Overall Salaries Show Slight Gain This Year

Variances depend on age, experience

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

Salaries for petroleum geologists continued to climb in most categories during the past year, but at a slower rate than previous years – and the amount of the increase depended greatly on the amount of experience a geologist was bringing to the job.

This year’s annual AAPG Salary Survey shows a weighted average increase of 1.4 percent in geoscience salaries in 2012-13.

Mike Ayling
Mike Ayling

Mike Ayling, of MLA Resources in Tulsa, who has conducted the annual salary survey for AAPG since 1981, said that some age and experience groups within the survey actually did better than the overall average.

Others did not.

“The salaries that were up were largely due to people just coming into the business, or very experienced people,” Ayling said.

“The 0-2 year experience levels showed a small increase, up 6 percent,” Ayling continued, “but recently graduated bachelor level geologists also had a difficult time finding work – and the few that did, worked for lower salaries, depressing the overall average.

“Master’s grads are getting hired on a pretty regular basis,” he added. “Those with bachelor’s degrees are finding fewer jobs.”

Also of note: Mid-experienced geoscientists (from three to 19 years experience) actually saw average salaries shrink, dropping from 2 to 8 percent.

Ayling saw this as an adjustment to the previous trend.

“These people have been in high demand for the past two-three years,” he said of the group, noting their average salaries had “increased significantly over the past two years.

“While these groups remain in strong demand, perhaps lethargic overall hiring has taken a toll on averages,” he said.

He also noted that those within the age groups may be receiving bonuses from their companies, “and there would be no way of accounting for that in our survey.”

The more experienced geologists showed a 6.2 percent increase this year, “perhaps reflecting the value placed on their ability to contribute during a slack time of industry growth, a desire to retain experienced staff and a bit to make up for lower increases in the past,” he said.

Even for the more experienced category there was a wide variance in salaries, which Ayling surmised may reflect the salaries of “those who are in management versus the working geologist.”

The AAPG annual survey is based on U.S. salaries only, still considered the “gold standard” for the industry. The measurement for international salaries for explorationists is virtually on a country-by-country, case-by-case basis, Ayling said, which makes statistical averaging non-productive beyond the boundaries of any specific country.

Also, many ex-pats are paid U.S.-based salaries, while the national oil companies opt to pay compatriots on a different, lower scale.

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