Geotechnicians work both in the field and behind desks as part of a team
put together for exploration of the physical environment.
Usually, geotechnicians help in the search for valuable resources, such
as minerals or petroleum.
Work can include cutting and polishing rocks, operating analytical equipment,
photography and drafting or chemical analysis of soil samples. It's often
an ideal career for those interested in studying the physical environment
and the geosciences, but who don't intend to become geologists.
Employment in the minerals industry might find you involved in exploration
across the country and into the Arctic. With multinational corporations, you
may be able to request a transfer to more exotic locales, such as South America,
Africa or Australia.
The examination of geological conditions in rural areas, or "background"
geological surveys as part of environmental impact assessments, may involve
fieldwork in remote areas.
Geotechnicians study volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tidal waves. Some
have been witnesses to natural catastrophes. NASA and other organizations
that study the other planets in our solar system have employed geotechnicians.
David Hick is a geologist and geotechnician. He has prospected, laid grids
and mapped sites all over the world.
The work has put him in helicopters high above the Gobi desert and in icy
encampments in Canada's far north. In the north, he was often expected to
be able to make lone expeditions into the tundra to explore for mineral deposits.
"It was fairly exciting work," he says.
But the work is not always so dramatic. Geotechnicians can also spend a
lot of time behind a desk.
Geotechnician Jamie Boyce works largely with computers. "We do a lot of
the grunt work," she says. "We do a lot more of the computer side and less
of the science side.
"Let's say the geologist puts together a cross-section [of a certain site].
It's basically our job not to interpret any of the data, but to make it look
presentable in a map."
She says the computer skills she uses were not part of her university degree.
She picked them up from various jobs that she has had.
Most geoscience graduates find employment in the resource industry with
petroleum or mining companies or associated service industries. An increasing
number of geoscience graduates are finding employment in the environmental
Employment opportunities are enhanced by free trade agreements between
Canada, the United States and other countries. Geotechnicians are among a
select group of professionals who can easily move from country to country.
Work in the field would be suitable for the disabled, says Boyce.
"I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be [appropriate]," she says. "It's
not like we're hiking around or anything." She adds that most of her day is
spent working with a computer.