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What Geological and Hydrologic Technicians Do About this section

Geological and petroleum technicians
Geological and hydrologic technicians help identify locations that are suitable for oil and gas wells.

Geological and hydrologic technicians support scientists and engineers in exploring, extracting, and monitoring natural resources, such as soil, natural gas, and water.

Duties

Geological and hydrologic technicians typically do the following:

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

Geological and hydrologic technicians typically specialize either in fieldwork and laboratory study or in analyzing data. However, technicians may have duties that overlap into multiple areas.

In the field, geological and hydrologic technicians use equipment, such as seismic instruments and depth sensors, to gather data. They also use tools, such as shovels and gauges, to collect samples for analysis. In laboratories, these technicians use microscopes, computers, and other equipment to analyze samples for problem-solving and other purposes.

Geological and hydrologic technicians work on teams under the supervision of scientists and engineers. Geological technicians help with tasks such as exploring and developing prospective sites or monitoring the productivity of existing ones. Hydrologic technicians assist with a variety of projects, such as providing information for negotiating water rights.

Geologic and hydrologic technicians also might work with scientists and technicians of other disciplines. For example, these technicians may work with environmental scientists and technicians to identify the potential impacts of drilling on an area’s soil and water quality.

Work Environment About this section

Geological and petroleum technicians
Fieldwork requires technicians to work outdoors, sometimes in remote locations, where they are exposed to all types of weather.

Geological and hydrologic technicians held about 16,800 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of geological and hydrologic technicians were as follows:

Engineering services 15%
Support activities for mining 12
Oil and gas extraction 10
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 5
Management of companies and enterprises 3

Geological and hydrologic technicians work either in fields and laboratories or in offices. Fieldwork requires technicians to be outdoors, sometimes in remote locations, where they are exposed to all types of weather. In addition, technicians may need to stay on location for days or weeks to collect data and monitor equipment. Geological and hydrologic technicians who work in offices spend most of their time on computers to organize and analyze data, write reports, and produce maps.

Work Schedules

Most geological and hydrologic technicians work full time. Technicians generally work standard hours in laboratories and offices but may have irregular schedules in the field.

How to Become a Geological or Hydrologic Technician About this section

Geological and petroleum technicians
Geological and hydrologic technicians use laboratory equipment such as microscopes to analyze samples collected in the field.

Geological and hydrologic technicians typically need at least an associate’s degree in applied science or science-related technology to enter the occupation. Some employers require a bachelor’s degree. Geological and hydrologic technicians also receive on-the-job training.

Education

Although entry-level positions typically require an associate’s degree in applied science or a science-related technology, employers may prefer to hire applicants who have a bachelor’s degree. Geological and hydrologic technician jobs that are data intensive or highly technical may require a bachelor’s degree.

Community colleges and technical institutes may offer programs in geosciences, mining, or a related subject, such as geographic information systems (GIS). Regardless of the program, most students take courses in geology, mathematics, computer science, chemistry, and physics. Schools also may offer internships and cooperative-education programs in which students gain experience while attending school.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some geological and hydrologic technicians may be required to have the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard (HAZWOPER) certification. HAZWOPER certification includes training in health hazards, personal protective equipment, site safety, recognizing and identifying hazards, and decontamination. Refresher training may be required to maintain certification.

The American Institute of Hydrology (AIH) offers different levels of voluntary certification for hydrologic technicians. Each level requires different amounts of education and experience. Recertification is required periodically.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Geological and hydrologic technicians evaluate data and samples using a variety of techniques, including laboratory experimentation and computer modeling.

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

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

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

Physical stamina. To do fieldwork, geological and hydrologic technicians must be able to reach remote locations while carrying testing and sampling equipment.

Training

Geological and hydrologic technicians typically receive on-the-job training to attain competency. Under the supervision of experienced technicians, new technicians gain hands-on experience using field and laboratory equipment and computer software. The length of training may vary from 1 to 12 months.

Pay About this section

Geological and Hydrologic Technicians

Median annual wages, May 2020

Geological and hydrologic technicians

$50,630

Life, physical, and social science technicians

$48,440

Total, all occupations

$41,950

 

The median annual wage for geological and hydrologic technicians was $50,630 in May 2020. 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 $28,210, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $109,300.

In May 2020, the median annual wages for geological and hydrologic technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Management of companies and enterprises $85,530
Oil and gas extraction 76,120
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 52,400
Engineering services 45,610
Support activities for mining 36,120

Most geological and hydrologic technicians work full time. Technicians generally work standard hours in laboratories and offices but may have irregular schedules in the field.

Job Outlook About this section

Geological and Hydrologic Technicians

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Geological and hydrologic technicians

9%

Total, all occupations

8%

Life, physical, and social science technicians

7%

 

Employment of geological and hydrologic technicians is projected to grow 9 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 2,300 openings for geological and hydrologic technicians are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Demand for natural gas, along with exploration and management of resources such as minerals and water, is expected to increase demand for geological exploration and extraction in the future.

Employment projections data for geological and hydrologic technicians, 2020-30
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2020 Projected Employment, 2030 Change, 2020-30 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Geological and hydrologic technicians

19-4045 16,800 18,300 9 1,500 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about careers in geology, visit

American Geosciences Institute

For information about careers related to ground water, visit

National Ground Water Association (NGWA)

For more information about hydrology careers and certification, visit

The American Institute of Hydrology (AIH)

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 Technicians, Except Hydrologic Technicians

Hydrologic Technicians

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