Geological Technician

The Job and What's Involved

Geology is one of the geosciences, or earth sciences. It covers a huge range of subjects including engineering, physics, chemistry and information technology. Geological technicians support the work of professional geologists by supplying the information and data they need to complete their research. Their tasks could include:

  • Collecting and analysing information from rock samples.
  • Preparing rock and soil samples for testing.
  • Carrying out tests on the chemical composition and/or physical properties of samples.
  • Servicing and maintaining laboratory equipment.
  • Entering and processing data on a computer.
  • Interpreting data from seismic surveys.
  • Preparing geological maps.

Senior technicians could also be responsible for:

- Training and supervising junior staff
- Scheduling work
- Maintaining quality standards
- Producing reports.

Geological technicians use high-tech electronic instruments and computers and their work could include maintaining this equipment. They may also be involved in new and innovative technologies which are often at the 'cutting edge' of science.

The normal working week for geological technicians is 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They might sometimes have to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines. If their work involves the maintenance of electronic equipment and computers, they may have to work outside office hours to deal with emergency call-outs. Part-time work is sometimes possible.

Most of the work is indoors in laboratories. Geological technicians have to wear protective clothing in laboratories and sometimes need safety equipment when involved in certain types of activity.

Starting salaries may be around £12,800 to £16,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are about 3,500 geological technicians in the UK. Most jobs are with the British Geological Survey which is part of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Other employers include:

  • Oil companies and consultancies.
  • Service companies supporting oil and gas exploration and production.
  • UK universities and higher education institutions offering geology degree courses.
  • Larger museums.

The increasing use of sophisticated technology means that professional geologists are expected to be less reliant on technicians. In addition, many large oil companies contract a lot of work to service companies in an attempt to reduce costs. These trends may lead to fewer employment opportunities for geological technicians in the future.

Jobs are advertised in the national press and on the internet. Oil companies often recruit through employment agencies.

Education and Training

There are a number of entry routes depending on qualifications. Maths and sciences, such as physics and chemistry, are important. Geology could be an advantage, but is not essential.

School leavers starting as junior technicians need at least four GSCE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including maths and at least one science. Some posts require A levels/H grades or NVQ's/SVQ's. A science-based BTEC/SQA national certificate or diploma may also be acceptable. Entry requirements for these qualifications vary, but are usually at least four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or the equivalent.

Some organisations may ask for higher qualifications such as a higher national certificate/diploma (HNC/HND) or a degree. Minimum entry for a BTEC/SQA HNC/HND is usually four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) with one A level/two H grades, or the equivalent. The minimum entry to a degree is generally five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or the equivalent, with two A levels/three H grades. However, many degree courses ask for more than the minimum. English at GCSE/S grade (A-C/1-3) is generally required, and science and technical subjects are important.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Most training is on the job, but many organisations provide short in-service training courses on the use of particular techniques or equipment. Many employers encourage their technicians to study part time, by day or block release, for further qualifications such as BTEC/SQA HNC's/HND's, foundation degrees or degrees. There are NVQ's/SVQ's at Levels 2, 3 and 4 in Laboratory and Associated Technical Activities.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A geological technician should:

  • Have good scientific and technical skills.
  • Pay careful attention to detail.
  • Be accurate.
  • Be good with figures.
  • Be observant.
  • Have a methodical approach to problem solving.
  • Be a good computer user.
  • Have good graphical skills, particularly computer-aided design (CAD), if involved in producing geological maps.
  • Be practical.
  • Have good written and spoken communication skills.
  • Understand the importance of health and safety.
  • Be able to work without supervision.

Your Long Term Prospects

Larger organisations tend to have more formal career structures. There are likely to be fewer promotion opportunities in smaller companies and technicians may have to move employers to move up the ladder. Experienced technicians may move into managerial posts. It may also be possible to train to become a professional geologist.

Technicians working for oil and gas companies may be able to work abroad.

Geological technicians can move into related jobs, such as laboratory manager or laboratory technician, in another industry.

Get Further Information

British Geological Survey (BGS),
Kingsley Dunham Centre, Keyworth,
Nottingham NG12 5GG
Tel: 0115 936 3100

Energy Institute, 61 New Cavendish Street,
London W1G 7AR
Tel: 020 7467 7100

The Geological Society, Burlington House,
Piccadilly, London W1J 0BG
Tel: 020 7434 9944

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC),
Polaris House, North Star Avenue,
Swindon SN2 1EU
Tel: 01793 411500

Oil & Gas UK,
6th Floor East, Portland House,
Bressenden Place, London SW1V 1AU
Tel: 020 7802 2400

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