Are Geologists Engineers That Work With Rock?

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zoologistFor most of us who are not very familiar with the exact duties of each scientific profession, the differences between geologists and engineers seems rather obvious since each profession has its own educational requirements, emphasizes a different area of science and most important has different titles. One is a geologist and the other is an engineer, so obviously they are very different.

However, geologists and engineers are actually far more similar than they first appear. While the two have many different responsibilities and training, they are fairly similar. Engineers study everything from medical-based engineering to institutions dedicated to making things fly, whereas geologists mainly study rocks and the earths crust. There are, however, Geological Engineers and Engineering Geologist; both have differences in what they actually do.

So what are the similarities and differences between geologists and engineers? It helps to start by identifying what each of these professions is first.


A geologist studies the solid and liquid matter that makes up what we know as the Earth. In addition, they study the processes and history that helped create our planet. You usually find geologists working for educational institutions, mining companies, weather centers, and even teaching about the history of the Earth itself.


An engineer is focused on what is known as applied science using specific knowledge, but often based in math to create solutions for technical issues. Engineers design structures, materials and systems for a wide variety of construction projects. In fact, the very word “engineer” is derived from two Latin words meaning “devise and cleverness”.

Engineer branches out to different areas such as aerospace engineering as opposed to mining for example, but all branches of engineering are essentially the same with differences based on the actual area it is employed.

What are the Similarities?

The main similarities between geology and engineering are founded in the materials each of them study and use on a daily basis. In mining companies for example, geologists and engineers often work side by side on the same issues in the discovery, mining and transportation of the material that is being removed.

In addition, their educational backgrounds are very similar as well, at least in terms of the general science that is being utilized.

What are the Differences?

The main difference between geology and engineering is that geology is founded in how materials came about, as well as their capabilities while engineering is how such materials can be used for a specific purpose. Another important difference is that engineering is primarily founded in math while geology is the founded in the study of materials.

To go back to our mining example, the geologist will study the material in the opening to see how durable, pliable and resilient it is to place tracks to move the material. An engineer will then use the information from the geologist to construct the best transportation method.

As you can see, the geologist and engineer compliment the skills of the other, but they do not overlap as much as they may seem. To say that a geologist “studies” while the engineer takes “action” is somewhat simplistic, but it does highlight the differences in each of their professions.

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What Does It Take To Become A Geologist?

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Tephrochronology_icelandGeology, part of the earth sciences, is an important field related to many industries and companies dealing with manufacturing, technology and the environment. Most geologists become employed as researchers and scientists, working closely with industries that must explore for natural resources as well as petroleum and mining companies. The federal government also employs many geologists for the Environmental Protection Agency among other select agencies.

Geology is an important and diverse field because geologists specialize in understanding the earth and the materials that it is made of as well as how this matter was transformed over time by natural forces. In studying these natural forces, geologists can determine the best place to start a housing development for example, while avoiding areas which are naturally flooded. They also know how to best determine the layout of a mine for acquiring the proper materials as well as the best means of acquiring them.

Acquiring a bachelors degree in geology can take about four years at the best geology schools. In addition to the standard geology-related subjects dealing with minerals and the earth, non-geology related general educational courses such as algebra, trigonometry, calculus, physics and chemistry may be required. Geology is very much a chemistry and mathematics related field, particularly if you expect to branch out into the engineering related areas of geology upon earning your degree.

Ultimately, geology can be a very fascinating and fulfilling field to find a career in. As a field of study, it has a myriad of real world applications. Many companies are looking to hire people who have earned their degrees in geology because a geologist’s knowledge is crucial to many of their operations. If you have an interest in the hard sciences and don’t mind learning all of the minutiae of minerals, the earth and how the earth changes, geology may be the perfect field for you.


What Do Geological Engineers Do?

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Boston_CAT_Project-construction_view_from_airGeological engineering is the application of geological science to solving problems involving humans in relation to the Earth. Distinct from other engineering disciplines such as mechanical engineering, it’s an interdisciplinary field where geology, civil engineering and many other applications intersect.

Geological engineers are tasked with a wide variety of responsibilities. For example, a geological engineer may investigate sites for housing, industrial or commercial zone developments and projects, mines, pipelines, petroleum, forestry and more. Working with civil engineers they may design essential parts of projects. Other times they may be responsible for assessing the environmental impact of a project, and cleaning up the aftermath of pollution, or simply finding minerals, resources and potable water. Additionally, geological engineers may assess risk and hazards for a given locale for issues such as earthquakes, landslides and other natural hazards associated with the earth.

Because of the sheer number of responsibilities for the geological engineer, it’s likely that an individual with a degree in the field will be employable for any number of tasks. Geological engineering salaries are typically around $90,000. By comparison, mechanical engineering salaries are around $80,000, with a similar degree equivalent.

Some additional jobs and responsibilities for the geological engineer may include construction, where it is ensured that the foundations for potential buildings, large and small, are stable and safe and not prone to issues such as earthquakes. Geological engineers are sometimes responsible for environmental protection, ensuring that land development and construction has minimal impact on the local environment. They are also responsible for logistics and the discovery and protection of local, natural resources such as water, minerals and energy.

Given all of these responsibilities, geological engineering is an important discipline that requires much training, knowledge and expertise on the behalf of the engineer. Nonetheless, a geological engineer can expect to find steady and lucrative employment, both for private company and federal government needs.