If you want to become a seismologist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re likely well suited for a career as a seismologist
Many of those who become seismologists do so because of a natural interest in seismology: they are curious about why earthquakes start; what controls their timing; and how they stop. Their interest may be rooted purely in curiosity, or they may be interested in applied seismology, such as wanting to help make advancements in fields such as earthquake hazard assessment. Those who become seismologists must have a solid educational background in basic undergraduate areas such as mathematics and physics, as well as a natural aptitude in these areas. Coursework in geology is also very helpful for a career as a seismologist, as is expertise with computers. If you want to become a seismologist, you must be comfortable working closely with other professionals and sharing your opinions with them.
There are a variety of undergraduate majors you can pursue if you want to become a seismologist, the most directly career-related of those being an undergraduate degree in geophysics. However, pursuing a degree in geology or physics can also be a great way to gain the necessary foundation to pursue graduate work in geophysics and seismology.
For seismology careers, coursework in basic geology is also very helpful, as is expertise with computers. Expertise with specialized computer programs is essential in seismology careers, as research seismologists rely heavily on them to perform their work.
Pursuing a Master of Science degree in an area such as geophysics can be a valuable asset before beginning an industrial seismology career, as it will provide you with advanced specialized study. This will serve to make you more knowledgeable in your field, as well as help make you more marketable to employers.
Your choice of undergraduate and graduate school program should be based on your particular interests within the field. A Master of Science degree also typically qualifies seismologists to work as consultants with environmental and engineering consulting firms.
Research seismology careers, whether in a university, private industry, or with the government, require the completion of a Ph.D. degree. However, many careers in observational and operational seismology, especially in the petroleum industry, are open to those with a Bachelor’s degree.
In order to become effective in a career as a seismologist, you need to posses a certain set of skills and personality traits. These skills and traits will not only allow you to perform your job with competence; they will allow you to maintain a positive attitude towards your work, and help you endure the challenges of a career in seismology.
• A natural interest in geophysics, and a desire to make discoveries in this field
• An interest in working in a relatively new field of science
• A natural aptitude in mathematics and science
• The ability to visualize three-dimensional objects from two-dimensional drawings
• Able to effectively use a seismograph
• Skills with specialized computer programs
• An interest in outdoor activities
• A willingness to travel to remote locations
• A patient and methodical approach to work activities
Seismologists are hired on a part-time, full-time or contractual basis by organizations that study fault lines, and look for ways to predict when disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis may occur. Organizations that hire seismologists include:
• Resource, exploration, engineering and environmental companies
• Government departments and agencies
• Oil, gas and mining companies
• Geophysical data acquisition and processing companies
• Engineering and environmental consulting firms
• Financial institutions and insurance companies
• Universities and colleges
• Public and private research organizations
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