I came across several articles on geology careers in the U.S. These appear to be boom times for geologists with the oil and gas and mining industries in U.S and Canada on a hiring spree. The table below summarizes geo-science employment stats and salaries in the government and private sectors.
Source: Sciencemag Careers
Here are the links to three articles on geology and hydro-geology careers in the U.S.
In the Geosciences, Business Is Booming
Geoscientists in High Demand in the Oil Industry
Hydrogeologists Tap into Demand for an Irreplaceable Resource
The three articles give you a good idea about the state of the geology market in the U.S. There are some parallels with what is happening in India. Although statistics about the Indian geology market are hard to come by, I keep talking with friends and colleagues who are in the industry and academia and so I have a fair idea of demands and hiring trends.
Just as in the U.S., geology graduates are finding that their skills are in demand in the oil and gas sector. However unlike North America where even a strong bachelors degree can land you a high paying oil job, in India only Masters level students are hired. Maybe that says something about the standard of bachelor level training in India where state colleges do not always offer the best quality geology training. Starting salaries are nowhere compared with the U.S. In Indian money they come to about Rs 2-5 lac per year (range equivalent to about $5 K to $ 12 K).
Another parallel is the relative stagnation in academia. In the U.S. falling research budgets has lead to many Universities not hiring replacements when a senior faculty retires. A survey shows that the number of geoscience faculty is down to 12,354 today from a figure of 13,554 in 1999. In India again there is a problem of a flat hiring trend in academia but probably for a different reason. A large number of vacancies are only to be filled by reserved category candidates (i.e reserved for candidates from India's backward classes) and many geology departments have difficulty finding suitably qualified candidates with a Ph.D in geology to fill these posts. Starting salaries in academia are less than what oil and gas pays.
One difference that emerges between the geology markets in the U.S and in India is in the environmental geology field. There is a tremendous demand in the U.S for geologists in the environmental consulting field. Hiring is strong both in governmental agencies as well as the thriving private environmental consulting sector which hires about 80% of hydro-geologists. A wide variety of skill sets are in demand to deal with various water resources (both water quality and resource management) and environmental problems and increasingly climate change related impacts on the environment.
In India environmental geology has never been a marketable skill primarily because India until very recently has not had strong environmental regulations in place. Government geology agencies have not developed well funded environmental geology programs, since dealing with water quality, water resources and myriad other environmental issues has not been given priority and backing. Consequently the private environmental consulting business has also seen small growth for geologists, since most such businesses end up servicing government contracts.
There are however two areas in which geologists have been making an impact in the environmental field in India. One is groundwater prospecting where solo operators armed with electrical resistivity measurements and a strong knowledge of local geology have built successful careers. My experience at least in the state of Maharashtra has been that most of them are genuinely skilled. Occasionally you do come across scamsters given to theatrics like using a magnetic compass to "point to water" or even dowsing. But most seem above board. The other area and one which is rapidly growing due to the infrastructure boom is in geo-technical services, essentially geology consulting for building foundations, road alignment, slope stability, tunnel excavations, all engineering geology applications.
Geology jobs in India traditionally have been mostly with the government. That is changing with private oil and gas and mining companies being allowed in the Indian market. There is also a growing awareness at the highest political levels that India is facing enormous environmental problems, a legacy of several decades of neglect. Multi-national companies setting up shop here will one hopes bring more stringent environmental impact assessment and remediation standards. That along with a concern for global warming and its impact on water resources, I hope will open up new niches for geologists.