Interested in becoming a seismologist? Chances are, you are fascinated with the Earth and how the many elements of nature work together. Seismologists are geophysists that study the geological compositions of the Earth, and its mechanical traits. They work to determine the timing of earthquakes, such as why earthquakes start and stop. By interpreting data collected during research, seismologists work to evaluate potential dangers from future earthquakes. They also work with the construction industry, to establish methods and building materials which are designed to withstand the impact of an earthquake.
There are several career options for seismologists. Research seismologists work in the field, collecting and interpreting data. Their main objective is to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of earthquakes. Another opportunity for seismologists is studying seismic waves. Seismic waves are generated by natural sources such as earthquakes, as well as man-made sources such as underground nuclear testing. A seismologist’s job is to locate the source, size and nature of each event.
Many seismologists follow a career path of becoming an applied seismologist. This branch uses their knowledge of geophysics to benefit scientific research or societal causes. For example, a vast majority work in the petroleum industry. They conduct tests to identify the locations of natural resources such as oil. They may also be involved in monitoring underground nuclear explosions.
Where Seismologists Work
A seismologist needs to be prepared to work outdoors. Seismologists should also be willing and ready to travel to remote locations to conduct their studies, whenever necessary. They may even be required to stay in a location for an extended period of time. Seismologists must be comfortable working with other professionals and expressing their ideas. Seismologists work behind a desk, as well as in the field.
Seismologists are hired by a variety of entities, including government agencies. Many work for oil, gas and mining companies. Seismologists are hired by universities, financial institutions and insurance companies. They are also hired by engineering and environmental consulting firms. Seismologists may work full or part-time hours.
Salary and Educational Requirements
The salary of a seismologist can vary greatly. The biggest determining factor is the level of education and experience the seismologist has. Other considerations are where they work and their specific job responsibilities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median yearly salary of a seismologist in the United States is $82,500.
To become a seismologist, there are a variety of undergraduate majors which must be earned. For example, getting a degree in geology or physics will help provide the proper foundation for a career as a seismologist. Another option is to pursue a Master of Science degree in geophysics. Having this degree generally allows seismologists to work in an environmental and engineering consultant position. To become a research seismologist, one must earn a Ph.D. degree.
How to Know if Seismology is Right for You
First, take an honest look at your interests. You should have a strong desire to make discoveries in the field of geophysics. As seismology is a relatively new branch of science, you should feel comfortable with that. A seismologist should have a patient disposition, as conducting studies and figuring calculations can take some time. The ability to approach work tasks in a methodical fashion is required.
There are also a specific set of skills which a seismologist must possess. The first is a natural academic inclination toward science and math. Computer science is also a large part of being a seismologist. Specialized computer programs are used, so the seismologist must be able to learn and apply new technology. Other necessary skills include the ability to effectively use a seismograph and being able to visualize 3D objects from 2-d drawings.