What Does an Earth Scientist Do?

Nick Mann

An earth scientist is a person who performs research and conducts experiments related to our planet, Earth. This field of study can encompass multiple areas, including geography, geology, oceanography and the Earth's atmosphere. These individuals are most commonly employed by either a university or a scientific laboratory. In general, a minimum of a bachelor's degree is required to land a position as an earth scientist. Some typical job duties include performing experiments, researching geological phenomena, studying rocks and minerals, publishing scientific findings and giving lectures.

A variety of fields of study are available to Earth scientists.
A variety of fields of study are available to Earth scientists.

Performing a variety of experiments is something that an earth scientist will do on a regular basis. For example, he might test soil samples from different regions of the world to understand how soil composition affects plant life and other organisms. He might also study the greenhouse effect to understand how the Sun's energy affects the Earth. Basically, his aim is to perform small scale experiments to better understand how things work on a larger scale.

Earth scientists often study geological samples in laboratory settings.
Earth scientists often study geological samples in laboratory settings.

Another big part of this profession revolves around researching geological phenomena. Some things an earth scientist might study could be the shifting of tectonic plates, glacial formations and volcanoes. His primary goal is to understand how the Earth has evolved into its present state and how it continues to change. While much of this research can be done by reading, an individual might be required to travel to certain locations for more hands-on research.

Along with this, an earth scientist might spend a considerable amount of time studying different rocks and minerals found in the Earth. This can include things like crystals, gems and volcanic materials from various regions of the world. He may also examine fossils and use radiocarbon dating to pinpoint their age. Studying these things can help an earth scientist gain a better understanding of the Earth's history and help him make future predictions.

Besides performing experiments and research, an earth scientist will sometimes publish his findings to share with the scientific community. For example, he might document the various steps of an experiment, his hypothesis and conclusion in a scientific journal. This practice is beneficial for increasing the knowledge of other scientists and the general public. In some cases, it can also help with environmental problems like global warming.

In addition, an earth scientist working at a university may sometimes give lectures to students. Since he is an expert in his field, it's common to instruct students on subjects like geology and geophysics. He may also discuss experiments he has performed and their outcomes.

Earth scientists might study the causes and impacts of droughts.
Earth scientists might study the causes and impacts of droughts.

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Discussion Comments


@feasting – This is the reason why my cousin decided to teach earth science rather than devote himself to research and development. He was already married with kids when he got his degree, and he wasn't about to leave them for weeks at a time or force them to move.

Teaching geography was rewarding for him. He got to introduce kids to things that had excited him years earlier, and he got to see their enthusiasm for the subject.


I bet it's hard for new earth scientists to think of things to experiment with. So much has already been done and proven in this field of study. I don't know how they keep coming up with new questions to answer.


One drawback to being an earth scientist is that you have to travel a lot. If you have anything tying you down to one spot, this will cause problems.

My uncle was a geologist, but he and his wife lived in one of the most boring, flat regions in the country. He absolutely had to travel to mountainous areas in order to do research.

There were no jobs in this field in the area where they lived, so they eventually had to move. It took awhile for the new place to feel like home to them, and I know that his wife had more trouble adjusting than he did. At least he had a job and a purpose for being in that area.


Earth science was my favorite kind of science in school. I loved learning about minerals and volcanoes, and I even loved studying maps and learning where all the different countries were and what their climates were like.

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