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How to Become a Geological or Petroleum Technician

Most employers prefer applicants who have at least an associate’s degree or 2 years of postsecondary training in applied science or science-related technology. Geological and petroleum technicians also receive on-the-job training.


Postsecondary training is needed for most geological and petroleum technician jobs, although some entry-level positions require a high school diploma. However, most employers prefer applicants who have at least an associate’s degree or 2 years of postsecondary training in applied science or a science-related technology. 

Many community colleges and technical institutes offer programs in geosciences, petroleum, mining, or a related technology such as geographic information systems (GIS). Community colleges offer associate’s degree programs designed to provide an easy transition to bachelor’s degree programs at colleges and universities; such programs can be useful for future career advancement.

Technical institutes typically offer 1-year certificate programs and 2-year associate’s degree programs. Technical institutes usually offer technical training, but they provide less theory and fewer general education courses than community colleges offer.

Regardless of the degree program, most students take classes in geology, mathematics, computer science, chemistry, and physics. Many schools also offer internships and cooperative-education programs that help students gain experience while attending school. With this experience, it may be easier to get a job.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Geological and petroleum technicians examine data, using a variety of complex techniques, including laboratory experimentation and computer modeling.

Critical-thinking skills. Geological and petroleum technicians must use their best judgment when interpreting scientific data and determining what is relevant to their work.

Interpersonal skills. Geological and petroleum technicians need to be able to work well with others and as part of a team.

Stamina. To do fieldwork, geological and petroleum technicians need to be in good physical shape to hike to remote locations while carrying testing and sampling equipment.

Speaking skills. Technicians need to be able to explain their methods and findings to others.

Writing skills. Technicians document their work in reports that scientists, engineers, and other technicians use, so they need to write their methods and results clearly.


Most geological and petroleum technicians receive on-the-job training under the supervision of technicians who have more experience. During training, new technicians gain hands-on experience using field and laboratory equipment, as well as computer programs such as modeling and mapping software. The length of training varies with the technician’s previous experience and education. Most training programs last from a few months to 2 years.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition