Geological technicians help and support the work of geoscientists. They look after the day-to-day running of the laboratory, setting up and monitoring experiments, analysing samples and survey results, and managing equipment stocks. Technicians are involved in areas such as mineral, gas and oil exploration, civil engineering, education and academic research.
Geological technicians manage the day-to-day running of the laboratory. They set up, clear away and clean equipment, manage stock levels, service equipment and carry out minor repairs.
They also carry out fieldwork to collect samples, for example, of rocks and sediments. Back in the laboratory, they analyse samples to explore their physical structure and chemical content.
Technicians keep accurate records of their findings. They use computers to store, analyse and display data, for example, as graphs and charts. Technicians input data into computer databases and might produce written reports.
To help with chemical analysis, technicians can load and operate automated testing machines. These save time by enabling geoscientists to test hundreds or even thousands of samples at once. Other experiments and analyses can be more time-consuming, such as using gas chromatography to separate chemical compounds in a sample.
Geological technicians also analyse and interpret results from photographs, satellite images and seismic surveys. This helps geoscientists to map an area's geological features, and to identify likely sites for the exploration of oil, gas or minerals.
In university and museum education departments, geological technicians often have other support duties.
They photograph fossils and rocks, prepare thin sections of rock to be display mounted, make plaster casts for exhibitions, and produce teaching aids such as maps and diagrams.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To be a geological technician, you'll need:
- A thorough, methodical approach to your work.
- Good attention to detail.
- Number skills to analyse data.
- The ability to use technical equipment and computers.
- Good observation skills.
- The ability to read and interpret geological maps and charts.
- Good team skills, as well as the ability to work without much supervision.
Colour vision is important for reading geological maps, as, for example, they depend on colour to show different rock types.
Pay and Opportunities
Salaries for geological technicians vary depending on employer, role and responsibilities. The pay rates given below are approximate.
Geological technicians earn in the range of £15,000 - £17,000 a year, rising to £21,500 - £28,000. Higher salaries are possible, depending on employer, role and responsibilities.
Hours of work
Geological technicians usually work around 35-40 hours, Monday to Friday. However, they might need to have early starts, late finishes and some weekend work.
Where could I work?
Geological technicians work for companies in the oil, gas and coal industries, and for geological consultancies, research companies and government-supported scientific institutions.
Opportunities for geological technicians occur in towns, cities and rural areas throughout the UK.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised in national newspapers. They appear on scientific and general job boards, and on recruitment websites for the oil, gas, mining and civil engineering industries. Specialist job boards include OilCareers.com, oilandgaspeople.com and Earthworks-Jobs.com.
Entry Routes and Training
Entry requirements vary depending on the employer. The usual minimum is four GCSEs (A*-C), including English Language, Maths and a science subject, or equivalent.
However, many technicians hold higher qualifications, including A levels or equivalent, or higher national qualifications. Some employers recruit graduates as technicians.
Relevant subjects include geology, geoscience and earth science.
Training is often on-the-job, for example, in lab procedures or specialist equipment.
Many geological technicians study part-time to improve or update their qualifications, and therefore enhance their career prospects.
You might work towards a relevant qualification such as a:
- Level 2 NVQ Certificate or level 3 NVQ Diploma in Laboratory and Associated Technical Activities.
- Level 2/3 NVQ Diploma in Laboratory Science.
- PAA/VQSET level 2/3 Certificate in Laboratory Technical Skills.
Registered Science Technician (RSciTech)
The Science Council has launched a new register for professional technicians. Registration recognises technicians' vital role and raises their profile: becoming a Registered Science Technician (RSciTech) will help ensure that your expertise is properly recognised by employers and others within the science community. Registration is through membership of one of a number of recognised professional bodies. To register, you'll usually need a relevant level 3 qualification, such as an AS or A level, level 3 NVQ or Edexcel (BTEC) level 3 National. For more information, please see the Science Council website.
In larger organisations, promotion could be to a supervisory or lab management position.
Previous experience working in a geological position would be really useful for this career.
The usual minimum entry requirements are 4 GCSEs (A*-C), including English, Maths and a science subject, or equivalent. GCSE Geology is useful but not essential. ICT is also a useful subject.
However, many geological technicians hold higher qualifications, such as A levels or equivalent, higher national qualifications and degrees, depending on the employer and level of responsibility you'd need in the post.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A-level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter a degree or HND course, you might be able to start one after completing an Access course, for example, Access to Science. You don't usually need any qualifications to enter an Access course, although you should check this with the course provider.
- 8% of people in occupations such as geological technician work part-time.
- 20% have flexible hours.
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