How Do I Become a Seismologist?

Meghan Perry

In order to have the best chance to become a seismologist, a master's degree or doctorate is generally the minimum educational requirement. A bachelor's degree may be sufficient in some instances, but the scope of the work and job opportunities will usually be more limited. If someone knows in high school that he or she wants to become a seismologist, there are courses that will provide a strong foundation for the study of seismology in college.

Seismologists may study fault lines to predict when volcanoes may occur.
Seismologists may study fault lines to predict when volcanoes may occur.

Seismologists study fault lines and look for ways to predict when disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis may occur. They may study either the scientific or social effects of the earth's movements. Computer expertise has become increasingly important because much of the experiments are computerized as are many of the tools that seismologists use in the field.

Seismologists try to predict when an earthquake may happen.
Seismologists try to predict when an earthquake may happen.

A strong interest in earth sciences is generally helpful. A geology course would be an example of studies in earth science. Taking courses in that field, as well as math, physics, and computer science, will all be useful to get started on the path to become a seismologist.

There are not many colleges that offer undergraduate degrees in seismology. Another option is to major in geophysics. If neither of those majors are offered at the college, a degree in mathematics or one of the earth sciences may be sufficient. The types of jobs available to someone with a bachelor's degree are somewhat limited; they may include operational or observational seismology positions. This may include work such as recording and entering data about the movement of the earth's surface but generally does not include managing research projects.

Most people who wish to become seismologists get advanced degrees, either master's or doctorates in geophysics or seismology. People who earn these degrees can become research seismologists and conduct experiments and studies. They may also work in education, teaching at the university level.

Getting work experience while attending school is another way to become a seismologist. This may be in the form of an internship. As seismologists may work in areas ranging from government to petroleum companies, there are many specific job types for seismologists. While in graduate school, becoming a research assistant or conducting scientific research field trips are other ways to pursue this career.

Other qualities to have in order to become a seismologist include a capacity for working outdoors as work is often done on or near locations of potential earthquakes. The ability to work alone and as part of a team are also important. Good communication skills are also useful to have in order to become a seismologist.

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