Mining, Energy & Utilities
Geophysicists study the physics of the earth’s surface, and what lies beneath it.
What does a Geophysicist do?
Geophysicists study the physics of the earth’s surface, and what lies beneath it. They take measurements using seismic, gravity, magnetic and electrical data collection methods and use mathematical models to understand the changes that take place underneath the earth’s surface.
As a geophysicist, you might perform the following tasks:
- designing data collection plans, including deciding on suitable seismic measurement and data-processing techniques
- supervising the collection and processing of seismic data
- planning, conducting and interpreting geophysical surveys in exploring for mineral commodities, measuring reservoir volumes or assessing potential oil and gas yields
- operating computer systems and software for interpreting and mapping 2D and 3D seismic data
- carrying out geophysical surveys of areas prior to the construction of major engineering infrastructure such as dams, bridges or roads
- studying earthquakes and earthquake risk, including the distribution of the earth's magnetic and gravity fields, and the fluid dynamics of molten rock (magma)
- compiling charts and reports and writing documentation.
Key skills and interests
To become a geophysicist, you would need:
- to enjoy technical and engineering work
- a methodical approach to problem solving
- to enjoy applying physics and mathematics in practical ways
- good oral and written communication skills
- the ability to work independently or as part of a team
- a willingness to undertake fieldwork in remote areas.
Working hours and conditions
You would usually work standard hours, Monday to Friday. Fieldwork is likely to involve travel and working away from home, possibly for long periods.
You could work in a laboratory, workshop or factory, or outdoors carrying out fieldwork. You may have to wear protective clothing for some jobs to prevent contamination and contact with hazardous substances.
Geophysicists often work closely with geologists.
How to become an Geophysicist?
Entry Level Education
To become a geophysicist you usually have to complete a degree in science with a major in geophysics, geoscience or a combination of geology and physics, usually at honours level. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your senior secondary school certificate or equivalent. English, mathematics, chemistry, physics or biology would be appropriate subjects to study prior to university.
Graduates may be eligible, after a qualifying period, for membership with the Australian Institute of Geoscientists, the Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists and/ or The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM).
Employment of geophysicists and geoscientists is projected to grow slightly faster than the average for all occupations.
Geophysicists will be needed to study the effects of alternative mineral and gas extraction processes, such as coal seam gas, on the physical structures below the earth’s surface. Geophysicists may also be involved with new technologies that expand the ability to reach untapped oil reserves or other alternative ways to provide energy for an expanding population.
An expanding population and the corresponding increased use of resources below the earth’s surface and oceans are likely to create a continued need for geophysicists and geoscientists.