Working as a geophysicist and oceanographer in Canada

Working as a geophysicist and oceanographer in Canada

Land and ocean science professions are in high demand in Canada. They also have high salaries!

There are many specialists in the earth and ocean sciences: geologists, geophysicists, geochemists, oceanographers, seismologists, palaeontologists and so on. According to the Canadian Occupational Handbook, they all belong to the same occupational group.

The demand for workers in this field is predicted to be high in the coming years. With experience in one of the professions, you can immigrate to Canada with or without an offer from a Canadian employer.

According to Job Bank, geophysicists and oceanographers in Canada have a good chance of finding employment in many provinces. Opportunities are greatest in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Salaries of geophysicists and oceanographers

The salaries of geophysicists and oceanographers in Canada depend on various factors: job requirements, qualifications, working conditions and the location of the employer. Experienced workers, as well as those in managerial positions, tend to earn more.

According to official data, professionals in this field earn on average $130,711 CAD per year or $10,892 CAD per month. The highest salaries are offered to professionals in British Columbia and Alberta — $48.27 and $46.15 CAD per hour, respectively.

Full-time professionals often receive bonuses from employers in the form of retirement plans, extended health insurance, sick leave and paid holidays.Working as a geophysicist

Geophysicists and oceanographers in Canada — what do they do?

According to the Canadian Occupational Handbook, geophysicists and oceanographers in Canada perform a range of duties.

Geologists may perform all or some of the following tasks:

  • Conduct theoretical and applied research to enhance knowledge of the Earth's surface and subsurface features, its history and the functioning of the physical, chemical and biological systems that control its evolution
  • participate in geological, geochemical and geophysical field survey programs, drilling, geological tests;
  • conduct seismic, geodetic, electromagnetic, magnetic, gravimetric, radiometric, radar and other remote sensing programs;
  • Participate in the analysis of geological, geochemical and geophysical survey data, well logs and other test results, maps, records and cross sections;
  • develop models and application software for data analysis and interpretation;
  • conduct analytical studies of core samples, drill cuttings and rock samples to determine the chemical, mineral, hydrocarbon and biological composition, as well as to assess the sedimentary environment and geological age;
  • estimate the size, orientation and composition of mineral ore bodies and hydrocarbon deposits;
  • Identify deposits of construction materials and determine their characteristics and suitability for use as concrete aggregates, pavement or for other purposes;
  • Conduct geological and geophysical studies for regional development and advise on issues such as site selection, waste management and remediation of contaminated sites;
  • recommend land acquisition, exploration and mapping programs, and field development;
  • Identify and advise on perceived natural risks such as slope erosion, landslides, soil instability, subsidence, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions;
  • supervise and coordinate well drilling and workover operations, as well as mining operations.

Oceanographers can perform all or some of the following tasks

  • Conduct theoretical and applied oceanographic research programmes and cruises to improve knowledge of the physical, chemical and biological properties of the oceans
  • Participate in sampling and analysis of seawater, plankton, fish, sediments, and rocks;
  • Study the physical properties of the oceans to develop models, maps and computer simulations of ocean conditions such as tides, waves, currents and sediment transport
  • Study the ocean floor and submarine geological structures, conduct seismic surveys, and study the formation of ocean basins and other structures to map the ocean floor, coastal erosion, sediment accumulation, and offshore oil and gas exploration areas;
  • Conduct studies of chemical properties and processes in the ocean, ocean floor, marine atmosphere, and underwater volcanoes to investigate environmental changes;
  • Study of marine life and its interactions with the physical and chemical environment to assess the effects of contaminants on marine ecology and develop environmentally sound marine management practices.

Working as an oceanographer

Where and how geologists and oceanographers work in Canada

Earth scientists carry out exploration and research to improve knowledge of the structure, composition and processes of the subsurface, to locate hydrocarbons, minerals and groundwater resources, to assess the impact of mining and waste disposal projects and to minimize the impact on the environment.

Geologists may specialize in areas such as coal geology, environmental geology, geochronology, hydrogeology, mineral deposits or mining, petroleum geology, stratigraphy, tectonics, volcanology, etc.

Geochemists may specialize in analytical geochemistry, hydrogeochemistry, mineral or petroleum geochemistry, etc.

Geophysicists may specialize in areas such as petroleum geology, earth physics, geodesy, geoelectromagnetism, seismology, etc.

Earth scientists work for oil and mining companies, geological, geophysical and engineering companies, government and educational institutions, or may be self-employed.

Oceanographers work to explore and investigate ocean phenomena, the biological, chemical, and physical characteristics of the oceans, the interaction of the oceans with the atmosphere and the geological environment, and the effects of human activities on the oceans and marine ecosystems. They may specialise in biological, chemical, geological or physical oceanography, or in other fields related to the study of the oceans.

Oceanographers work for the government, educational institutions and private companies exploring seabed deposits and areas for commercial breeding of marine organisms. They may also be self-employed.

Examples of geophysicist and oceanographer posts:

  • a biological oceanographer;
  • biostatigraphy;
  • a chemical oceanographer;
  • coal geologist;
  • consulting geologist;
  • a mining geologist;
  • environmental geologist;
  • hydrogeologist;
  • hydrologist;
  • paleontologist;
  • seismologist;
  • a petroleum geologist.

Geophysicists and oceanographers normally work 8-10 hours a day. However, the work in this field often involves seasonality, travelling to remote locations and collecting important data with specialist equipment. You should therefore be prepared for the possibility that you may have to work longer hours.

Employment requirements

Geoscientists usually require an advanced degree in one of the appropriate fields: geology, geochemistry, geophysics or another related field. A master's or doctoral degree in geophysics, physics, mathematics or engineering may be required to work as a geophysicist.

Registration with a provincial or territorial association of professional engineers, geologists, geophysicists or geophysicists is usually required for employment. In Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories and Nunavut registration with the association to work is mandatory. Geologists and geophysicists are eligible for registration after completing an accredited educational program and after several years of supervised work experience, and in some provinces after passing a professional practice exam.

Oceanographers require an advanced degree in science, mathematics, statistics, engineering (or a related field) and often need a degree in oceanography.

Due to the nature of the work, specialists also need to possess the following knowledge and qualities:

  • knowledge of mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology;
  • attentiveness;
  • endurance;
  • the ability to travel to field locations.


Some occupations may require the candidate to obtain a license from the regulatory authority.

The Province Regulated profession Regulatory Authority
Alberta Geologist Alberta Association of Professional Engineers and Geologists
British Columbia Geoscientist Engineers and geologists in British Columbia
Manitoba Geoscientist Manitoba geotechnical engineers
New Brunswick Geoscientist New Brunswick Association of Professional Engineers and Geologists
Newfoundland and Labrador Geoscientist Professional engineers and geologists of Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia Geoscientist Nova Scotia Association of Professional Geologists
Northwest Territories Geoscientist Association of Professional Engineers and Geologists of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut
Nunavut Geologist
Ontario Professional Geoscientist Ontario Association of Professional Geoscientists
Quebec Geologist Order of Geologists of Quebec
Saskatchewan Geoscientist Saskatchewan Association of Professional Engineers and Geologists

How to immigrate to Canada

If you have a background in earth or ocean science, you may be able to immigrate to Canada through one of the immigration programs suitable for these professions.

Geophysicists and oceanographers are suited to many programs, for example:

For more immigration programs for professionals in this field, see here.

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