What they do

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 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.

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 Western 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 in the Pilbara or Eastern Goldfields regions. 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.

How do I become one?

Education and training

To become a geophysicist, you usually need to complete a degree in science, with a major in geophysics, geoscience or a combined geology and physics program. You may need to complete further postgraduate study to specialise in geophysics.

Some universities in Western Australia offer degrees in these fields. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.

You may also be interested in