Are you seriously stoked about sedimentary rocks? Are you mad about metamorphic rocks? Are you inspired by igneous rocks? Are you mad for maps and crazy about cartography? Right then, it’s about time you find out all about the professional life of a geological mapper.
Geological mappers are field-based, scientific professionals engaged in the collection, analysis, testing and charting of geological formations at various depths (surface, near-surface and underground).
Geological mappers (a.k.a. field survey geologists) are mainly employed by the British Geological Survey (BGS), an agency of the National Environment Research Council (NERC) in the UK.
However, they may also find employment with geological consultancies and private companies in the energy, mining and construction sectors.
If you enter this profession, you’ll be responsible for actively surveying and mapping sites of geological and commercial interest, and collecting and testing soil, rock and sediment samples from different points within targeted areas.
Following this information gathering process, you’ll be examining variations in geological composition across a specific geographic region and collecting evidence of new or changed formations.
Finally, you’ll be mapping data from multiple sources and presenting your findings in the form of satellite and photographic images, land survey maps, physical samples, sub-surface radar and sonar results and geological data tables.
Salary & benefits
Starting salaries for geological mappers with undergraduate qualifications range between £18,000 and £20,000, while personnel with postgraduate degrees earn around £20,000 to £25,000 per annum. Senior and experienced geological mappers can even earn up to £50,000.
Field-based work schedules involve long hours and working in extreme climates, remote regions and adverse weather conditions.
Lab or office-based research is carried out in nine-to-five, five-day week cycles.
Geological mappers that do both field and office roles spend around six or eight weeks onsite and the rest of the year back at the main office base.
A strong degree (2:1 minimum) in any geology-related subject is the basic entry requirement. However, a postgraduate degree may significantly improve your chances during the recruitment cycle, subject to other qualitative and organisational requirements being satisfied.
Gaining work experience through short-term placements may also be advantageous, since competition for the limited amount of vacancies is intense.
Training & progression
The largest employer of geological mappers in the UK is the British Geological Survey, which provides a comprehensive in-house training programme.
The Geological Society also offers training schemes for geological mappers employed by other organisations. Chartered membership of the Geological Society is also available to mappers who’ve completed six or more years of full-time work.
Opportunities for career progression include moving into management and policy development roles or teaching and training positions.
Many employees in the public sector eventually take up private sector jobs in the construction, mining, land reclamation and oil and gas industries, where they usually stand to earn higher salaries.
Taking up academic research is another viable alternative, as is freelance consulting.