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Oswego Career Ladders - Geochemist

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Industry: Energy
Area: Fossil Fuel

Geochemists monitor developments in the earth's composition by undertaking analysis of rock and other environmental samples. They develop detailed information about the age, nature and structure of specific areas, which is vital to industrial research in developing natural resources and to academic study in extending knowledge of the earth's solid matter. In the fossil fuel industry, geochemists study and monitor the generation and migration processes of petroleum by applying a combination of theoretical knowledge and specific petroleum geochemistry techniques. This includes the use of computers to simulate geochemical and geological processes. The information is then used to develop more efficient methods of exploration and production.

Work Settings

Geochemists spend a lot of time in the field, gathering data, and analyzing samples on site. Some time is spent in the lab, but geochemists underscore that this is a field for people who like to work outdoors. Travel can be extensive, particularly since much of the new exploration work is happening overseas.


Relevant degree subjects include physical/mathematical/applied science and engineering. People come to geochemistry from a range of undergraduate studies, including math, physics, and oceanography as well as chemistry and geology. Training outside geochemistry is increasingly beneficial because the field has become more interdisciplinary.

Job Outlook

The job market for geochemists is highly competitive. Fewer positions are opening up in government and academia. The one bright spot is environmental management, which is expected to have the work and resources to employ geochemists into the next century. Positions in industry will pick up if oil company profits increase and exploration efforts are broadened.


Median starting salaries, as of last October, for chemists who graduated during the 2003/2004 academic year were $32,500 for bachelor's, $43,600 for master's, and $65,000 for Ph.D.s.

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