Marine Geologist

Marine geologists study the composition, structure, and processes of the Earth's oceanic and coastal environments. This role involves conducting field research to collect samples from the sea floor, analyzing sediment and rock compositions, and using advanced technologies to map underwater landscapes. They are crucial in understanding climate change impacts, forecasting natural disasters, and guiding marine conservation efforts.

At a Glance

Imagine working as an oceanographic geologist for Canada's national marine conservation area. Your role involves collaborating with scientists, engineers, and environmental managers to use marine geological data for environmental and engineering projects. You are responsible for creating and managing geographic information system (GIS) databases to map geological features and analyze spatial data crucial for conservation and sustainable development.

You face a significant challenge during a routine project: a coastal development proposal could risk the local marine ecosystems. The area in question contains valuable geological formations and habitats essential for biodiversity. To address this, you map the geological features using GIS and remote sensing, gathering data on sediment types, rock formations, and underwater landscapes.

With this information, you assess the development's potential environmental impact, discovering it could lead to erosion and loss of habitat for marine life. You present an alternative plan to developers and government officials, suggesting project adjustments to reduce environmental damage. Your proposal, supported by GIS data and scientific analysis, emphasizes preserving the marine ecosystem.

Thanks to your initiative and the team's collaborative effort, the development plan is revised to minimize its ecological impact, showcasing the vital role of marine geologists in promoting environmentally responsible development.

Job Duties

Job duties vary from one position to the next, but in general, marine geologists are involved in the following activities:

  • Conduct field studies and collect geological samples from marine environments to study the Earth's underwater composition.
  • Analyze geological samples and data to interpret the ocean floor's composition, structure, and history.
  • Use sonar, GPS, and other technologies to map underwater landscapes, including sea floors and sub-sea geology.
  • Evaluate the effects of environmental changes, human activities, and natural disasters on marine geology.
  • Study climate change's impact on marine ecosystems and geological structures.
  • Draft technical reports, scientific papers, and presentations to disseminate research findings with scientists and the public.
  • Collaborate with oceanographers, marine biologists, and scientists on marine geology research projects.
  • Operate and maintain geological sampling and analysis equipment in the laboratory and field.
  • Lead educational outreach programs, delivering lectures, workshops, and presentations on marine geology to diverse audiences.
  • Advise policymakers and conservation groups on marine geology to aid in developing sustainable policies.

Work Environment

Marine geologists operate within the office, field, and laboratory. In each of these settings, individuals in this occupation carry out various duties.


The office:

  • Use geological data and research tools to analyze marine sediment samples, rock formations, and seismic data.
  • Compile findings from field and laboratory research into reports, scientific papers, and presentations for the scientific community and public stakeholders.
  • Design research projects, including defining objectives, budgeting, scheduling, and coordinating logistics for field expeditions.
  • Create and manage GIS databases to map marine geological features and analyze spatial data.
  • Collaborate with scientists, engineers, and environmental managers to integrate marine geological data into broader environmental and engineering projects.
  • Prepare proposals to secure funding from governmental agencies, research institutions, and private foundations for new research projects.

The field:

  • Conduct fieldwork to collect rock, sediment, and water samples from various marine settings, including beaches, the ocean floor, and underwater structures.
  • Operate sonar, seismic, and other geophysical instruments aboard ships to map and analyze seabed structure and underlying geology.
  • Assess the impact of natural and anthropogenic changes on marine geological environments, including monitoring erosion, sedimentation, and pollution levels.
  • Participate in scuba diving operations to directly observe and collect geological samples from underwater locations.
  • Record geological field observations, including noting rock formations, fault lines, and other significant geological features.
  • Ensure field operations comply with safety standards and coordinate logistics for remote or challenging fieldwork locations.

The laboratory:

  • Use laboratory equipment to analyze rock and sediment samples' chemical, physical, and biological composition.
  • Use microscopes to examine microfossils and mineral grains within geological samples, aiding in the reconstruction of past environmental conditions.
  • Interpret results from various analyses to understand geological processes and histories, such as sediment deposition rates and tectonic movements.
  • Calibrate and maintain laboratory instruments for accuracy and reliability of sample analysis.
  • Conduct controlled laboratory experiments to simulate geological processes and test hypotheses related to marine geology.
  • Collaborate in research with scientists to integrate geological findings with oceanographic, biological, and chemical data for comprehensive environmental studies.

Where to Work

Marine geologists are employed across a diverse range of settings and industries, where their expertise in mapping and analyzing aquatic environments are essential, such as:

  • Oceanographic research institutions.
  • Environmental consulting firms.
  • Offshore oil and gas companies.
  • Marine renewable energy firms.
  • Government agencies.
  • Universities and academic institutions
  • ational and international marine parks.
  • Marine construction companies.
  • Non-governmental organizations and conservation organizations.
  • Geotechnical survey companies.

Education and Skills


If you are considering a career as a marine geologist, you should have a keen interest in:

  • Geosciences and earth systems.
  • Marine ecosystems and biodiversity.
  • Environmental conservation.
  • Technology and data analysis.
  • Exploration and fieldwork.

If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as a marine geologist, the following undergraduate programs are most applicable:

  • Marine Geology or Marine Science
  • Geosciences or Earth Science
  • Oceanography
  • Environmental Science, with a focus on marine environments
  • Geological Engineering

In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as a marine geologist is an undergraduate degree. Pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree in fields related to marine geology enhances your expertise, career prospects, and ability to contribute to the field. These advanced degrees offer specialized knowledge and skills highly valued in the professional and academic worlds.

Professional certification for a marine geologist establishes a recognized standard of competence and ethical practice in the hydrography community. It enhances credibility and career advancement opportunities and demonstrates a commitment to maintaining the field's highest professional and technical standards.

  • Professional Geoscientist (P.Geo,): Granted by provincial and territorial regulators, this certification acknowledges those meeting the education, experience, and ethics needed to practice geoscience in Canada professionally.
  • Geoscientist-in-Training (GIT): This initial designation, leading to P.Geo. certification, is for those who have finished their education and are acquiring the required work experience for professional status.

Our Environmental Professional (EP) designation can also help you progress in your chosen environmental career.


Technical Skills

  • Geological sampling techniques
  • Geophysical surveying methods
  • GIS and remote sensing
  • Data analysis and interpretation
  • Sedimentology and stratigraphy
  • Paleoceanography and paleoclimatology
  • Marine geohazards assessment
  • Environmental impact assessment
  • Underwater mapping and modelling
  • Oceanographic sampling and analysis

Personal and Professional Skills

  • Analytical thinking
  • Attention to detail
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Communication skills
  • Adaptability
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Critical thinking
  • Time management
  • Leadership

Environmental employers look for professionals who can combine technical knowledge with soft skills. Watch our free webinar Essential Not Optional: Skills Needed to Succeed in Canada’s Environmental Industry or take our Essential Skills courses.

Role Models

Your Impact

Occupational Classification

Marine geologists are classified into the following occupational grouping:

NOC Code: 21102 – Geoscientists and oceanographers

The National Occupational Classification (NOC) provides a standardized language for describing the work performed by Canadians in the labour market. It gives statisticians, labour market analysts, career counsellors, employers, and individual job seekers a consistent way to collect data and describe and understand the nature of work within different occupations.

See ECO’s Blue National Occupational Standard for a career competency profile for a marine geologist that outlines the specific skills, knowledge, and behaviours required for individuals to perform effectively in this particular role. This profile is a benchmark for training and development, ensuring consistency and quality across professions within the blue economy.

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