Seismologist: Job Description, Salary and Requirements
Research seismologist career information. Learn about job duties, education requirements and potential salaries in order to make an informed decision about becoming a seismologist.
Seismologists are geoscientists who study earthquakes and related phenomena, including the effects of explosions and the formation of tsunamis. These professionals gather data about shifts in the earth's crust through the use of seismographs and other instruments. While many seismologists are uncertain about the possibility of predicting earthquakes, their research has been instrumental in the development of such advances as tsunami warning systems.
Seismologists also study the structure and composition of the earth. Because of the way that earthquakes propagate, studying them is a non-invasive way to determine the composition and structure of the planet. Most of these professionals work in offices, in laboratories and at research sites.
Salary Information and Employment Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, geoscientists earned a median annual income of $79,160 as of 2011. Job growth in this field is expected to increase 21% from 2010-2020, which is faster than average. Growth is partially the result of upcoming expected retirements and the high cost of fossil fuels, which drives the cost-effectiveness of observational seismologists in the petroleum industry.
Seismologists may also work as university professors. In 2011, atmospheric, earth, marine and space science teachers earned a median salary of $83,140. Job growth for postsecondary teachers is expected to increase 17% between 2010 and 2020, which is about as fast as average for all industries. This anticipated growth is largely attributed to increasing student enrollment.
Entry-level positions in seismology require a bachelor's degree or higher in geophysics or a related area, and more advanced roles may require a master's degree or a doctorate. For positions in the petroleum industry, a bachelor's degree is often sufficient, although a master's degree could be beneficial. Research roles, such as those at universities, almost always require a Ph.D., and competition for those jobs is often heavy.
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