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The State of Modern Geology
  
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marvinlewinsky




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PostPosted: Feb 16, 2020 15:26    Post subject: The State of Modern Geology  

The state of modern Geology

Being new to mineral collecting, and especially new to mineral forums (FMF/Mindat) I see things that might escape the attention of more seasoned viewers. In particular I note that there are many geologists selling minerals rather than working as professional geologists. My granddaughter (who is studying medicine I might add – I am a very proud grandfather) told me that many Universities in the US and elsewhere are closing Geology Departments because there are diminishing job opportunities for geologists and fewer people are willing to take geology as a major.

I also note that many experts in the field of education, business and finance are telling young folk not to waste time or money getting (student debt!!) a College degree (or diploma) unless you can get a degree (or diploma) that will guarantee professional employment other than employment at KFC or Wendy’s.

It seems like an interesting topic that has far reaching implications for the future of mineralogical research and mineral collecting in general.
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Roger Warin




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PostPosted: Feb 16, 2020 15:44    Post subject: Re: The State of Modern Geology  

Hello,
I'm not sure it still is. In Europe, and particularly in Belgium, geologists find jobs in soil remediation and other sciences related to the protection of Nature.
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PostPosted: Feb 16, 2020 16:06    Post subject: Re: The State of Modern Geology  

Personally I haven‘t noticed any diminution of jobs in the geology or mineralogy fields. As Roger mentioned, lots of geologists nowadays get jobs in the field of Environmental Geology. Also, prices of many metals are relatively high now, so mining companies are working hard and hiring geologists. And mineralogists get jobs in many occupations other than just teaching, museums or research positions, including jobs in mining company labs, ceramic or other materials sciences industries, and even police departments.
Those of us who hunt for and sell mineral specimens are probably all doing it because we love minerals, and not because there are no other jobs available.
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marvinlewinsky




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PostPosted: Feb 16, 2020 16:27    Post subject: Re: The State of Modern Geology  

I am aware that some professions such as fine arts, performing arts, graphic arts and English language studies will produce graduates who will seek employment in areas outside their college training. In many instances it is not because these people chose to work outside the profession, but rather a job is better than no job at all, even if the job is only marginally related to the training one received at college. In many cases they could have gotten the job without the degree or diploma, or the debt incurred in getting the degree or diploma. I come across a lot of ‘unemployed’ Geologists, as far as being employed in the profession that goes with the College diploma or degree.
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PostPosted: Feb 16, 2020 17:46    Post subject: Re: The State of Modern Geology  

As a retired geology faculty member, I may be able to provide some perspective. When I was in high school, our guidance counselor told me I shouldn't go into geology because there weren't any jobs. I ignored his advice because I knew what I wanted to do and, frankly, I had no respect for his knowledge. My undergraduate work was at Ohio State in the early 1960s. My classes were very small (average 6 to 10 students). They were rigorous and required a lot of creative thinking. I learned more about how to solve problems and use my knowledge than many of my peers in other science programs. At the time I graduated, I knew that I wanted to go on to grad school, so I didn't look for a job. However, despite a big drop in oil-industry employment at about that time, most of the students who didn't want to go to grad school found good jobs in the mining or oil and gas industries..Those industries knew that OSU put out good graduates.

I started teaching at a non-selective 4-year college in 1970. Shortly thereafter, there was another downturn in the mining and energy businesses. The program where I taught was very small (3 faculty members), but we agreed to provide courses that were rigorous and challenging and to maintain high standards, including prerequisites in math and the other sciences. Although we had only small numbers of majors and were in constant trouble with the dean, we graduated some of the best geologists I know, and they have done extremely well (and have had very satisfying careers). Many recognized that there were more geology grads than jobs, and went to good schools for masters' or Ph.D. degrees.

The school where I started my career gradually reduced standards to keep afloat, and the geology program was terminated in the late 1980s. They have since become a fundamentalist Christian school that is relatively successful--there, unfortunately, is a market for that approach in the U.S. It would not be a good place to teach geology. But, about this time, environmental geology (with an emphasis on chemistry and hydrogeology) had started to replace the jobs lost in mining and energy, and there was an upturn in career possibilities.

