What is a Seismic Crew?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A seismic crew is a team of people who conduct seismic tests to gather information about the geology of an area of interest. The biggest employer of seismic crews is the oil industry, which conducts extensive seismic research before drilling new wells for oil. Seismic crews can also work in mineral exploration, natural gas exploration, and scientific research. Members of a crew need to be strong and capable of enduring very harsh conditions, but there are no special educational requirements, with crews being trained by their employers and on the job.

Seismic crews often do research to locate oil for drilling purposes.
Seismic crews often do research to locate oil for drilling purposes.

When a seismic crew arrives at a site they have been assigned to survey, one of the things they do is create a series of controlled explosions. The behavior of these explosions is monitored with scientific instruments to create a map of underground geological formations. Seismic crews may also perform other measurements which are designed to provide more information. Essentially, their goal is to create a series of small earthquakes for the purpose of generating usable data in a seismic survey.

Seismic crews may be delivered by helicopter to a site.
Seismic crews may be delivered by helicopter to a site.

One of the most hazardous positions on a seismic crew is that of shooter or blaster, the person who sets explosive charges. Other members of the crew include helpers, drillers, staging managers, troubleshooters, and line crew bosses. Seismic crews may spend a lot of time on site, and often they are in locations which are very remote, so they are delivered by helicopter or must hike in. If the site proves to be viable and promising, the company will invest funds in development to make it more accessible.

Seismic crews work both on land and in the ocean. While their work is often commercial in nature, it can also generate valuable information which may be beneficial to the field of geology as a whole. The oil and mineral industries have both been credited with a number of geological discoveries which have been applied in noncommercial settings. Research geologists may also work with seismic crews to gather information about topics they are interested in.

It helps to have an interest in math, science, and geology to get work on a seismic crew, and most companies require crew members to have high school degrees. People usually start out as helpers, learning the mechanics of the work and receiving training in workplace protocols which are designed to protect worker safety and ensure that information is useful and valid. As people gain experience, they can apply for more high ranking positions on the seismic crew which come with additional pay and benefits.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@umbra21 - The computer you're using right now has probably got materials that came from mining. Plastic comes from oil, metal comes from the ground. There's no getting around it. If your friend was that interested in helping the environment, he could work towards figuring out ways for mining companies to be more environmentally friendly.

A seismic crew is generally working hard to make sure that the people who come after them are going to be safe. Mining is something that makes all our lives better, everywhere in the world, and pretending that it doesn't exist doesn't help to resolve the problems that it needs to work on.


@pleonasm - The problem is that you'd be working for companies who usually have an unsavory reputation, almost all the time. Mining and oil companies by their very natures are going to be destructive of the environment and the best you can hope for is to work for one that isn't as destructive as the others.

I had a friend who studied geology at university and in the end he decided to switch to something else because he knew that he'd just end up doing seismic data processing for a mining company somewhere and he couldn't bear the thought of it. He wanted to do something to help the world, not dig it up and process it.


I never realized that you can join a seismic crew without a science degree. I always thought they were made up of engineers and geologists. But I guess they only have to do things like laying the explosives and taking samples, rather than actually analyzing the samples in depth or performing the seismic interpretation like a scientist would have to.

It actually seems like it would be a really interesting job, even if it was dangerous. At least you'd have a lot of challenges and exercise.

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