Geoscience: Providing Careers That Matter to Communities and Society

The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) has assembled an array of career-related resources to inform and guide young people about options in the geosciences as they consider their future careers. At present, most geoscience career resources are directed toward college students to guide their studies and preparation for working in a variety of geoscience-related fields. We are currently developing resources geared to high school students, and you can help by giving input about the information they will contain. We invite you to complete a survey (here), which we estimate will take about 5-10 minutes and will provide invaluable guidance into the career resources for geosciences that we are developing.

Occupations within the Geosciences help people and society thrive within our interactions with our natural world, addressing everything from climate change impacts, natural hazards to clean and available water to the resources we need to support our modern society. Unfortunately, outdated and limited conceptions of how and what earth scientists do in their work deter many students from considering these exciting and important pathways. Geoscientists do much more today than make field observations, it’s a high-tech profession, utilizing cutting edge technologies such as ground penetrating radar, 4-D seismic visualization (Figure 1, USGS), LiDAR (Figure 2, Swezey, 2020) and even gravity, hyperspectral or gas measurements, much of which is collected using platforms like aerial drones, ships, and satellites to investigate important questions about the Earth and its processes. Communities use geoscience information in many ways, including to make roads, bridges, buildings, and other parts of new infrastructure stable and safe for generations and to identify areas of hazards and ensure access to clean water. As well, geoscience can help communities uncover and preserve the natural and cultural history of their area, such as through paleontological and anthropological research in local settings.

Studies show that young people are highly motivated to pursue careers that are known to help improve the environment and living conditions (Carter et al., 2021), which can be accomplished through geoscience careers. We can see that AGI’s most frequently accessed career documents are related to Atmospheric Sciences and Environmental Geology. As students research careers in broad areas such as these, young people can learn about the wide array of pathways that they can consider. The skills developed in becoming a geoscientist can enable students to pursue a variety of opportunities, such as journalism, engineering, medicine, and law.  Likewise, there are a wide variety of things students might be interested in that feed directly into a future in the geosciences.  Yet, limitations in opportunities for students to engage with earth science in elementary, middle, and high school can mean that students may not consider these careers unless they are encouraged to explore such connections between geoscience and their areas of interest.

For example, in the Next Generation Science Standards, which are used in many school systems nationally, there are fewer performance expectations for Earth and Space Science (58) than for Life and Physical Science (64 and 73, respectively); this may lead to less exposure to geoscience concepts over the course of a student’s pre-college education. A review of state standards by AGI suggests that currently only two states require an earth science class for graduation. Approximately 1% of elementary teachers and 3% of secondary teachers are certified in earth and space science, which is lower than any other science certification (Wilson, 2016). While every state has required geoscience-related standards, a majority of teachers addressing these concepts are teaching out of area, which may limit their ability address misconceptions or to spark interest in the subject (Hill & Chin, 2018); especially a level of interest that could lead to students pursuing a career in the geosciences.

Employment in geoscience fields is projected to grow by 5% from 2021 to 2031 (Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 2022), with over 325,000 total positions for geoscientists in the United States; data collected by AGI show that of this total, approximately 100,000 new hires will be needed to fill vacant and new positions, which is more than can be filled by the number of students currently pursuing geoscience degrees (Wilson, 2014). We are hoping that the documents we create can increase student awareness and interest in geoscience careers and introduce students to the many exciting opportunities afforded by the geoscience careers available to them. We appreciate your time and input in the development of these resources (Survey), and in making students aware of these exciting career possibilities.

Two technologies, ground penetrating radar and seismic refraction, allow scientists to create images like this 3D Seismic Profile. Such images can show underground features; for example, oil and gas reservoirs, or fault lines, allowing people to address questions including the potential for earthquake hazards in a region. An animated version of this image is available at:
These two images show the same area in the Southeastern United States. The image on the left shows the LANDSAT data (Google Earth). The image on the right shows how a technology called LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is used to identify hard-to-see features on the landscape like these oblong depressions. Such features help geoscientists recognize that past climates in the Southeastern United States were a lot like the climate in parts of present-day Alaska. Understanding past climates can help us address climate change now and in the future.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Geoscientists,
at (visited October 31, 2022)

Carter, S.C., Griffith, E.M., Jorgensen, T.A. et al., Highlighting altruism in geoscience careers aligns with diverse US student ideals better than emphasizing working outdoors. Commun. Earth Environ 2, 213 (2021). Hill, H. C., & Chin, M. (2018). Connections Between Teachers’ Knowledge of Students, Instruction, and Achievement Outcomes. American Educational Research Journal, 55(5), 1076–1112.

“3D Seismic Profile Animation.” U.S. Geological Survey, Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center,  

Swezey, C.S. (2020). Quaternary Eolian Dunes and Sand Sheets in Inland Locations of the Atlantic Coastal Plain Province, USA. In: Lancaster, N., Hesp, P. (eds) Inland Dunes of North America. Dunes of the World. Springer, Cham.

Wilson, C. (Oct. 2014). “Explanation of the Predicted Geoscience Workforce Shortage.” American Geosciences Institute. Available from

Wilson, C. (2016). “Status of the Geoscience Workforce 2016.” American Geosciences Institute. Available from