07 December 2005

geology: the forgotten science

I was listening to the Earth Watch program on PRI the other day, and they were talking about the problem of dwindling enrollment in geology curricula at the undergrad level. This has been a problem at most schools for years. When I graduated undergrad, there were four of us in our class (of about 550 +/-). When I was in grad school at Rutgers there were between 5 and 15, and Rutgers is one huge school. They blamed it on crappy earth science education by unqualified teachers in high school, and the preeminence of Biology and Physics and Chemistry. Geology is always the forgotten science. It's quirky, requires the integration of all the other sciences at varying levels, the ability to think in 3D, and a grasp of the 4th dimension, Time (and I mean deep time, not like a few thousand years).

They then pointed out that undergrad geology majors command the highest out-of-school starting salaries of all the physical sciences. I find this hard to believe. They must not be including the primary path of employment for these folks, the environmental consulting industry. Or maybe I am way out of touch and off base here. In the oil industry, there are not a whole lot of B.S.-level jobs out there in geology.

What is also interesting is that in the energy industry, the #1 employer of geologists, there are always enough geologists looking for jobs at the B.S. and M.S. level that salaries are not that competitive.

So, would I recommend to somebody to go into Geology as a fabulous career path? No. I would tell them that if that's what they liked, they should do it. Why? Because in the end, it usually does not matter what you major in, unless you go to grad or med or vet etc. school (but what high school senior really knows they want a Ph.D.?).

At least that's my opinion.