Geophysicist  What They Do

Just the Facts


Geoscientists Career Video



Insider Info

dotGeophysicists are scientists who use physics to study the physical properties of Earth. They study all parts, from the core of the Earth right up to the Earth's atmosphere.

dotGeophysicists specialize in many different areas. Some study volcanoes and earthquakes, while others study bodies of water, Earth rotation, atmospheric conditions and other areas. They use various methods to study the Earth, including gravitational, electromagnetic and seismic methods.

dotGeophysicists use their training in practical ways to help predict earthquakes, track satellites orbiting Earth and help locate mineral deposits.

dotWhile geophysicists are scientists, you won't find them in laboratories doing research all the time. Much of their time is spent outdoors doing field research.

"Many people think of geophysics as mathematically oriented laboratory work. In actual fact, it involves a lot of hands-on fieldwork and creativity," says Neil Anderson. He is a geophysicist at the University of Missouri.

His fieldwork has taken him to many different countries, including Norway, Spain, Mexico, South Africa and Iceland.

dotMost geophysicists work for petroleum companies and mining companies. They do research to find mineral and oil deposits. Many also teach at the college and university level. Geophysicists also work for engineering companies, government, environmental consulting companies and other small businesses.

dotComputers are an important tool. They're now used to help geophysicists locate mineral deposits below the Earth's surface, provide up-to-the-minute geographical maps and help geophysicists communicate and share information, which cuts down on the amount of fieldwork they have to do.

"Most geophysics is now done in front of a computer and many advancements are made possible because of advancements in computers," says Wayne Pennington, a geophysicist from Michigan.

For example, the use of portable computers in the field is quite common, notes the Canadian Geoscience Council on its website.

"In remote areas, these are often powered by portable solar units. Field mapping is digitized, allowing an easy and rapid transfer of data at the end of the field season."

dotGeophysicists have to keep up with new computer innovations. "The sophistication of geophysical hardware and software increases constantly and each new advance creates new uses. Features that couldn't be imaged with yesterday's tools can be easily mapped with today's," says Anderson.

"Using this state-of-the-art computer equipment has been one of my most interesting experiences," says Andy Trupin, a geophysicist from New York.

dotExperts say a good geophysicist is one who isn't afraid to hit the books and who also enjoys the great outdoors.

At a Glance

Study the physical nature of Earth

  • Fieldwork is a big part of this career
  • Specialize in the study of volcanoes, earthquakes, bodies of water and other areas
  • Advanced degrees in geophysics are required