Thursday, November 3, 2022

How important is field work to my career as an applied geologist?

 I have always been an academic geologist, not applied, so I can't advise you specifically on what skills are most valuable for the different applied geology fields. But I ran across this blog post from the Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologist (AEG) "How Important is Field Work to My Career as an Applied Geologist?" that I think you'll find valuable. Long story short – field experience is incredibly valuable whether you're planning an academic or applied career.

You might also be interested in my other posts related to geological field work: 

"Field camp is a really good thing"

"Find the geology field camp that's right for you"

"How to prepare for the field and what to pack"

"Potential dangers of working in the field"

And if you're planning to take a geology field camp course, check out my "Research grants, Fellowships, and Scholarships" post that includes some funding opportunities that may help with the cost of field camp.

Good luck!

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Professional Geologist licensure in California

I want to broadly summarize the requirements for licensure as a Professional Geologist in the state of California so that undergraduate and graduate students have a better understanding when making decisions about taking a geology field camp course and to gain the necessary 5 years of work experience under the supervision of a Professional Geologist or Geophysicist. You can also check out this video of a seminar by Laurie Racca (Senior Registrar, Geology & Geophysics, Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists) discussing "Understanding Professional Geology License Requirements: California 2019" on YouTube.

Geologist-in-Training (GIT) certificationan optional step prior to PG licensure: If you think you may want to become a Professional Geologist in the future, we recommend you the take National Association of State Boards of Geology (ASBOG) Fundamentals of Geology (FG) exam ($75 in 2022) ASAP after graduating from your undergraduate institution so that your geology coursework is fresh in your mind. The ASBOG FG exam is the only exam you can take prior to completing your work experience. After you meet the educational requirements (which includes the 5 semester units of upper division field geology instruction) for the Geologist-in-Training (GIT) certification and pass the FG exam, you can apply for a GIT certificate which are the first steps to becoming licensed as a Professional Geologist in California. The GIT certificate shows that the holder has passed the FG exam and met certain educational requirements, which are the first steps to becoming licensed as a PG – the GIT certificate may help you to qualify for your entry-level work experiences under a licensed Professional Geologist or Geophysicist. You may apply for the PG license without having a GIT certificate or having already passed the FG exam.

A Professional Geologist license is the formal permission from the State of California –required by law – to practice geology for others in California. To qualify for PG licensure, you need to 1) meet the educational requirements (e.g., a BS degree in Geology, or 30 semester units of geology coursework [24 units must be upper division or graduate-level]) including 5 semester units of field geology instruction; 2) have a documented record of a minimum of 5 years of professional geological experience by working under the supervision of a geologist or geophysicist licensed in California or any other state; and 3) pass the PG exam ($175 in 2022).

You can get credit toward this 5-year work experience requirement – up to a maximum of 3 years' credit – in a few ways:

1) Each year of undergraduate study in the geological sciences shall count as one-half year of training, up to a maximum of 2 years;

2) Each year of graduate study or research counts as a year of training.

3) Teaching in the geological sciences at the college level is credited year for year (the total teaching experience must include six semester units per semester, or equivalent if on the quarter system, of upper division or graduate courses).

You submit official transcripts and 3 reference letters that describe your professional work experience along with the application for licensure as a Professional Geologist.

Good luck!

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Find a geology field camp that's right for you

Before you apply to a geology field camp, be sure to speak to an academic advisor in your program to ensure your choice of field camp will meet your degree program requirements. Summer field camps usually consist of 4 to 6 weeks (equivalent to 4 to 6 semester units) of intensive field coursework, which allows students the opportunity to apply and integrate the knowledge and skills obtained in their undergraduate courses and prepares them further for work as a professional geologist and/or graduate studies.*

Future Professional Geologist certification considerations

Summer field camp also ensures that graduating geology students have met the appropriate coursework requirements to secure future professional licensure. To qualify to take the Fundamentals of Geology (FG) and Professional Geologist (PG) exams in California requires a minimum of 5 semester units of upper division field instruction in geology as part of your coursework. PG licensure may be required by employers for positions in the consulting industry (e.g., environmental or geotechnical work), so taking summer field geology will make you more employable in the environmental and geotechnical consulting industry. You can qualify for entry-level positions with the Geologist-in-Training certificate from California and/or by passing the FG exam.