In 1989, I moved to another undergrad school, where essentially the same kinds of things occurred. In the 1990s, we graduated some very good geologists, but we felt constant pressure to reduce standards and prerequisites, retain poor or underprepared students, and develop new programs (with only 3 faculty members, none of whom had much background, we started beginning-level courses in engineering geology, hydrogeology, environmental geology, forensic geology, etc., all of which competed with more rigorous advanced classes). Unfortunately, some faculty members, seeing their own futures in jeopardy, bowed to pressure from an administration that kept getting bigger and more intrusive.

Prerequisites (including a stress on field work) were reduced, and, by the early 2000s, the preparation of students from American high schools had slipped significantly. I found that students entering our program had little understanding of (or interest in) courses that I see as essential to preparing knowledgeable and innovative scientists. We were pressured to reduce prerequisites in math, chemistry, and physics and to drop a logical approach to course work, where each course builds on the previous one. I was dismissed, sometimes to my face, as an elitist. Such is the state of many American colleges and universities.

I feel that I had a good career, helping to prepare some superb geologists (some much better than I) under a system that provided continually increasing challenges right up until I retired (gladly) in 2007. Despite constant talk about "no jobs in geology" (which I see as a somewhat self-fulfilling prophecy), a good proportion of our students went on to lucrative, fulfilling careers--I still keep in touch with many of them. Those who didn't find careers in geology (usually because they refused to relocate or go on for a masters' degree) don't work for fast-food chains or box stores (that's baloney propagated by American media, mostly run by people who have no knowledge at all about science or science careers)--they mostly work in technical fields and still talk fondly of their student experiences. However, the decline in standards in American education in the last 20 years has been precipitous. It corresponds with a huge decrease in public support for education and an increase in faith among the public in the "business model", which actively discourages rigorous, quality science programs. We may all live to regret this.

I would encourage any well-motivated student to enter a geology program at a quality college or university. I always found that motivation was the key to success among my students, and, given a school that has maintained decent standards (and I don't necessarily mean a school with a big reputation), they will go on to a rewarding career. Geologists who are trained to use their knowledge creatively aren't likely to be replaced by AI or some other technical innovation soon.
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PostPosted: Feb 16, 2020 19:41    Post subject: Re: The State of Modern Geology  

Hello Bob:

I thank you for your very lengthy answer.

I am a retired teacher myself, having been retired for some 15 years now.

The best way to approach this problem is to ask a simple question; for every 100 geologists graduating how many are employed as geologists within 12 months of graduating.

I know the success rate for people with arts-based degrees is very poor – 67% are still unemployed as artists after 12 months of graduating (2018 data). Only a very small percentage (ca.5%) have found jobs as artists; mainly as teachers. The remaining arts graduates are employed in either age care or retail – take away food jobs. It is noteworthy that only 11% of electrical engineers are still unemployed after 12 months from the time they graduated. Even here many of the engineers are doing jobs only marginally related to their course of study.

Again, I do not know the statistics for earth science graduates.
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PostPosted: Feb 18, 2020 11:02    Post subject: Re: The State of Modern Geology  

Hi folks,

I will add my perspective: I'm a used-to-be professional geologist, located in central Europe. I have a university major in mineralogy-geochemistry-environmental geology. During the last year at university (2007), I sent maybe like 100 letters to various companies worldwide. I received responses from 3-4 of them. I already had experience working on geology expeditions (Morocco, Mongolia, Russia), proven skills etc. - no way. In my home country, salary was so poor, that the offers were hardly enough to survive.

I got an offer from local company in 2008 which I accepted, as I was already under financial pressure. And there was a potential of working in Kyrgyzstan or Mongolia, which was what I wanted to do. Somehow, I was shuffled to local projects, I spent 3 years mapping abandoned mining dumps and adits for geology surveys + some classic engineering and hydrogeology stuff like wells, pumping tests, hydrogeology mapping, monitoring geochemistry of groundwater etc. The sad part was that I left the company after 3 years, simply because the salary was below survival limit. And during that time I was abroad only once, because my colleague broke both his arms... oh well.

Then I tried a new job hunt again, no way. Crisis hit hard and almost every company was in the lean mode... ups. So I shuffled to freelancing doing whatever could earn some $$. In 2012 I started PhD in mineralogy, exactly pegmatite geochemistry. I do it mostly for fun, I had some illusions but again - no doors open for a guy from "wild east". I tried quite hard for a few years, then I simply gave up and focused on my IT skills.

