Engineering geologists are concerned with the detailed technical analysis of earth material and the risk assessment of geological hazards. Their role is to ensure that geological factors affecting engineering works are identified and dealt with.
They assess the integrity of soil, rock, groundwater and other natural conditions prior to major construction projects. They also advise on procedures required for such developments and the suitability of appropriate construction materials.
Engineering geologists are also involved with analysing sites and designs for environmentally sensitive developments, such as landfill sites. By monitoring development areas and analysing ground conditions, they ensure that structures can be secure in the short and long term.
Engineering geology encompasses three key areas: engineering, geotechnical work and site investigation. Daily tasks can include:
Salary figures are intended as a guide only.
Relevant degree subjects include earth, physical, mathematical and applied sciences and engineering. In particular, the following subjects may increase your chances:
Entry without a degree or with HND only is not possible.
Geological Society has accredited a number of first degree geoscience courses. An accredited degree usually qualifies individuals for membership (Fellowship) of the society after a period of relevant postgraduate experience. It also confers chartered geologist (CGeol) status after a period of professional development and relevant experience (minimum five years). Candidates will need to be a fellow for at least three months and also attend an interview on certain days scheduled throughout the year. Those without a degree-level education majoring in geology should contact the Geological Society for further advice on how to attain chartered status.
A postgraduate qualification, for example an MSc in Engineering Geology, Geotechnical Engineering, Hydrogeology, Soil or Rock Mechanics, Foundation Engineering or related areas is desirable. An accreditation scheme for taught postgraduate MSc courses is also available.
It is sometimes also possible to gain entry to the field with a background in civil engineering or the sciences through the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) or the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) . Contact these organisations directly for further information.
Pre-entry experience is not formally required, although field work experience will improve your chances. The Geological Society has some useful information on this.
Candidates will need to show evidence of the following:
Physical mobility, a good standard of fitness and a driving licence are also required.
The range of employment fields for engineering geologists is broad and level of competition varies accordingly. Engineering geology within certain areas of the construction industry is growing, due to public regeneration programmes and similar projects.
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Training for new entrants is usually a combination of on-the-job and short training courses. Support varies with the employer but most are keen to encourage the development of skills and experience. Generally, the larger companies are more likely to provide structured training programmes and funding for additional courses, for example in areas such as risk management, project management, and health and safety.
With smaller companies, you may need to find out about training and development courses for yourself, but there may also be greater flexibility and exposure to a wider range of roles. Check with companies when applying for work.
Professionals maintain their knowledge base through contact with specialised groups linked to the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the engineering group of the Geological Society , which, in conjunction with the Association of Geotechnical and Geo-environmental Specialists (AGS) and British Geotechnical Association (BGA) , provides a training guide for engineering geologists and details of current geotechnical training courses.
Chartered status can be gained through a relevant professional body. For example, the Geological Society offers chartered geologist (CGeol) status and the option to become a chartered scientist (CSci). The ICE offers chartered engineer (CEng) registration.
Achieving chartered status takes about five years and candidates must meet the educational and training requirements of their professional body, undertake relevant experience and complete a professional interview. It can be helpful to identify a member of the profession who can act as a mentor throughout the process of applying for chartered status. Having a professional mentor can also support your work if you choose not to gain chartered status.
There are two main routes for career progression and both depend on technical ability, personal qualities and breadth of experience. An engineering geologist may:
Gaining chartered status is an invaluable part of career development and can improve your chances of achieving senior posts, such as in project management and team leading.
Keeping up to date with technical, legislative and statutory changes is also a key part of successful career development. It is important to maintain professional knowledge of relevant industry software and technology as there are fast-moving changes in these areas. Health and safety is also vitally important in the industry.
Continuing professional development (CPD) schemes are available through the professional bodies. Professionals normally maintain their knowledge base through contact with central or regional meetings of specialised groups linked to the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the engineering group of the Geological Society .
The main employers of engineering geologists are:
The more multidisciplinary a company or consultancy is, the more likely an employer will require a good level of experience. The specific focus of a particular company is also likely to affect the type of qualifications required. For example, a company which undertakes geotechnical and geo-environmental ground investigation projects may ask for a degree in geology or engineering geology, or civil or geotechnical engineering, in addition to postgraduate experience.
The industry is growing due to an increasing awareness of the impact of new developments on the environment. Increased UK and European legislation means that some proposed new developments are legally obliged to undergo an environment impact assessment before approval can be given for construction. This rise in activity due to legal obligations in some countries is likely to expand the sector.
General recruitment agencies sometimes advertise vacancies, and it is also useful to approach specialist agencies, such as Eden Recruitment and Matchtech .
Vacancies are advertised, but graduates are also advised to contact employers speculatively. It may also be worth contacting companies prior to graduation with a view to gaining relevant experience. The Association of Geotechnical and Geo-environmental Specialists (AGS) has a directory of its members which are searchable by category.
Consultancies which offer geotechnical services and who employ engineering geologists can be identified in the UK Geotechnical Services File, produced by British Geotechnical Association (BGA) , an affiliated society of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) .
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