Measuring, examining and exploring the physical properties of the earth are chief among the responsibilities of geophysicists. They may study electromagnetic fields, analyze atmospheric pressure or assess gravitational pull. Some may even study phenomena like tidal waves or earthquakes. Salaries for chief geophysicists will be much more than their entry-level counterparts.
In 2012, geoscientists earned an average of $106,780 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent of earners made more than $187,199, while the bottom 10 percent earned less than $48,270 annually. But these figures reflect the salaries not only of geophysicists but also of geologists, geochemists and oceanographers, among other geoscientists. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates salaries of geophysicists at anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000. Chief geophysicists likely earned closer to $144,000 a year.
As with any job, location affects earnings. Geoscientists earned the highest wages in Oklahoma, where the average was $153,120 a year. Those working in Texas were a close second, at an average of $146,800, while geoscientists in the District of Columbia ranked third, earning $128,040. The lowest wages were in South Carolina, where the average was just $38,540.
Employers typically seek candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree in geophysics for entry-level positions, but a master’s degree in this specialty is becoming more common. Chief geophysicists, on the other hand, likely need more advanced degrees, such as a Ph.D. It also pays to have years of experience in the field to move into this senior-level role.
The BLS expects employment for geoscientists to grow by as much as 21 percent through 2020. This is much faster than the average growth rate for all U.S. occupations, an estimated 14 percent. In this relatively small field, the 21-percent growth works out to the creation of just over 7,000 new jobs, some of which should be in geophysics. Expect additional openings as a result of geoscientists retiring or leaving the field.
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