Geological and petroleum technicians provide support to scientists and engineers in exploring and extracting natural resources, such as oil and natural gas.

Duties

Geological and petroleum technicians typically do the following:

  • Install and maintain laboratory and field equipment
  • Gather samples such as rock, mud, and soil in the field and prepare samples for laboratory analysis
  • Conduct scientific tests on samples to determine their content and characteristics
  • Record data from tests and compile information from reports, computer databases, and other sources
  • Prepare reports and maps that can be used to identify geological characteristics of areas that may have valuable resources

Geological and petroleum technicians tend to specialize either in fieldwork and laboratory work, or in office work analyzing data. However, many technicians have duties that overlap into multiple areas.

In the field, geological and petroleum technicians use sophisticated equipment, such as seismic instruments, to gather geological data. They also use tools to collect samples for scientific analysis. In laboratories, these technicians analyze the samples for evidence of hydrocarbons, useful metals, or precious gemstones.

Geological and petroleum technicians use computers to analyze data from samples collected in the field and from previous research. The results of their analyses may explain a new site’s potential for further exploration and development or may focus on monitoring the current and future productivity of an existing site.

Geological and petroleum technicians work on geological prospecting and surveying teams under the supervision of scientists and engineers, who evaluate the work for accuracy and make final decisions about current and potential production sites. Geologic and petroleum technicians might work with scientists and technicians in other fields as well. For example, geological and petroleum technicians might work with environmental scientists and technicians to monitor the environmental impact of drilling and other activities.

Geological and petroleum technicians held about 16,300 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of geological and petroleum technicians were as follows:

Support activities for mining 23%
Oil and gas extraction 19
Engineering services 13
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 5
Management of companies and enterprises 3

Geological and petroleum technicians spend their time in the field and in laboratories, or analyzing data in offices. Fieldwork requires technicians to work outdoors, sometimes in remote locations, where they are exposed to all types of weather. In addition, technicians may need to stay on location in the field for days or weeks to collect data and monitor equipment. Geological and petroleum technicians who work in offices spend most of their time working on computers—organizing and analyzing data, writing reports, and producing maps.

Work Schedules

Most geological and petroleum technicians work full time. Technicians generally work a standard schedule in laboratories and offices, but hours spent in the field may be long or irregular.

Geological and petroleum technicians typically need an associate’s degree or 2 years of postsecondary training in applied science or science-related technology. Some jobs may require a bachelor’s degree. Geological and petroleum technicians also receive on-the-job training.

Education

Although some entry-level positions require only a high school diploma, most employers prefer applicants who have at least an associate’s degree or 2 years of postsecondary training in applied science or a science-related technology. Geological and petroleum technician jobs that are data intensive or otherwise highly technical may require a bachelor’s degree.

Many community colleges and technical institutes offer programs in the geosciences, petroleum, mining, or a related technology, such as geographic information systems (GISs). Community colleges offer associate’s degree programs designed to provide an easy transition to bachelor’s degree programs at colleges and universities; such programs can be useful for future career advancement.

Regardless of the program, most students take classes in geology, mathematics, computer science, chemistry, and physics. Many schools also offer internships and cooperative-education programs that help students gain experience while attending school.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Geological and petroleum technicians examine data and samples, using a variety of complex techniques, including laboratory experimentation and computer modeling.

Communication skills. Geological and petroleum technicians explain their methods and findings through oral and written reports to scientists, engineers, managers, and other technicians.

Critical-thinking skills. Geological and petroleum technicians must use their best judgment when interpreting scientific data and determining what is relevant to their work.

Interpersonal skills. Geological and petroleum technicians need to be able to work well with others and as part of a team.

Physical stamina. To do fieldwork, geological and petroleum technicians need to be in good physical shape in order to hike to remote locations while carrying testing and sampling equipment.

Training

Most geological and petroleum technicians receive on-the-job training under the supervision of technicians who have more experience. During training, new technicians gain hands-on experience using field and laboratory equipment, as well as computer programs such as modeling and mapping software. The length of training can vary with the technician’s previous experience and education and with the specifics of the job.

The median annual wage for geological and petroleum technicians was $53,300 in May 2018.

The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,020, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $108,110.

In May 2018, the median annual wages for geological and petroleum technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Management of companies and enterprises $88,480
Oil and gas extraction 70,890
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 55,180
Support activities for mining 48,420
Engineering services 45,200

Most geological and petroleum technicians work full time. Technicians generally work a standard schedule while in laboratories and offices, but hours spent in the field may be long or irregular.

Geological and Petroleum Technicians

Median annual wages, May 2018

Geological and petroleum technicians

$53,300

Life, physical, and social science technicians

$46,740

Total, all occupations

$38,640

 

Employment of geological and petroleum technicians is projected to grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 1,100 new jobs over the decade. Demand for petroleum and natural gas, along with exploration of resources such as metals and minerals, is expected to increase demand for geological exploration and extraction in the future.

Job Prospects

Job opportunities will stem from growth and the need to replace workers who leave the occupation permanently over the projection period. The best job prospects will be for those candidates who have had hands-on training and who have good technical and analytical skills, which can be acquired through internships, co-op programs, and postsecondary education.

Employment projections data for geological and petroleum technicians, 2018-28
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2018 Projected Employment, 2028 Change, 2018-28 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Geological and petroleum technicians

19-4041 16,300 17,400 7 1,100 Get data

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of geological and petroleum technicians.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2018

Cartographers and Photogrammetrists

Cartographers and photogrammetrists collect, measure, and interpret geographic information in order to create and update maps and charts for regional planning, education, and other purposes.

Bachelor’s degree $64,430

Civil Engineering Technicians

Civil engineering technicians help civil engineers to plan, design, and build highways, bridges, and other infrastructure projects for commercial, industrial, residential, and land development projects.

Associate’s degree $52,580

Civil Engineers

Civil engineers design, build, and supervise infrastructure projects and systems. 

Bachelor’s degree $86,640

Geoscientists

Geoscientists study the physical aspects of the Earth.

Bachelor’s degree $91,130

Hydrologists

Hydrologists study how water moves across and through the Earth’s crust.

Bachelor’s degree $79,370

Petroleum Engineers

Petroleum engineers design and develop methods for extracting oil and gas from deposits below the Earth’s surface.

Bachelor’s degree $137,170

Surveying and Mapping Technicians

Surveying and mapping technicians collect data and make maps of the Earth’s surface.

High school diploma or equivalent $44,380

For more information about careers in geology, visit

American Geosciences Institute

For more information about careers in oil and gas exploration, visit

American Association of Petroleum Geologists

Society of Petroleum Engineers

For more information about careers in coal and mineral extraction, visit

National Mining Association

O*NET

Geological Sample Test Technicians

Geological and Petroleum Technicians

Geophysical Data Technicians


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Geological and Petroleum Technicians,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/geological-and-petroleum-technicians.htm (visited ).