Geophysics students study the physics of the Earth. This is wide-ranging
education -- these students study everything from the Earth's core to the
The basic geophysics degree program is a four-year bachelor of science
degree. For many jobs in the field, a master's or PhD is required.
This discipline is often found under the labels (or within the departments)
of geology, geoscience, earth sciences or even environmental science.
Geophysicists can also come from pure physics, pure mathematics or engineering
Such phenomena as continental drift and seafloor spreading, reversals of
the Earth's magnetic poles, the fluid core of the Earth and the thickness
and structure of the Earth's crust are all studied by geophysical methods.
"This is a demanding program for people with good math and physics skills,"
says geophysics professor Jim Merriam.
"Our program is unique in that the field school is the focus of
the final year. This provides students with an experience that is very close
to a professional project, where the problems of poor, incomplete, contradictory
and inconclusive data must be overcome."
Many geophysics programs offer students the opportunity to complete co-op
work terms. "Co-op programs involve four years of courses intermixed with
four or five four-month, paid work terms, primarily in the petroleum or minerals
industries," says geophysics professor Deborah Spratt.
You'll need a strong background in math and physics, says Spratt,
especially if you plan to pursue graduate studies in geophysics.
In high school, take geometry, trigonometry, algebra, physics, chemistry
and English. Students should have "good to excellent oral and written
communication skills," she adds.
And don't just concentrate on the books. "Hiking and orienteering
would be useful for learning to read maps and visualize three-dimensional
problems, and preparing students for outdoor labs and geophysics field school,"
"Car mechanics, carpentry and computer hardware and software troubleshooting
skills come in handy when setting up and acquiring data in field surveys in
less than ideal conditions -- improvisation is often required in fieldwork!"
Besides tuition and books, geophysics students face other costs. You may
have to buy boots and rain gear for field school, says Spratt. There's also
drafting supplies such as graph paper and a protractor.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Environmental
Scientists and Geoscientists
Careers in the Geosciences
From the American Geological Institute
Profiles of Geoscientists
Geoscientists can do all kinds of work