Most geology field camps are in the northern hemisphere and take place over the summer with starting dates in May through August. There are a few field camps (e.g., in New Zealand) that take place over the winter – the timing of these field camps may help you to finish your degree requirements earlier (i.e., so that you don't have to wait for a summer field camp course).

Geology Field Camps

– USGS Survey of Geoscience Field Camps

–'s Geology Field Camps - A Comprehensive Listing (mixture of U.S.-based and international field camps)

*NAGT's list of 2021 Field Camps: Virtual, In-Person, and Hybrid

South Dakota School of Mines & Technology Field Camps (in the U.S. and abroad)

San José State University's Geology Field Camp is a great choice for SF Bay Area students. The Sacramento State Field Camp and the University of Nevada Reno Summer Field Camp also accept applications from students at other universities.

Alternative Summer Field Courses

Here are some alternatives to the traditional geology field camp courses (these are just examples – there are many others):

Field Camp Costs

Refer to this American Geosciences Institute study of the "Median costs of field camp attendance at US-based institutions." Here's what it boils down to: "The median cost to attend field camp at all US-based institutions as an in-state student is $3,850, wtih overall costs ranging from a minimum of $1,550 to a maximum of $7,425." The cost varies considerably depending on several factors including: 1) the length of the field course (3, 4, 5, or 6 weeks), 2) whether there is travel involved (our majors have completed geology field camps in Hawaii, Iceland, Turkey, Morocco, France, etc.), 3) the type of accommodation varies widely from low-cost tent camping to higher end cabins or lodges that include kitchen facilities and indoor plumbing, and 4) students may also be required to pay out-of-state tuition if the field camp is offered through a university based outside of California. I will reiterate that a 3- or 4-week field geology course (therefore 3 or 4 semester units) meets part of the graduation requirements for our Geology BS program at SF State, but a 5- or 6-week field camp course (equal to a minimum of 5 semester units) is required for certification as a Professional Geologist in California. Note that it is possible to sum together the total upper division field instruction you have had to achieve this minimum 5 units – for example, you might be able to apply a 2-unit upper division Field Methods course and a 4-unit field camp course to meet this requirement.

Choosing a Field Camp & What to Expect

Field Camp: An Introduction & Personal Experiences by Adriane Lam of the Time Scavengers blog

Why Should I Study Geology in the Field? by Lee J. Suttner, Department of Geological Sciences, Indiana University

– Advice on How to Choose a Field Camp by David Rodgers, former Geology Field Camp Director, Idaho State University

– What to Expect at Geology Field Camp, by Emily & Eric Ferré, Department of Geology, Southern Illinois University 

– Essay about field camp – Mind, Body, and Spirit – by Jade Bowers

Saturday, October 3, 2020

So you want to be a mineralogist...

As a new undergraduate geology major, you’re just getting started, and you need more coursework under your belt before you start to better understand your interests and decide on the next steps to your future career. Working toward a traditional geology BS degree is a great way to go. You will learn a lot of different skills that make you employable in many different industries. The geology BS gives you the credentials to do a lot of different jobs after graduation at an introductory level or to prepare you for graduate research. Some careers may take additional training (i.e., graduate school) when you start to specialize.

Here’s a list that I put together (with the help of a little Googling):
• Biomineralogy (a whole new field that has opened up)
• Microscopy - asbestos remediation (or other specialization) or asbestos in talc litigation using TEM (transmission electron microscopy), SEM (scanning electron microscope), EDS (energy dispersive spectroscopy), PLM (Polarized Light Microscopy), PCM (Phase Contrast Microscopy)
• Manage an electron microprobe or SEM lab
• Federal and State agencies - USGS, California Geological Survey, CalTrans, SLAC, LANL, LBNL, NASA, EPA, OSHA
• Materials Science/metallurgy - engineering applications, materials manufacturing and testing facility
• Gemology*
• X-ray diffraction analysis
• Natural History museum curation or similar
• Community College instructor - this is an especially transportable degree - there are CCs everywhere
• Medical mineralogy
• Forensic geology/mineralogy
• Ceramic manufacturing or concrete production
• Civil and geological engineering
• Rare earth element exploration (used in electric/hybrid car batteries) including carbonatite research 
• Planetary geology
• Remote sensing and satellite imagery
• Planetary geology using remote sensing or rover data
• Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
• Metallurgy
• Analytical chemistry
• Professional Geologist**
• Thin section and geological sample preparation

I encourage you to explore any of these more online. There may be courses in other University departments like Chemistry, Engineering, Computer Sciences, Geography, or Physics that you can take as elective courses and that can help train you for these careers. Some of these careers might also require a Masters degree to advance fully.

