EMPLOYMENT CONDITIONS IN INDUSTRY
The employment situation for petroleum geologists has always been cyclical. During times of expansion, companies stampeded to geoscience departments to hire the graduates. Such periods occurred in 1953-55, 1960-62, and 1972-80. During such times geoscience graduates received multiple job offers and high salaries. Students signed up for geology classes in large numbers and schools increased their faculties to turn out more graduates. Invariably, the expansionary periods were followed by recessionary ones, and companies laid off their less-experienced or less-qualified employees. New graduates had difficulty finding employment, and many were ultimately forced out of geology-related careers altogether.
In 1980, when I made my first Visiting Petroleum Geologist (VGP) visits to college campuses, conditions in the industry were much different than they are today. The latest "boom" was on and oil companies were expanding at a rapid pace, hiring geologists to beef up their exploration departments. New oil and gas exploration companies were being formed at an unprecedented rate. The call was out for geologists of any experience level. New graduates had not experienced such a plethora of job offers since the early '60s. A shortage of geologists resulted in starting salaries bid rising to dizzying heights. In those days, a VGP helped students sort out their multiple job offers, talked about paths of advancement in exploration companies, and explained such terms as "overrides," "carried working interests," and "net profit shares" that were being tossed at them by eager employers.
In response to the perceived future demand, students signed up for geology classes in record numbers just as they had in previous expansionary periods. New graduates with bachelor's degrees found work with little difficulty.
Some of the VGPs, recalling past booms and busts, argued for students to stay in school to get a master's degree. However, the lure of immediate employment was too much for most of the students to resist, and many went to work as soon as possible. Their employers were commonly new companies with few if any experienced geologists, and operated on shoestring budgets. When the "bust" came in 1981, it developed with surprising speed. It seemed that one day there was a shortage of geologists, the next day a glut.
A large number of recently employed young geologists were released from jobs. To make matters worse, scores of experienced geologists, perhaps hired by smaller companies from large companies only a short time before, found themselves back on the street also. The new geologist faced competition for the few available jobs not only from his peers, but also from the older hands. It's been a difficult time for many since the end of the hiring spree.
No reliable figures exist on the total number of petroleum geologists that are employed by U.S. firms. As of August 31, 1984, the membership of the AAPG was 39,459 (not including student members). A "guesstimate" is that there are about 50,000 U.S. geologists working in petroleumrelated jobs. Currently there are about 45,000 geoscience majors enrolled in U.S. universities, a total equal to the entire membership of the AAPG.
In 1984, approximately 6,500 students will receive undergraduate and graduate geoscience degrees. Of these, only about 200, or 3 percent, will be hired by the 20 largest U.S. oil and gas companies. The remaining 97 percent will have to look elsewhere.
Where will they go? The latest report of the American Geological Institute Mini-Manpower Survey (1981-1982) provides some clues, although the report is now out-of-date. The survey covered 5,173 1980-81 graduates. Three months after graduating, 3,768 or 72.84 percent had found jobs, 1,381 or 26.70 percent had enrolled in graduate school, and 24 or 0.46 percent were known to be still job searching. Of those hired, 2,803 or 74.39 percent found jobs in industry, 205 or 5.44 percent with the federal government, 140 or 3.72 percent with state and local governments, 160 or 4.25 percent in academia, and 380 or 10.08 percent were listed in "other" category.
The category "other" was the second largest employment choice (after industry) in the survey. Jobs in this category included members of the Armed Forces, consultants, the self-employed, and a number of other vocations with no recognizable connection to the geosciences.
Significant in the overall statistics is the fact that less than one-half of one percent of geoscience graduates were still looking for a job three months after receiving their degrees. As a group, geoscience majors are highly employable, and it should be encouraging to anyone receiving a degree that a broad spectrum of employers can use his or her services.
Preface | Attitudes | Employment Conditions In Industry
Preparing for a Career in Petroleum Geology | Who are the Employers
Contacting Employers Effectively | Alternative Strategies | References