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How do I find a job that incorporates everything I love to do? What degree should I pursue?

I am absolutely in LOVE with the outdoors and travel. My favorite subjects in school have always been Geology, Earth Science, and Biology. I am very passionate about the environment and sustainability. I look forward to all my classes, and I really enjoy being a student in general. College is my happy place, I think because of how much a I enjoy learning. I consider myself a relatively creative person too- I spend a lot of time on art projects and writing. Any suggestions for me? I would like to combine my love for nature/science and my creative thinking :) #science #nature #geology #creative-professions #travel

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John’s Answer

Ann N.

You have asked the "I want to make my cake and eat it too." kind of question. That's okay, but let me tell you nothing comes without giving up something else. You may love to travel until you find a place you can't think of ever leaving. You might love the outside until you get tired of the rain or snow or even the desert, but to answer your questions as someone in who has an BS in Chemistry Geology with a minor in Earth Science and outrageous amounts of time looking for work.

The simply answer is, "Try Everything!"

Everything that peaks your interest, go for. Don't worry you will not get them all and it's better to be the one turning down offers than the one sitting by the phone waiting for a phone call from HR. Get your degree in what every field you like but do your homework to find jobs that will be a good fit with your degree. For example if you want to work outside say away from any degree ending in "studies" those jobs normally deal with people and people go inside during bad weather. Environmental jobs normally keep you outside, and can lead to indoor jobs when you start to get a bit older and can't take being outside half the year.

Do not be afraid to move for your job. If you want a job that travels many project management jobs end with the project and therefore moving every few years is easier. Some jobs that travel keep you inside all the time. Looking at walls of a hotel room in Boston is about the same as looking at the all of a hotel in Germany, so just because the job travels doesn't mean you be in nature.

You have to remember family ties can lock you into the one location so marriage or having a partner that doesn't want to travel might make life tough. Be careful the kinds of people you let close to because you might feel horrible having to move away from them.

The best thing I can say is to make lots of plans, don't get tied to any of them but look at them as possible option for you. The more options you have, the more flexibility you will have.

Good Luck!

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Vernon’s Answer

Great. Keep pursuing those courses for as long as you can. When you finally leave academia, you will be faced with an out-of-control attack on those special places in our country by our corporations in the "extraction" industries. I suggest that you minor in government so that you can run for office somewhere and do what is needed to restore our nation's wild and beautiful places.

Your generation will have a very large job after these coming years of environmental destruction.

Good luck.

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Keith’s Answer


I went to Old Dominion in Norfolk back in the 1970's. What follows below is part of an answer I wrote for someone else about the Environmental industry. Read it. I did environmental work for 8 years and was a project manager. I was the geology club president at ODU when I was there. Today they have ruined a good all around geology program and focus only on the last 2.5 million years (the Pleiestocene) in order to do get money to study the fiction of man made global warming. The Geology Club president they had a few years ago said none of the undergrads were getting jobs and the faculty only focused on the grad students. That was because of the research money they were getting. There is a huge conflict of interest in universities today about graduating students with skills that are marketable vs just taking their tuition money in order to get paid and not caring if they can find a job.