* Additional professional education required – here is an example of one such school at the Gemological Institute of America 
** Exam(s) required in each state in which you want to practice as a PG to qualify. Here is some info on the GIT and PG exams in California.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Potential dangers of working in the field

A couple of recent articles have pointed to potential dangers of sexual harassment or assault during scientific field work. I can't say that I'm surprised at the numbers. When you're working in a strange environment, a foreign country, in close quarters, adverse conditions, etc., the possibility of harassment or assault is increased. I am linking to the articles here to share with you. You have to be smart to protect yourself when you're in the field in many different ways.

Here is the New York Times opinion piece by Hope Jahren (University of Hawaii) about her experience in the field, including a warning to women in the field sciences, and hope that men will learn about this problem too.

This is the PLoS One article by Clancy et al. (2014) that is referenced in the NY Times article.

January 2019 update: The stories of harassment of women in the field continue. Read this compelling story of a Boston University professor and his graduate student in the field in Antarctica in Science.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Managing and spending grant funds

Are you a student wondering why your advisor can or can't spend grant funds on you? Read this post from Prof-like Substance...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Go to grad school with your eyes open!

Stipends in grad school are.... modest (see above) and don't allow the kind of lifestyle that you can maintain with a "real" job. You're still a trainee in grad school, hence all of the comics pertaining to eating ramen noodles and the obsession with free food in PhD Comics, and other blogs about grad school... (and if you didn't think you could live on this kind of stipend [barring personal or family emergencies], why did you sign up for this?)

This past week, the Professor Is In blog began a survey of PhD debt to assess whether reports she'd heard about credit card and loan debt in the 100s of thousands of dollars could be real (i.e., >$260,000 in debt for a philosophy degree). Slate Magazine, The Atlantic, and The Chronicle of Higher Education all have articles about this survey too. You can go to the results of this survey through the above link, but here's a 2012 summary from a similar NSF survey:

Over 60% of the respondents reported zero debt, but nearly a quarter reported debt over $30,000. You can enter numbers for your own grad school experience at the Professor Is In blog. Post-grad school debt is much less of a problem for students in the physical sciences and engineering probably because most of those students are offered both a stipend and full tuition when they're admitted, and because those students spend only ~5 years on average in grad school.

As an undergraduate, I went to a local state university and my parents paid for my tuition. As a graduate student at a big research university, I was single and childless, drove a 15-year-old car, shared an apartment in a less expensive neighborhood that was a bit of a drive from campus, ate a lot of pasta, and didn't eat out much. I had a teaching assistantship for $12,000 (for 9 months) and my tuition was covered by the university. I graduated with $0 debt and had a blast in grad school (and I never took a loan, never had any credit card debt, and never worked another job apart from being a grad student). So zero debt is absolutely possible.... you just have to live like a student.

I really don't understand students that complain about being broke yet buy lunch out daily, drink Perrier instead of drinking out of the free water cooler that the department keeps, buy organic berries from Whole Foods (aka "whole paycheck"), get regular facials, or drive a new car. These examples are based on real people and they are what I consider pretty outrageous choices for someone in school.  If you're in grad school in the physical sciences and you're accumulating serious debt, you're making some seriously poor lifestyle choices, or you made some bad decisions en route to grad school (perhaps a you got a philosophy/religion/english degree at an expensive, small liberal arts college back east and piled up debt?). As a grad student, you're still a trainee (you don't have a degree yet!) and can't expect the same standard of living that your roommate(s) who got a job at Google straight out of college might have. But consider, your roommates may make a whole lot more than a typical grad student, but they have regular work hours, might have a dress code, get only two weeks of vacation per year (and can't leave for an awesome backpacking trip to Chile for 3 weeks at the drop of a hat [without getting fired]), and have to regularly meet deadlines (with complete, quality work...gasp!).

If you're thinking about grad school, go read the "Why did you take out the loans" comments in the PhD debt survey, think about what living like a grad student means, and consider if grad school is right for you before diving in...