On Monday, March 15, the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences held a speaker session to illustrate current opportunities in the field of geology. William J. Siok ’69, executive director of the American Institute of Professional Geologists, and Pat Leahy, ’79, executive director of The American Geologic Institute and former head of the United States Geological Survey were invited to speak at the event.
While the talk was primarily geared toward those attending the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, students from many majors were invited to listen to the speakers.
Siok’s talk centered on the role of the AIPG in the field of geology including their work promoting ethics, public outreach, and advocating for professional geologists. He also mentioned the importance of joining professional organizations saying, “In my day it was critical to belong to several societies.” Among the benefits he listed were networking opportunities, contact with senior professionals in the field, and participation in intellectual and academic discussions.
Leahy’s talk was geared toward career opportunities that today’s graduates can choose from. He spoke of his 34 years with the USGS and how he started with an internship coloring geologic formation maps, and gradually rose through the ranks until he became the chief geologist, a position he held for 12 years. Finally, he sat as the acting director for a further two years. All told, he stated that he testified before Congress on no less than 40 separate occasions during his career.
An important point in his talk was that 50 percent of geologists are in the 50-55 year old age group as opposed to the 30-35 year old group. He pointed out that a significant portion of the workforce will be retiring without the number of professionals needed to replace them. His presentation cited that the forecasted demand for geoscientists will “undergo a 19 percent increase in the United States by 2010.”
A concept that both speakers touched upon was that geoscientists are in demand within many different fields. While industries like oil, gas, mining, and environmental science still recruit a great deal of geoscientists, other fields are beginning to recruit them as well. Leahy stated that telecommunications and finance are beginning to recruit a significant number of geoscientists for their problem solving skills, field experience, and mathematical abilities.
As for choosing his own path in geosciences, Siok said, “Well [initially] I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do, but it’s important to keep your options open.” But, he agrees that exploring the field early is important and a great way to do that is through student activities. “AIPG currently has about 15 student chapters and all a new chapter needs is a faculty advisor to give the students that little push.”