Geological and Petroleum Technicians

Quick Facts: Geological and Petroleum Technicians
2017 Median Pay $54,190 per year 
$26.05 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Associate's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2016 15,000
Job Outlook, 2016-26 16% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 2,500

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Geological and Petroleum Technician Career, Salary, and Education Information

What Geological and Petroleum Technicians Do

Geological and petroleum technicians provide support to scientists and engineers in exploring and extracting natural resources, such as oil and natural gas.

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geological and petroleum technicians

Duties of Geological and Petroleum Technicians

Geological and petroleum technicians typically do the following:

  • Install and maintain laboratory and field equipment

  • Gather samples such as rock, mud, and soil in the field and prepare samples for laboratory analysis

  • Conduct scientific tests on samples to determine their content and characteristics

  • Record data from tests and compile information from reports, computer databases, and other sources

  • Prepare reports and maps that can be used to identify geological characteristics of areas that may have valuable resources

Geological and petroleum technicians tend to specialize either in fieldwork and laboratory work, or in office work analyzing data. However, many technicians have duties that overlap into multiple areas.

In the field, geological and petroleum technicians use sophisticated equipment, such as seismic instruments, to gather geological data. They also use tools to collect samples for scientific analysis. In laboratories, these technicians analyze the samples for evidence of hydrocarbons, useful metals, or precious gemstones.

Geological and petroleum technicians use computers to analyze data from samples collected in the field and from previous research. The results of their analyses may explain a new site’s potential for further exploration and development or may focus on monitoring the current and future productivity of an existing site.

Geological and petroleum technicians work on geological prospecting and surveying teams under the supervision of scientists and engineers, who evaluate the work for accuracy and make final decisions about current and potential production sites. Geologic and petroleum technicians might work with scientists and technicians in other fields as well. For example, geological and petroleum technicians might work with environmental scientists and technicians to monitor the environmental impact of drilling and other activities.

Work Environment for Geological and Petroleum Technicians

Geological and petroleum technicians held about 15,000 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of geological and petroleum technicians were as follows:

Support activities for mining: 25%

Oil and gas extraction: 23%

Engineering services: 12%

Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: 5%

Management of companies and enterprises: 4%

Geological and petroleum technicians spend their time in the field and in laboratories, or analyzing data in offices. Fieldwork requires technicians to work outdoors, sometimes in remote locations, where they are exposed to all types of weather. In addition, technicians may need to stay on location in the field for days or weeks to collect data and monitor equipment. Geological and petroleum technicians who work in offices spend most of their time working on computers—organizing and analyzing data, writing reports, and producing maps.

Work Schedules

Most geological and petroleum technicians work full time. Technicians generally work a standard schedule in laboratories and offices, but hours spent in the field may be long or irregular.

How to Become a Geological and Petroleum Technician

Geological and petroleum technicians typically need an associate’s degree or 2 years of postsecondary training in applied science or science-related technology. Some jobs may require a bachelor’s degree. Geological and petroleum technicians also receive on-the-job training.


Although some entry-level positions require only a high school diploma, most employers prefer applicants who have at least an associate’s degree or 2 years of postsecondary training in applied science or a science-related technology. Geological and petroleum technician jobs that are data intensive or otherwise highly technical may require a bachelor’s degree.

Many community colleges and technical institutes offer programs in the geosciences, petroleum, mining, or a related technology, such as geographic information systems (GISs). Community colleges offer associate’s degree programs designed to provide an easy transition to bachelor’s degree programs at colleges and universities; such programs can be useful for future career advancement.

Regardless of the program, most students take classes in geology, mathematics, computer science, chemistry, and physics. Many schools also offer internships and cooperative-education programs that help students gain experience while attending school.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Geological and petroleum technicians examine data and samples, using a variety of complex techniques, including laboratory experimentation and computer modeling.

Communication skills. Geological and petroleum technicians explain their methods and findings through oral and written reports to scientists, engineers, managers, and other technicians.

Critical-thinking skills. Geological and petroleum technicians must use their best judgment when interpreting scientific data and determining what is relevant to their work.

Interpersonal skills. Geological and petroleum technicians need to be able to work well with others and as part of a team.

Physical stamina. To do fieldwork, geological and petroleum technicians need to be in good physical shape in order to hike to remote locations while carrying testing and sampling equipment.


Most geological and petroleum technicians receive on-the-job training under the supervision of technicians who have more experience. During training, new technicians gain hands-on experience using field and laboratory equipment, as well as computer programs such as modeling and mapping software. The length of training can vary with the technician’s previous experience and education and with the specifics of the job.

Salaries for Geological and Petroleum Technicians

The median annual wage for geological and petroleum technicians was $54,190 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,010, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $108,420.


In May 2017, the median annual wages for geological and petroleum technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Management of companies and enterprises: $92,000

Oil and gas extraction: $69,810

Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: $53,470

Support activities for mining: $52,900

Engineering services: $45,270

Most geological and petroleum technicians work full time. Technicians generally work a standard schedule while in laboratories and offices, but hours spent in the field may be long or irregular.

Job Outlook for Geological and Petroleum Technicians

Employment of geological and petroleum technicians is projected to grow 16 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 2,500 new jobs over the 10-year period. Demand for petroleum and natural gas is expected to increase demand for geological exploration and extraction in the future.

Because geological and petroleum technicians are involved in ongoing production processes, such as monitoring a well’s productivity, more of these workers will be needed as production increases. Demand for exploration of resources such as coal, metals, and other mined goods generally is expected to continue as it has historically, or even to increase, over the projection period.

Job Prospects

Job opportunities will stem from growth and the likely retirement of older technicians over the projection period. The best job prospects will be for those candidates who have had hands-on training and who have good technical and analytical skills, which can be acquired through internships, co-op programs, and postsecondary education.

Employment projections data for Geological and Petroleum Technicians, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 15,000

Projected Employment, 2026: 17,400

Change, 2016-2026: +16%, +2,500

Careers Related to Geological and Petroleum Technicians

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Petroleum Engineers

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Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Geological and Petroleum Technicians,
on the Internet at