Physical Sciences

Geophysicists are responsible for the scientific research and analysis of the earth, environment and weather and the energy (seismic) waves caused by natural hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis and earthquakes to support the access, use and refinement of fossil fuels, natural gases, water, energy and the mining of metals and minerals.

Work Activities

Geophysicists work in various specialist areas for oil, gas, petrochemical, water and mining companies, environmental agencies and consultancies and at specialist research institutes and universities and are often highly qualified, often to PhD (Doctorate) level in subject areas including geophysics, geology, physics and maths. Much of the work and research takes place outdoors and in laboratories and offices.

Geophysicists work in teams to collect and analyse scientific data relating to the earth's formation using mathematical and scientific theories and seismic technology is often used to measure the effects of environmental factors and controlled and nuclear explosion effects.

National and international travel is common. Those working in the oil and gas industries are often required to work at sea (known as off-shore) on platforms and rigs.

Typical responsibilities may include:

  • research and analysis of the earth and natural environments
  • analysis, evaluation and interpretation of data
  • solving complex technical problems
  • operating high level equipment and computer programmes
  • working in international teams, often in remote locations
  • technical report writing and presentations
  • risk assessment and analysis

Personal Qualities and Skills

Key skills for geophysicists

  • strong technical problem solving skills
  • highly numerate and analytical
  • ability to interpret and present data
  • risk analysis
  • leadership
  • excellent written and verbal communication
  • good physical fitness
  • strong organisation and project management skills
  • ability to work in a team
  • flexible and willing to work in different locations

Pay And Opportunities

Typical employers of geophysicists

  • oil and gas engineering companies
  • mining companies
  • energy and utility companies
  • water companies
  • environment and sustainability agencies and consultancies
  • government departments and agencies
  • research institutes
  • universities


Qualifications and training provided

Maths and Physics form the basis of geophysics. Excellent GCSE/ Higher results in Maths and Physics.

A Level/ Advanced Higher Maths and Physics are required by most universities to study Geophysics and Physics degrees. Additional science and maths related subjects, in addition to Geography may be required for Physical Geography and Geology courses.

Scottish Universities require a minimum of four As at Higher including Maths and Physics. Three As at Advanced Higher permit entry to second year.

BTEC Engineering and Science courses may be accepted at Merit and Distinction level.

Entry to Geophysics can be gained through studying undergraduate degrees in Physics/ Astrophysics, Geology, Geophysics, Maths and Computer Science.

Many jobs and research positions require postgraduate qualifications at masters and PhD level.

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