I'm now full time in IT. I got a few pretty good exploration work offers, but I can not complain about my IT job. And I have a family and I'm not willing to be months away as I was willing 10 years ago. I still cooperate on scientific research (pegmatites, greisens), I'm an active field collector, and my wife is full time research geologist. Geology is a lifestyle, not a job :D

And here we come to generic situation: In 2008/2009 crisis hit hard. Mining was in the survival mode, very limited money going into exploration and prospecting. Suddenly, we now realized that despite wild claims about environment and "evil" mining and blah blah, we MUST get the resources somewhere. Especially with renewables, electromobility, more and more electronics - there is more demand then ever before and after almost 30Y of kicking into "evil mining" we are spanned very thin.

It is much more easy to find a job now, but you must be able to relocate, accept long periods of fieldwork or brutal academic internal war. Everyone in "west" is now going after easy degrees in "human sciences" and some office job. The technical guys go for IT or machinery, but not everyone can do this. I think there is a very good opportunity nowadays. Old generation of exploration geologists (metals, not oil) is almost extinct, in Europe for sure. EU and US are now realizing that without controlling critical resources, we are pretty much done.

So geology job options are much better than they used to be 10-15Y ago. Still not easy though, very hard for family life, definitely not the comfort life in well paid corporate or government office.
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PostPosted: Feb 19, 2020 16:49    Post subject: Re: The State of Modern Geology  

From the perspective of a computer scientist--

I hear from advisors and professors, nowadays, the same arguments about computer science. I've heard computer science is too generalized; They say the money is in specializing-- pick something like user-experience design blah blah blah. I don't know where some people get their info, but I have never had a hard time finding a job as a computer scientist. Companies call me, yet I hear people telling students that there are no jobs in computer science or that they do not pay well.

I imagine it is the same in any field. It's not like all of a sudden we just stop needing experts in any field. If you work hard and learn as much as you can, you will succeed one way or another. If you are just going to college because your parents told you to, and you happened to pick your field because you saw a TV show, well, then, maybe it will be hard to find employment. Maybe people are just too picky. I moved several states for my job at one time.

Here I am, a computer scientist, trying to learn as much as possible about mineralogy, chemistry, and crystallography. Maybe more people will realize the benefits of these domains. I certainly have. I give you mineralogists etc credit. Your field is harder than computer science, and I'm an expert in everything from transistors to operating systems. You win hands-down for most frustrating domain.
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PostPosted: Feb 19, 2020 16:54    Post subject: Re: The State of Modern Geology  

Keep it up; as with most things, the more you learn, the more you'll enjoy the subject.
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PostPosted: Feb 19, 2020 17:59    Post subject: Re: The State of Modern Geology  

First of all, a good education should mean learning how to think, not just doing a job...there is a difference between education and training. I'm much more concerned about the effects on education of the expectations that ANY degree should lead to a golden job pot at the end of the rainbow. This is as true of Geology as English or Psychology. Academic advisors do students a disservice by channeling them into fields just because they think can get a job...which many wind up disliking and leaving as soon as they can, or get trapped by life's obligations and spend a lifetime working at something they viscerally hate. And the narrowing of the focus of a Liberal Arts education...where one gets to sample many disciplines before settling on one...is equally to blame for this progression.

Applying a metric like how many of 100 geograds are still employed in geology x years after graduation is arguably too simplistic. First, following where this started, geologists who become mineral dealers are still geologists, they just found a different entrepreneurial way to apply their skills. Second, as more than one contributor here has noted...geology is a lifestyle, it is not a career. Unlike many other professions where you get to go home every night, your "office" is often days from home. This puts stresses on personal relationships (few career geologists find themselves still married to their first partner) and on the bod (some folks don't do well with travel). This drives a LOT of people out of the profession regardless of whether they can get a job or not. Third, a lot of people in all disciplines wind up switching fields or getting diverted into related specialties (like materials sciences) from their undergrad or grad degrees...that does not render their initial studies moot. For example, I believe a relatively small percentage of law school grads wind up pursuing law as their career, but that training serves them well in other ways. My father was an English professor and he watched most of his students go into other fields...but they could read and write well, which led to success.

