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Geophysicist

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Summary of occupation

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.

ANZSCO description: Studies the composition, structure and other physical attributes of the earth, locates minerals, petroleum or ground water, and detects, monitors and forecasts seismic, magnetic, electrical, geothermal and oceanographic activity.
Alternative names:
Specialisations: Exploration Geophysicist, Mathematical Geologist, Physical Oceanographer, Seismologist, Structural Geologist, Technophysicist, Vulcanologist
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A geophysicist needs:

  • to enjoy mathematics and science
  • good communication skills
  • to be prepared to work both indoors and outdoors
  • a reasonable level of fitness
  • to be prepared to work in remote locations
  • a high level of research skills.
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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.

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Salary details

On average, geologists and geophysicists can expect to earn $2 688 per week ($139 776 per year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience. As a geophysicist develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.

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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.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a geophysicist you usually need to complete a degree in science with a major in geophysics, or a combined geology and physics program.

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

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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