Geology is one of the geosciences, or earth sciences. It covers a huge range of subjects including engineering, physics, chemistry and information technology. Geological technicians support the work of professional geologists by supplying the information and data they need to complete their research. Their tasks could include:
Senior technicians could also be responsible for:
- Training and supervising junior staff
- Scheduling work
- Maintaining quality standards
- Producing reports.
Geological technicians use high-tech electronic instruments and computers and their work could include maintaining this equipment. They may also be involved in new and innovative technologies which are often at the 'cutting edge' of science.
The normal working week for geological technicians is 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They might sometimes have to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines. If their work involves the maintenance of electronic equipment and computers, they may have to work outside office hours to deal with emergency call-outs. Part-time work is sometimes possible.
Most of the work is indoors in laboratories. Geological technicians have to wear protective clothing in laboratories and sometimes need safety equipment when involved in certain types of activity.
Starting salaries may be around £12,800 to £16,000 a year.
There are about 3,500 geological technicians in the UK. Most jobs are with the British Geological Survey which is part of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Other employers include:
The increasing use of sophisticated technology means that professional geologists are expected to be less reliant on technicians. In addition, many large oil companies contract a lot of work to service companies in an attempt to reduce costs. These trends may lead to fewer employment opportunities for geological technicians in the future.
Jobs are advertised in the national press and on the internet. Oil companies often recruit through employment agencies.
There are a number of entry routes depending on qualifications. Maths and sciences, such as physics and chemistry, are important. Geology could be an advantage, but is not essential.
School leavers starting as junior technicians need at least four GSCE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including maths and at least one science. Some posts require A levels/H grades or NVQ's/SVQ's. A science-based BTEC/SQA national certificate or diploma may also be acceptable. Entry requirements for these qualifications vary, but are usually at least four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or the equivalent.
Some organisations may ask for higher qualifications such as a higher national certificate/diploma (HNC/HND) or a degree. Minimum entry for a BTEC/SQA HNC/HND is usually four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) with one A level/two H grades, or the equivalent. The minimum entry to a degree is generally five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or the equivalent, with two A levels/three H grades. However, many degree courses ask for more than the minimum. English at GCSE/S grade (A-C/1-3) is generally required, and science and technical subjects are important.
Most training is on the job, but many organisations provide short in-service training courses on the use of particular techniques or equipment. Many employers encourage their technicians to study part time, by day or block release, for further qualifications such as BTEC/SQA HNC's/HND's, foundation degrees or degrees. There are NVQ's/SVQ's at Levels 2, 3 and 4 in Laboratory and Associated Technical Activities.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
A geological technician should:
Larger organisations tend to have more formal career structures. There are likely to be fewer promotion opportunities in smaller companies and technicians may have to move employers to move up the ladder. Experienced technicians may move into managerial posts. It may also be possible to train to become a professional geologist.
Technicians working for oil and gas companies may be able to work abroad.
Geological technicians can move into related jobs, such as laboratory manager or laboratory technician, in another industry.
British Geological Survey (BGS),
Kingsley Dunham Centre, Keyworth,
Nottingham NG12 5GG
Tel: 0115 936 3100
Energy Institute, 61 New Cavendish Street,
London W1G 7AR
Tel: 020 7467 7100
The Geological Society, Burlington House,
Piccadilly, London W1J 0BG
Tel: 020 7434 9944
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC),
Polaris House, North Star Avenue,
Swindon SN2 1EU
Tel: 01793 411500
Oil & Gas UK,
6th Floor East, Portland House,
Bressenden Place, London SW1V 1AU
Tel: 020 7802 2400
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.