I've been an Economic Geologist for 40 years and have weathered a number of ups and downs, through which I was fortunate to be able to stay employed...or in grad school. Others were not so lucky and took to selling hammers at Home Depot (most geologists are smart enough to look for jobs with better benefits than flipping burgers) or leaving for other technical fields. Through this time we've seen environmental and climate science assume increasing importance in the earth sciences...a trend matched by declining enrollments in economic geology and elimination of economic geology programs altogether...at least in part justifiably because there is no research support for EG and academic life is hard enough without being able to get support.

The SEG Foundation recognized a decade ago that the upshot of all this is that there is now a 30 year gap between the last big generation of economic geologists and the reduced crop today....with a trickle in between. Most of us in the older cadre are approaching retirement so the supply of economic geologists is not going to improve quickly. Given the increasing demands for "green" metals...like silver (which makes solar work), lithium (batteries) and REEs (cell phones etc) the demand for people to find these elements is only going to increase. General supply and demand for geoscience professionals trained to find these things (or things in general) should not only increase their employability, but increase what they can ask for.

Most geologists I know tell some version of the story of how "geology found them" and none involve a guidance counselor steering them in that direction.This "finding" tends to stem from a love of the outdoors coupled with a curiosity about the nature of this rock we live on...the kinds of things that are not easily instilled remotely. In my experience, most students who come to geology from that direction find a way to make the field work for them...through thick and thin....the rewards being much greater than a regular paycheck (although that helps to pay for a decent mineral habit).

When students ask me about becoming a geologist I tell them that if they can imagine doing anything else they should do it, if not, welcome aboard.

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PostPosted: Feb 19, 2020 18:56    Post subject: Re: The State of Modern Geology  

Pete:

I have come across many who enjoy outdoor living – mostly unemployed homeless people wandering our many towns and highways in search of charity and a warm meal. Some might even be unemployed geologists – I do not know! Many enjoy acquiring knowledge too. You do learn a lot about life when you live on the streets.

What we are observing in post-industrial America today, are the direct consequences of sending essential skills and essential industries abroad. According to the experts in Human Relations the two growth areas for the next two decades are Health Care and Retail – The ever-growing Service Industry. We are also seeing the consequences of a shrinking middle-class and a working class heading towards abject poverty as the value of real wages decline.

It was always like this. There was a time when a young man or young woman had many employment options available to them. Some could become machinists or nurses, some could become police officers or soldiers, some could become artists or house painters, and yet others could become geologists or physicists or chemists or doctors. Back then the question was never will I get a job, it was always which job should I take, because the employment options were varied and many.

There is a double significance to this transfer of American industry out of the country. In the first place, it lowers the average wage level of American workers, as they are forced to move from manufacturing into a service industry or into less than full-time employment. And although factory workers are the first to be hit, eventually most other segments of the work force suffer as well, even the yuppies and others who would never think of working with their hands. When people who used to work in factories have less money to spend, there's less money to be earned by everyone.

In the second place, the transfer of industry out of the United States robbed us of national self-sufficiency. It may not matter much whether we have factories for producing pantyhose and plastic hair curlers or we import these things from Korea, but it matters very much whether or not we produce our own machine tools. If the Koreans give us an ultimatum: do what we say or no more plastic hair curlers, we can laugh in their faces. If the Chinese decide not to sell us more machine tools, however, we'll be in trouble.

So where is this all heading? Today, the only reason for a young American to study Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy, Geology, Mathematics or any other scientific discipline is that having knowledge is better than living in ignorance. Unfortunately, College admission boards are not truthful about employment prospects for those studying at their College.

To add a little amusement to the discussion I would add that I can two young scientist on their lunch break at Wendy’s reminiscing about life as a Stanford geology undergraduate. Becoming a mineral dealer is always another option, but not a viable option for those seeking a living in a field that is already top heavy with vendors.
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PostPosted: Feb 20, 2020 17:33    Post subject: Re: The State of Modern Geology  

Marv, I think you are carrying this discussion too far away from minerals and too far into politics. You clearly have some deeply held beliefs on this subject, but FMF is not the proper place to promulgate them

Peter

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PostPosted: Feb 20, 2020 19:08    Post subject: Re: The State of Modern Geology  

Peter Megaw wrote:
Marv, I think you are carrying this discussion too far away from minerals and too far into politics. You clearly have some deeply held beliefs on this subject, but FMF is not the proper place to promulgate them

Peter

Pete:

Yes, I have strayed from mineral into politics – please accept my sincere apologies.

