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Geological technicians most often work under the supervision of a geologist or other geoscientist as part of a research team. Some areas of specialization include environmental geology, the study of how pollution, waste, and hazardous materials affect the earth; geophysics, the study of the earth's interior and magnetic, electric, and gravitational fields; hydrology, the investigation of the movement and quality of ground and surface water; petroleum geology, the exploration and production of crude oil and natural gas; and seismology, the study of earthquakes and the forces that cause them.
The most common employment for geological technicians is with petroleum geologists. These scientists determine where deposits of oil and natural gas may be buried beneath the earth's surface. Using data gathered from workers in the field, geological technicians draft maps displaying where drilling operations are taking place and create reports that geologists will use to determine where an oil deposit might be located.
Geological technicians use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software to create maps that pinpoint the exact location where a drilling crew has dug a well. In addition to indicating whether or not oil was found, the map will also specify the depth of the well. If oil is located, the information on the map will enable geologists to determine the probable size of the oil deposit.
Technicians also analyze various types of raw data when creating reports. Crews often, for example, detonate carefully planned explosions that send shockwaves deep into the earth. These waves are recorded by microphones. Geologists study the patterns of the waves to determine the composition of rock beneath the surface. Geological technicians take these patterns and remove any background noise, such as sound waves from an airplane passing overhead, and then write a report that summarizes what the sound patterns indicate.
Some geological technicians work in the field of environmental engineering. Assisting geologists, they study how structures, such as roads, landfills, and commercial, residential, and industrial developments, affect the environment. The information they gather is incorporated into environmental impact statements, which are used by developers, government officials, and private landowners to minimize damage to the environment.