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Geophysicists apply the principles and concepts of physics, mathematics, geology, and engineering to the study of the physical characteristics of the earth and other planets. As a geophysicist, you would measure gravity and magnetic fields, seismic waves, temperatures, and natural electric current.

Representative Job Titles and Area of Specialization
  • Atmospheric Scientists
  • Engineering Geophysicist
  • Exploration Geophysicist
  • Geodesist
  • Geomagnetician
  • Geophysicist
  • Geothermal Specialist
  • Hydrologist
  • Laboratory Technician/Assistant
  • Limnologist
  • Meteorologist
  • Oceanographer
  • Paleomagnetician
  • Planetologist
  • Professor/Instructor/Lecturer
  • Rock Mechanics Specialist
  • Seismologist
  • Solar-Planetary Relationships Tectonophysicist

Nature of the Work

Geophysicists typically specialize in one of three general areas: Solid Earth; Fluid Earth and Upper Atmosphere. Here are some examples of their work:

  • Geophysicists, who specialize in solid earth, search for oil and mineral deposits, as well as water and energy resources. They also are concerned with earthquakes and the internal structure and development of the earth.
  • Seismologists study the earth's interior and its vibrations caused by earthquakes and man-made explosions.
  • Geodesists study the size, shape, and gravitational field of the earth and other planets. Their main tasks are mapping the earth's surface and explaining the variations found.
  • Hydrologists study the distribution, circulation, and physical properties of underground and surface waters. They also study rainfall and how quickly is absorbs into the soil. Some are concerned with water supplies, irrigation, flood control, and soil erosion.
  • Geophysicists specializing in the upper atmosphere investigate the earth's magnetic and electric fields, and compare its outer atmosphere with those of other planets.
  • Geomagneticians study the earth's magnetic field while Paleomagneticians learn about the earlier magnetic fields from rocks or lava flows.
  • Planetologists study the composition and atmospheres of the moon, planets, and other bodies in the solar system.

Places of Employment
  • Construction and engineering companies
  • Exploration and consulting firms
  • Federal agencies including:
    • Army Corps of Engineers
    • Army, Navy, Air Force
    • Bureau of Mines
    • Defense Mapping Agency
    • Department of Energy
    • National Aeronautics
      and Space Administration
    • National Oceanic
      and Atmospheric Administration
  • Universities, colleges
  • Soil conservation service
  • Geological surveys
  • Construction companies
  • Mining and quarrying companies
  • Non-profit research institutes
  • Petroleum and natural gas companies
  • Public utilities
  • State departments of water resources,
    conservation, transportation, energy
  • State geological surveys


Some entry-level positions in Geophysics may be obtained with a bachelor's degree. Your job prospects are greater if you have a strong background in computer science.

Some entry-level Geophysics jobs only require a bachelor's degree. Better jobs with opportunities for advancement usually require a master's degree. If you want to be a research geologist, then you should pursue a Ph.D.

For further information and/or career counseling contact the UCR Career Center, (951) 827-3631.

Supplemental Material

The following documents may provide further ideas for exploration.


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