Petroleum Geologist Salaries

Petroleum Geologist Salaries

How Much Do Petroleum Geologists Make?

There is a lot of bad information out there concerning geologist salaries, because most available data does not separate petroleum geology jobs from environmental or government geology jobs.  How much does a petroleum geologist make?”

As in most fields, there are wide ranges in salaries between professionals. Everyone knows neurosurgeons get paid more than general practitioners. Or, that corporate lawyers bring home more dough than the small-town attorney who draws up wills and deeds. These differences are expected, are normal, and are based on supply and demand.  The same factors apply to the various geologic specialties.  Petroleum geology is the highest-paid specialty.

The American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) is the world’s largest professional geological society. Every year the AAPG conducts a professional survey, published in  their tabloid, AAPG Explorer, that surveys the salaries of geologists employed in the petroleum businesses. The AAPG’s numbers are the most accurate for petroleum geologists.

With that in mind, take a look at the table below. It covers the salary period of 2016.  Amounts are in US dollars.











2016 Petroleum Geologist Salaries  (Source: AAPG Explorer.  Does not include bonuses, benefits, autos, consulting fees, retainers, or overrides).

The Salary Survey Shows Base Pay Only!

The annual AAPG salary survey is based on employed, salaried geoscientists, and is based on salaries alone. It does not include bonuses, stock options, benefits, autos, profit-sharing, or other perquisites; all of these items will raise the pay substantially.  It also does not include anyone whose compensation is in the form of consulting fees, retainers or overrides, which are quite common in the industry. The survey is based on U.S. salaries only, though American expats working in foreign countries will virtually always be paid American rates, usually more.

Total Salaries Are Very Competitive

Various benefits and packages may add 30% or more to the base pay.  Many petroleum geologists work for smaller energy companies that pay substantial bonuses, often 20-40% of salary each year. Stock options are also a very common form of compensation.  Coupled with generous matching contributions to 401K’s (100% at at least one company I know of), the experienced petroleum geologist may find herself making a very competitive salary, doing a job she loves to do, often with no management responsibilities — which is usually considered to be a plus!   Good geologists need virtually no supervision, once they are told what the objectives of the company are.

One poll found that geologists ranked #2 in job satisfaction out of all professions — I can’t remember who was #1. The field is consistently ranked as a top occupation, salary-wise.

Some petroleum geologists will make more than $1 million per year. These kinds of salaries may be earned by geologists whose salaries involve overrides. An override allows the geologist to own a portion of a newly-drilled well, without having to risk his own personal funds.


Please don’t ever think of entering any field, especially this one, if money is your main objective!  Petroleum geology is a high-paying career, but you will be very unhappy surrounded by geologists, who constantly live and talk geology (rarely mentioning football), if you don’t love what you are doing.

If you’re just starting to explore the road to geology, it’s really better not to think much about money, or even a job.  Just concentrate on getting the degree you need. The type of geologist you want to be, and the job you will do, will become clear later.