If you love spending time outdoors, studying how the Earth worksor using new technologies to model structures – then a geophysics degree may be for you.
Geophysics, as the name suggests, is the physics of the Earth and its surrounding environment. Focusing on magnetic fields and the Earth’s atmosphere, it’s an independent science that was established more than 100 years ago. Today, geophysics uses non-invasive exploration methods, data acquisition and interpretation processes to uncover interactions between the earth, ocean and atmosphere.
Studying geophysics can offer two major job roles; a Geologist and a Geophysicist. Both hold significant importance in the way our biggest industries work and the driving forces behind some of the Earth’s most mind-blowing activities, like earthquakes and volcanoes. Here’s what’s you need to know before you take the plunge:
Geologist vs. Geophysicist
Whilst these two fields overlap, but there are many differences to be aware of. Both roles study the nature and composition of the Earth’s physical features. You’ll often find these people working in weather, engineering geophysics, oceanographic forecasting and seismic activities. Both fields research the Earth’s layers in a non-invasive way to offer advice on the mining and extraction of water, minerals and other vital substances from our environment.
Geologists work predominately with the Earth’s interior and exterior formations. They research into the structure and composition of rocks, which is essential to oil exploration. Geophysicists, on the other hand, apply the principles of physics, maths and chemistry to monitor and predicts volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and weather conditions. They also search for natural resources (mainly water and petroleum).
Work in Multiple Industries
Whilst geophysicists play an important part in the oil and gas industries, both roles can find you work in multiple areas including:
Oil and Gas
The oil and gas industries are the most popular field for geophysicists to work in. Oil and gas are typically located in subsurface areas (sedimentary basins), where geophysicists will measure the Earth’s magnetic fields and gravity. These industries rely on the skills of geophysicists to produce seismic data and undertake the exploration of the minerals.
Mining and Construction
The art of geophysics breaks into multiple specialities including mining and engineering geophysics.Within these roles, geophysicists will work on mapping subsurfaces for construction projects and determine where to build or not to build, and if any underground facilities may hinder the development.
New technologies in these industries make it possible to excavate beneath the surface without damaging natural features. These advancements are vital to the mining and construction industries, where geophysicists are able to take readings of the Earth (and beneath it) to support minor and major developments worldwide.
Many geophysicists specialise in identifying environmental hazards for mining and construction projects too. Environmental geophysics is a relatively new field compared to the others and involves site surveying, laboratory studies, field work and theoretical modelling.
In order to facilitate safe electrical geophysical surveys, you must have a geophysics degree. Geophysicists study the Earth through gravity, magnetic, electrical or seismic methods. The electrical exploration method monitors and tracks the naturally occurring electromagnetic energy of the Earth to determine the electrical resistivity of the subsurface to effectively complete work. This method is often used in archaeological geophysics.
Address Environmental and Engineering Problems
With a successfully completed geophysics degree, you can contribute to identifying and addressing environmental and engineering problems. Most of these problems fall into the following categories:
- Civil engineering.
- Geologic mapping.
- Geohazards (earthquake mitigation).
- Groundwater exploration.
- Forensics (illegal burials).
- Dam safety.
Travel the World
From mining careers to mineral exploration, obtaining a geophysics degreeopens up multiple opportunities which can see graduates travelling the globe for work. Most geophysicists will agree that one of the best parts about their job is getting to see wonderful places. Majority work in engineering and construction, architecture, landscape design and geoengineering, but some will work throughout labs and offices too, compiling and analysing data.
Where to Now?
To be successful in geophysics, you must be willing to work in remote areas and enjoy technical and engineering work. A strong background in geology, mathematics and physics is also required, as well as research skills and ability to workwith computer mapping and analysis programs. The minimum degree required is a Bachelor of Science with a major in Geology or Earth Science.
This article is written by Jayde Ferguson, who recommends Total Scan & Survey – Australia’s specialised professional surveying solutions servicing large scale projects in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Sydney. You can catch her on Google+.