What Factors Affect a Geologist Salary?

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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 24 February 2020
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A geologist salary is typically negotiated during the hiring process, and varies depending on a number of important factors: level of expertise, expected duties, competition, and economic climate. A geologist is a type of scientist who is focused on the substances that form the planet earth, as well as other planets in our solar system. Geologists can be found working for government agencies, post-secondary educational institutions, research institutes, and mining companies.

In order to become a geologist, candidates must complete a graduate degree in geology from an accredited university. The minimum number of years of post-secondary education required to obtain this level of training is seven years of full-time school. Many geologists go on to complete their doctoral degrees, which requires an additional commitment of four to five years of school.

The primary factor that impacts a geologist salary is the level of expertise. In this field, expertise is a combination of academic credentials and field experience. Academic credentials are easy to measure, and the salary scale varies depending on the level of education completed. There is no differentiation between schools at the graduate level, in terms of salary. For example, a candidate with a master’s degree from a state university will be paid the same as a candidate with a master’s degree from Yale University®.


The expected duties of a geologist vary widely, and this has a direct impact on a geologist salary. There are three primary areas of work for a geologist: teaching, research, or field work. Teaching positions pay more initially, but have a slower rate of increase over time. Salaries for research positions vary widely by institute, rate of publication, and granting agency. Many research institutes have a teaching component that is required to hold the position. Field work is the highest paying job for a geologist, but requires long hours, extensive travel, and has a high degree of risk.

Competition has a large impact on a geologist salary, as is the case in academic or research positions. The richer the field of applicants for a position, the lower the position will pay. This combination is often found for prestigious or high profile opportunities. A position in a remote location with minimal interest will typically pay more, as the employer needs to attract quality candidates and keep them employed to complete the work.

The economic climate has a huge impact on geologists’ salaries. In an economic downturn, funding available from government agencies shrinks. Research funding will typically continue to be maintained for long-term projects already under way, but new projects will be delayed.


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