A Career in Geophysics

The largest number of geophysicists find employment in the petroleum industry. Since most of the petroleum deposits are buried deep below the surface, petroleum geophysicists find oil and gas by building a clear picture of what is below the Earth's surface. How do geophysicists build this picture?

diagram of geoogical features being recorded by seismic method
A seismic source is used to create shock waves that reflect off the rock layers. The upcoming energy is received by the receivers, and the signal is transmitted through the cable to the recording truck. The signal is digitally recorded and stored on disk.
Vibroseis trucks in field

The Seismic Method

In the petroleum industry, the most common and effective method of obtaining a clear picture of the Earth's subsurface is the seismic method. This technique is based on principles of Earth physics. Shock waves set off at the surface penetrate the earth like sonar and the returning echo can be used to tell what is below.

Petroleum geophysicists usually specialize in the acquisition, processing or interpretation of seismic data. However, most will have a good knowledge of the other areas, as well as geology and some engineering principles, as there is a high degree of collaboration between the different groups.

petroleum deposits near fault

Petroleum deposits occur in several different shapes. Two types of deposits are shown here

petroleum deposits in reef

Petroleum geophysicists can be divided into three categories:

Each of the above three types of geophysicists is described further in the following sections.

Vibroseis trucks in field

Tractor mounted Vibroseis units are used to put shock waves into the ground by pounding large steel plates onto the surface of the earth.