What do you do with a GES degree?

What can you do with a GES degree?  Well, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, quite a lot!

Geologists and Environmental Scientists are employed in a wide range of sub-disciplines (e.g., environmental consulting, water resources, risk assessment and natural hazard mitigation, government oversight and monitoring, oil & gas, green tech mining, materials science, data analytics, and many more) that all have strong job prospects. In addition, the skills you are trained in through your GES degree are highly valued: according to workplace data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for geoscientists was over $90,000 per year, and for environmental scientists it is over $70,000 per year.

In fact, majoring in geology or environmental science is likely to get you a higher salary than most Appalachian graduates!

More importantly, the job outlook is bright. The projected growth in these jobs is higher than average for all combined occupations. The job prospects, and salaries, are even greater for those who go on to earn a master’s degree. A PhD is rarely required, unless you plan to go into academia or government research.

About 94% of our graduates are working in the geoscience fields after graduation. See advice from our graduates, and scroll down to see where Appalachian GES graduates are employed.


What kind of jobs do geologists and environmental scientists get?

Why is projected growth in jobs for people with geoscience skills so much higher than in other fields? Just look at your everyday life and you will see why. Geoscience is involved in many things that people take for granted but rely on every single day.

  • Geologists and environmental scientists (particularly those with an earth science background), along with civil and environmental engineers, are the primary professionals working in the environmental industry. In fact, geologists are highly-sought for environmental work because they can become licensed Professional Geologists (P.G.), which is essential in securing contracts and certifying plans for environmental projects. A geology degree will get you that license and the increased marketability associated with it. Appalachian's GES Department can help you get the credentials to sit for the P.G. exam.
  • Another field of employment for geologists is in Earth materials. What do they find and process? Well, many of the materials in your cell phone or tablet. Without a geologist, they would not exist, nor would your solar panel, your bicycle or your favorite quick-dry outdoor clothes.
  • Many geoscientists are employed as teachers, either at the Secondary level, teaching high school Earth Science classes, or at universities and community colleges.

Where are Appalachian GES graduates employed?

Approximately 94% of our graduates are employed in some field of the geosciences and environmental sciences.  Our data on graduates since 1998 shows the following employment trends:

  • 35% are employed in the environmental industry, either with environmental consulting firms (28%) or with federal, state and local agencies (7%) dealing with environmental issues. Some examples of environmental firms employing our graduates are Altamont Environmental, Antea Group USA, Apex Environmental, Aspect Consulting, CH2M-Hill, Golder Associates, Nobis Engineering, PSI Inc., URS, and Xeritech, to name a few. Agencies employing our graduates include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Florida Geological Survey, Los Alamos National Laboratories, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
  • 17% are in academia, either at universities, community colleges, or secondary schools. Several of our graduates are now professors and postdocs at a variety of 2 and 4 year colleges and research institutions. A large number of our graduates are Earth Science or general science teachers at secondary schools throughout the Southeast.
  • 10% are employed in the petroleum industry. While the availability of these jobs fluctuate with the base price of a barrel of oil, they are generally high-paying jobs, especially for those with master’s degrees in geophysics. Our graduates in this field are employed by Anadarko, Cabot Oil, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Halliburton, HessWilco, and Schlumberger, amongst others.
  • 9% are employed in the earth materials industry. These jobs range from running mine operations to exploring for minerals that power our economy and keep us happy (think of your iPad or cell phone). Our graduates in this field are working for Piedmont Lithium, Active Minerals, the Gemological Institute of America, Global Venture Natural Resource Consulting, Nova Copper, and UNIMIN (to name just a few).
  • 21% of these are in graduate school working on master’s degrees and PhDs. We send students to graduate schools all over the United States and even overseas. Our graduates have attended schools such as Brown University, Cornell University, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Virginia Tech, the University of Maryland, the University of Utah, the University of Oregon, Colorado School of Mines, the Ohio State University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Texas, Texas A&M, the University of Tennessee, Boise State University, the University of Alaska (Fairbanks), the University of Chicago, the University of Florida, the University of Idaho, the University of Iowa, the University of Kansas, and the University of Nebraska,  among others. This is only a partial list, but the evidence is that our students are quite marketable to graduate programs. Overall, approximately 40% of our graduates have gone on to earn a graduate degree.
  • only 6% are employed in another field. There are a variety of reasons that a GES graduate may opt for another field (particularly if they are bound to a specific geographic region for family reasons), but the point is that the college degree opens up many opportunities, some of which may be outside of the field of the degree. For example, some of our graduates who elected to stay in a particular region are working as software developers, as accountants, as brewers, as organic farmers, but the bottom line is that their education created transferrable skills as well as opportunity.

Use our alumni network!

When looking for a job as a GES graduate, be sure to reach out to recent graduates via our GES alumni network. We have developed a strong network over the past decade with numerous companies in the southeastern US. They will often email us with job opportunities, which will be posted each week in the monthly newsletter. Be sure to read the newsletter for job announcements, internships, and MS/PhD opportunities.

Other questions? We've got answers!

Thinking about PG (professional geologist) licensure?

Thinking about graduate school? (spoiler - you probably don't have to pay for it!)