Geochemists use their expert knowledge of geology and chemistry to provide vital assistance in the exploration of natural resources, such as oil, natural gas and minerals. These scientists can also use their expertise to reduce pollutants and increase water quality.
Employed by oil companies, environmental consultancies, universities and research institutes, geochemists use state-of-the-art equipment and scientific techniques to analyse rocks, soil and minerals.
As a geochemist, you’ll get your oily mitts on all kinds of hi-tech equipment, including:
- Gas chromatograph-mass spectrometers
- Carbon analysers
- Differential scanning calorimeter/thermogravimetry (DSC/TG) instruments.
Using devices of this kind, you will be responsible for collecting samples out in the field and then analysing their chemical structure in a laboratory.
Based on your analysis and interpretation of the data you have amassed, you will write detailed reports and use complex software to build computer-generated models of hydrocarbons. You will then be required to present your findings to engineers and stakeholders.
If you pursue an academic route, you will conduct more theoretical research and write papers for academic journals. You might also lecture students and deliver presentations at academic meetings and industry events.
Salary & benefits
Entry-level geochemists tend to earn between £19,500 and £29,000 per annum, while senior professionals can earn up to £50,000 and beyond.
Field work is a regular fixture for geochemists. Consequently, many geochemists will not work a standard nine-to-five. Weekend work, for instance, is quite common.
Frequent field work means that you will be required to travel around the country or overseas from time to time.
If you have your heart set on becoming a geochemist, you will need to complete an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in a relevant subject, such as geochemistry, environmental geoscience, geology, physics, geophysics, maths, mining engineering or chemical engineering.
You can enter this line of work with an HND in a relevant subject. However, this will only allow you to work at laboratory technician level. Before you can progress up the career ladder, you will need to complete further study.
There aren’t actually that many jobs going in this area of work. Consequently, a relevant postgraduate degree can be a great way of boosting your employability and edging ahead of the competition.
Training & progression
The majority of your training will be done whilst on the job under the supervision of a senior geochemist. However, you may occasionally be required to attend in-house training courses on topics such as new technology and safety out in the field.
Becoming a member of the Geological Society will enhance your career progression and earning potential, especially if you become a chartered geologist or scientist.
Many geochemists eventually opt to specialise in a specific area, such as the mining industry, the oil industry or the environmental sector.
Some experienced professionals even decide to become freelance geochemistry consultants who offer advice to a range of organisations on different projects.
Alternatively, you can always pursue a career in academia and teach the next generation of geochemists.