Although it sounds more like a computer programme than a job, a geophysical data processor is a whiz when it comes to digesting raw geological data into manageable chunks.
They run data sets through cutting edge technology, such as computer programmes and seismic measuring instruments, to process it, analyse it and check the quality.
From this data, they’ll build up visual analyses of seismic sections, prepare reports and present the results to clients.
The majority of geophysical data processors are employed by oil and gas service companies who specialise in data acquisition and processing. Some geophysical data processors also work in the public sector or for governmental agencies.
These specialist oil and gas companies usually have to bid for work and win contracts based on their fees, processing software, and speed at which the work can be completed.
Consequently, geophysical data processors are constantly working to refine and develop processing software and increase the speed at which something can be done. They also work to very tight deadlines, so this can be a highly pressurised job.
Salary & benefits
Geophysical data processors who are starting out in the field might earn between £20,000 and £35,000 a year. With experience, this could rise to between £35,000 and £50,000 per annum.
In addition, geophysical data processors might receive performance based bonuses.
Salaries tend to fluctuate with the state of the oil economy. Companies may provide generous benefits, like pensions and life insurance. Those working on data processing boats or overseas are likely to receive further benefits and bonuses.
Most geophysical data processors work traditional hours, e.g. nine-to-five. However, a geophysical data processor isn’t a stranger to overtime. Much of their working life is dictated by strict deadlines and, consequently, they might work longer hours to meet them.
With experience, geophysicist data processors might move to processing centres abroad or be employed to work on data processing boats.
Having a good degree is pretty much essential to become a geophysical data processor. A background in subjects such as computer science, geophysics, geology, physics, and maths will usually put applicants at an advantage.
Applicants might gain a postgraduate degree in an area like geophysics or petroleum geology to give them an edge over other candidates (and they could get higher starting salaries too).
This job requires a high level of technical proficiency and computer literacy. It’s hugely project-based, so candidates need to be able to work to tight deadlines and independently, as well as part of a team.
Good communication and analytical skills are required, particularly the ability to convey complex information to others. Problem solving makes up a large part of the job too; as every dataset will be different, they will have different processing requirements. A geophysical data processor will need to test and tailor computer programmes to individual datasets.
Training & progression
Training never stops for a geophysical data processor. Their medium is computers and computer programmes are evolving at a startling rate.
Not only will they have to build up a solid understanding of geophysical principles, but they might also have to learn new programming languages and how to use new software.
Most training for newbies takes place in-house; this might be in a training centre and/or through joining a processing team.
Career progression for a geophysicist data processor usually takes a managerial route: from project leader to being in charge of a whole team.