Career-wise, petroleum geoscience employs the most geoscientists. Having said that, there are a large number of specialty areas in geosciences. Some cross over into geophysics and geochemistry. So you have your homework cut out for you. You need to determine what specialty area you like the most and feel you could do every day. I hate to burst your bubble, but in order to get a good job, that is a job that is not really just a grunt, you will need a Masters Degree. That means you will need to take mathmatics up to and including algebra, trigonometry, and calculus. You will also need to take physics and chemistry. So if your idea was to avoid those harder sciences, you cannot. Now, if you like rocks and minerals, more bad news. There are really very few jobs that pay to study hard rocks and minerals. Sedimentary rocks, yes, there are. Petroleum employs a lot of specialists in sedimentary petrology (petrology is from the latin word petra for rock and has nothing to do with petroleum, which is latin for "rock oil"- petra- rock and oleum- oil. Sedimentary petrologists study sandstones, shales and carbonate rocks since they are the rock types in which petroleum is most often found. Mining geology is a very small community with fewer employment opportuntites. Vertibrate and invertebrate paleontology are the study of fossils. The first includes dinosaurs, but somebody has to die for you to get a job in that area and you will need a Phd, as most work for museums or teach. No company pays anyone to study dinosaurs. The second one, is the study of back-bone-less animals and the oil industry does pay a lot of people to study those as they are used for markers of stratigraphic units in which oil is found. Stratigraphy is the study of the rock layers in the geologic column, it is an important area in which people work in the petroleum industry. Geophysics is the study of how energy is used to image the rocks deep in the ground it is probably the largest and highest paying area of the geosciences in the petroleum industry. Petrophysics, is like the above but limited to a well borehole where wells are steered by recording the electrical, radioactive and sonic properties of rocks in order to steer the drill bit to the target. A related field in geo-steering who are specialists who steer the drill bit in real time to hit the sweet spot zone in oil shales for fracking. Structural geologists are an important segment of specialists that help determine how oil reservoir traps are formed to best understand how to recover the most oil. Contrary to some who do not know the real world will tell you, there will always be oil. There is not any agreement on whether oil is a finite resource or not. Considering that there are whole planets made up of hydrocarbons in our own solar system and that hydrocarbons appear to be one of them most pentiful types of chemical compounds in the known universe, it is silly to think that it was only formed from organic matter. But that is what our current science tells us. Oil will be around for generations because we do not have anything to replace it. Most oil is used for transportation so yes that can be replaced, but unless we build more nuclear plants oil, natural gas and coal will continue to be used to generate electricity for the foreseeable future. Look around your home, or classroom. See plastics much? Synthetic clothing? The cover on your notebook, your back pack, you shoes, your pens, your cell phone, your calculator, the rubber on your bike tires or school bus, the carpet on the floor, the styrofoam cups in the lunch room the plastic straws, the plastic water bottles, the pastic chairs, the formica table tops, the tile floors, the plastic seat covers in your car, the vinyl dash of your car, the bumpers the fender trim, the list goes on and on, were all made from oil or natural gas from oil. The plastic wrap and most packaging at the grociery store come from oil. It takes 40 gallons of diesel fuel to plant, fertilize and harvest one acre of farm land. Modern farming in the US and arond the world would be impossible without oil to power the machinery, make fertilizer, and get the grains to market. When I was your age, millions in Africa, Indian and China died of starvation every year before modern agriculture was introduced to those countries by an American named Norman Borlog in the 1950's. He has probably save more peoples lives than Jonas Salk inventor of the polio vaccination. So my point is oil will always be around, we cannot live without it currently, there is just no replacement for all the products made from it. The only unknown factor is how much it will cost. Long after we cease to use 70% of it for private cars, it will continue to be used for plastics and other materials for which there are no known replacements. I don't think wood or other "renewables" would be much good in making a computer or cell phone. Want a wooden medical implant? No, I wouldn't either. So, don't worry, there will aways be a place for a geologist who can find oil and they will continue to look in more and more difficult places. We have not even begun to look on Antarctica. One day we will. Environmental Geology. Well, been there done that. The pay sucks. Why? Because jobs can be categorized into cost centers and profit centers. If you work in a profit center, like petroleum job, you find oil that MAKES money for your employer. Why do ball players make millions? Because they work in a profit center and they MAKE millions for the team owner. Why do teachers get so little pay? Because they work in a COST Center. That means they cost the local government and the tax payers money. They do not earn money for the state they cost them money. The Environmental scientist is the same. A company pays him to clean things up after a spill or accident creates a problem that is controlled by law. To get legal again they have to perform a cleanup. That COSTS them money, so the want to pay the least amount to get legal or back into "compliance" with the local or federal laws. The might mean cleaning the soil or water back to certain standards decreed by law. Companies do not know when these accidents or events will occur so they do not hire a lot of environmental people and the ones they do hire do not do the work, they do book keeping and they hire others, the consultants to do the work. So to be competitive, the consultants use a lot of young new hires, overseen and managed by a bunch or more experienced scientists. The consultant industry is like a conveyor belt, governed by your billing rate. As you get older and get more raises and your billing rate gets hire, fewer and fewer project budgets can support your rate and there are fewer and fewer opportunities for you to work. So, you have to become a manager and work fewer hours on more and more projects and let the younger lower paid folks do the grunt work in the field. So you become more efficient and learn to manage ten or fifteen projects at a time, or carve out a specialty area that is high paid, in order to continue to work. It is higher pressure and time driven since you have to meet a lot of regulatory deadlines. I recall us purchasing a seat on an airplane for a report to make sure that it got from point a to point b without it getting lost. Someone put it in the seat on one end and someone else arrived and picked it up from the seat on the other end. This was pre- 9/11 so I doubt you could do that now, and with Fedex you wouldn't need to with guaranteed delivery. But missing a deadline could cost you millions in regulatory fines or lost government aid. I had to finish a project in Downtown Dallas in order for the DART transportation system to get tens of millions of Federal money. Some paper Hitler in Austin refused to expedite the processing of my report. I tried to tell her I had friends in high places, but she thought she was Queen of something. So I had to play my ace card, and had the Governor of the State of Texas give her a call and tell her to get off her seat and process my report. Dallas DART got their money because my report was approved the next day.

This professional recommends the following next steps:
 Determine if you have the academic ability to complete the math and physics for a MS degree.
 Determine what geoscience specialty your like enough to make your career.
 Determine if anyone will pay you to do that specialty.
 Find a college program that has a good history of graduates finding jobs in their specialty areas upon graduation. Not just an "job" but doing what they studied.