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Geophysicists study the physical structure and behaviour of the earth. They study rocks, oceans, gravity, and magnetic and electrical fields, in an effort to understand the earth's origins and better Future Growth Very Strong understand its behaviour.

The data that geophysicists collect and interpret can be used to locate underground water sources, geological faults and oil, gas and mineral deposits. This information can be used to determine any extra precautions necessary to ensure the safety and stability of buildings, as well as locating economically viable mine sites. Geophysicists may also perform laboratory and field studies, ground and drill hole surveys.

Geophysicists study the composition, structure and other physical attributes of the earth, locate and advise on the extraction of minerals, petroleum and ground water, and detect, monitor and forecast seismic, magnetic, electrical, thermal and oceanographic activity.

ANZSCO description: Studies the composition, structure and other physical attributes of the earth, locates minerals, petroleum or ground water, and detects, monitors and forecasts seismic, magnetic, electrical, geothermal and oceanographic activity.

Specialisations: Exploration Geophysicist, Mathematical Geologist, Physical Oceanographer, Seismologist, Structural Geologist, Technophysicist, Vulcanologist


Tectonic Plates
A geophysicist may be interested in the movement of earth's tectonic plates

Knowledge, skills and attributes

A geophysicist needs:

  • to enjoy mathematics and science
  • good communication skills
  • to be prepared to work both indoors and outdoors
  • a reasonable level of fitness
  • to be prepared to work in remote locations
  • a high level of research skills.
  • Ability to write clearly and succinctly for a scientifically-minded audience
  • Extraordinarily high understanding of physical science
  • Use of logic and deductive reasoning
  • Astute reading comprehension skills
  • Ability to convey complex information to others

Geophysicist at work
Geophysicist Mark Longacre
(Source: Earth Explorer)

Duties and Tasks

  • Forecasting weather, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural phenomena

  • Researching aspects of the earths physical surface for publishing in academic journals and research circles

  • Sampling rocks and other physical specimens for information on the constitution and composition of the surface of the earth

  • Studying fossils and other materials to add to the body of knowledge on evolution

  • Surveying specific locations for the presence of minerals, water, and petroleum

  • Teaching college and university courses (Source: Open University)

  • Conducting preliminary surveys of mineral, petroleum and natural gas deposits with prospectors, Mining Engineers, Metallurgists, and other mineral scientists and engineers

  • preparing and supervising the production of laboratory reports and scientific papers

  • conducting studies of the structure, nature and formation of the earth's crust and the minerals contained in it

  • studying and dating fossils and rock strata to develop knowledge of the evolution and biology of life forms, and to assess their commercial applications

  • studying the effects of natural events, such as erosion, sedimentation, earthquakes and volcanic activity, on the formation of the earth's surface and sea beds

  • carrying out exploration to determine the resources present by sampling, examining and analysing geological specimens, rock cores, cuttings and samples using optical, chemical, electronic and mechanical techniques

  • conducting surveys of variations in the earth's gravitational and magnetic fields to determine its physical features

  • investigating the propagation of seismic waves to determine the structure and stability of the earth's mantle and crust

  • studying the causes of earthquakes and other stress states of the earth's crust

  • performing laboratory and field studies, and aerial, ground and drill hole surveys (Source: JobOutlook)

Magnetic Map of Australia
Magnetic Map of Australia
(Source: Resource Potentials)

Working Conditions

Geophysicists can work both indoors, in an office or laboratory environment, or outdoors in variety of weather conditions, in potentially dangerous situations, depending on their area of specialisation. In  Australia, the majority of geophysicists are employed in the mining industry, as exploration geophysicists. They may spend long periods of time working in small teams at remote locations. Those working in offices or laboratories usually work regular office hours. When conducting fieldwork however, the hours can be long and include evenings and weekends.  

Tools and Technologies

Geophysicists commonly use radar, maps, global positioning system (GPS) equipment and surveying equipment, such as theodolites. They also use highly sensitive equipment to collect and record seismic data.

In some cases, they may use large industrial drills to collect rock samples from deep underground. They may also detonate explosives underground, to create seismic waves which can be collected and used to discover the presence of mineral deposits. Some geophysicists also use magnetometers for studying the earth's magnetic fields, and gravimeters to study the earth's gravitational pull.  

Education and Training

To become a geophysicist you usually need to complete a degree in science with a major in geophysics, or a combined geology and physics program.  


Did You Know? 

Geophysics covers a broad range of earth science and offers a variety of options. This list includes some, but not all, of the divisions of geophysics:


Marine geophysicists

Petroleum geophysicists

Mining geophysicists

Environmental geophysicists

Atmospheric physicist

Gravity geophysicist

Magnetic geophysicist

Electromagnetic geophysicist

Electrical geophysicist

Exploration geophysicists





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