You will find that I am also very passionate about minerals too.

Marvin
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PostPosted: Feb 21, 2020 00:20    Post subject: Re: The State of Modern Geology  

marvinlewinsky wrote:
Pete:

I have come across many who enjoy outdoor living – mostly unemployed homeless people wandering our many towns and highways in search of charity and a warm meal. Some might even be unemployed geologists – I do not know! Many enjoy acquiring knowledge too. You do learn a lot about life when you live on the streets.

What we are observing in post-industrial America today, are the direct consequences of sending essential skills and essential industries abroad. According to the experts in Human Relations the two growth areas for the next two decades are Health Care and Retail – The ever-growing Service Industry. We are also seeing the consequences of a shrinking middle-class and a working class heading towards abject poverty as the value of real wages decline.

It was always like this. There was a time when a young man or young woman had many employment options available to them. Some could become machinists or nurses, some could become police officers or soldiers, some could become artists or house painters, and yet others could become geologists or physicists or chemists or doctors. Back then the question was never will I get a job, it was always which job should I take, because the employment options were varied and many.

There is a double significance to this transfer of American industry out of the country. In the first place, it lowers the average wage level of American workers, as they are forced to move from manufacturing into a service industry or into less than full-time employment. And although factory workers are the first to be hit, eventually most other segments of the work force suffer as well, even the yuppies and others who would never think of working with their hands. When people who used to work in factories have less money to spend, there's less money to be earned by everyone.

In the second place, the transfer of industry out of the United States robbed us of national self-sufficiency. It may not matter much whether we have factories for producing pantyhose and plastic hair curlers or we import these things from Korea, but it matters very much whether or not we produce our own machine tools. If the Koreans give us an ultimatum: do what we say or no more plastic hair curlers, we can laugh in their faces. If the Chinese decide not to sell us more machine tools, however, we'll be in trouble.

So where is this all heading? Today, the only reason for a young American to study Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy, Geology, Mathematics or any other scientific discipline is that having knowledge is better than living in ignorance. Unfortunately, College admission boards are not truthful about employment prospects for those studying at their College.

To add a little amusement to the discussion I would add that I can two young scientist on their lunch break at Wendy’s reminiscing about life as a Stanford geology undergraduate. Becoming a mineral dealer is always another option, but not a viable option for those seeking a living in a field that is already top heavy with vendors.


Au contraire, I loved the 'political analysis' within this post....it aligns with mine. I think it explains the loss of good [or any] job for many well-educated persons in the USA. It was a planned system to destroy and disempower the well-educated and to outsource factories, manufacturing and jobs of all kinds for the most part. The USA is a sinking ship unless people wake up and throw out both parties which are really just two wings of one party - the corporate/war/oligarch/imperialist/keep-em-dumb and disempowered party. Applies to geologist and all jobs but the useless ones like banking, politics, media propaganda, spy agencies, bloated military, for profit [fillin the blank] things that should be public.....

Libraries and museums, good schools - gone or on their way out.....low paying mindless service jobs a plenty. This was and is all planned by the .01% for their own benefit. It effects everything from mineral prices to housing inaffordability to the lack of upward mobility. Throw in the climate catastrophy and one has a bubbling pot of end of democracy, wealth for the masses, and dumbing down on an epic scale. Perhaps it is more appropriate on my political forum, but I have no problem with it here. It is the hard truth most would rather look away from and 'see nothing here'.....when it is staring them in the face and in their wallets and their children's futures.....if they have one.
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PostPosted: Feb 21, 2020 01:27    Post subject: Re: The State of Modern Geology  

Peter is right - this discussion has become too political for this forum. especially in these polarized times.

If someone wants to continue to talk about geology as a profession and how that might relate to *minerals*, then please feel free to start another thread. In the meantime I am going to lock this thread.

Marv, you have made a bunch of good posts about your explorations of the mineral market, I hope you continue to contribute. Peter, I like your posts too so please don't let this lock discourage you either.

Sorry if this offends anyone.
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