility studies and field development planning of the discovered fields, but also in optimising recovery from the producing field.

Although geoscientists’ roles vary, tasks typically include:

  • Collecting information in the field, from seismic and well data and other sources;
  • Monitoring the acquisition of data to ensure consistent quality;
  • Interpreting data to determine subsurface geology and the economic importance of natural resources, using sophisticated technical software;
  • Developing geological models of the earth’s subsurface to understand the geological structure, rock characteristics and the likely distribution of oil/gas/mineral-bearing strata;
  • Interpreting the results in consultation with other earth science professionals;
  • Assessing the potential quality of mineral and hydrocarbon resources;
  • Collaborating with drilling engineers to determine drilling locations on the basis of the interpretation of the data and models developed;
  • Producing and presenting geological maps and reports;
  • Performing detailed geological risk analysis of proposed exploration targets;
  • Planning and undertaking an exploration drilling programme, after collecting and modelling all available data;
  • Planning the location and trajectory of development wells and putting well proposals together in conjunction with the multidisciplinary team;
  • Creating new opportunities to access remaining reserves;
  • Implementing new technologies in geological modelling and seismic processing;
  • Advising engineers and senior management on geological factors affecting exploration.

The day-to-day tasks of geoscientists working in exploration and production are similar, but those working in exploration deal with a larger number of sites and a wider spread of data and use satellite imagery, and gravity and magnetic surveys to evaluate a whole basin. In production, geoscientists concentrate on sites that are already operational, making assessments on the basis of well core and well fluid samples.
As oil resources decline, the role of the geoscientist will change from exploration-dominated to production-dominated employment.

Typical entry route

Most of today’s new recruits have both undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications; Msc’s are required by many companies for new staff. PhD’s are also relevant, particularly for those who choose to develop careers with a more specialist focus.