How to Become a Volcanologist
Volcanologist Careers & Degrees

Volcanologists are professionals who specialize in a branch of geoscience.

These professionals are experienced in studying, observing and gathering information on volcanoes.

Their work can be an exciting one that requires Volcanologists to visit active or dormant volcanoes to learn about their composition and how they impact the earth.

Individuals who want to become a Volcanologist will have a passion for the geosciences, a high interest in visiting dangerous destinations and a variety of professional skills to help them succeed in this profession.

Some helpful skills to have when entering this field can include: physical stamina, strong communication skills to write reports or research papers and attention to detail to gather a variety of samples.

Education Requirements to Become a Volcanologist

Individuals who want to become a Volcanologist will need to complete a postsecondary degree, a license depending on their state and some hands on experience working in the field.

The minimum educational requirement in order to seek an entry level position is a bachelor’s degree.

Individuals who pursue an advanced degree such as a master’s or a doctoral degree will have better job prospects.

Individuals will need to complete a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in order to become a Volcanologist and work as an entry level research assistant.

Individuals can complete a geoscience degree but can also pursue a degree in chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, computer science or engineering with a strong background in geology in order to enter this profession.

Many of these bachelor’s programs include basic information on volcanology.

Individuals will have better job prospects to become a Volcanologist if they continue their education by completing a doctoral or master’s program in geoscience.

Individuals with a master’s degree typically have more advancement opportunities such as managing while individuals who pursue a doctoral degree in geoscience will have opportunities to teach at the postsecondary level and lead research projects.

Individuals who want to become a Volcanologist will also need to gain on the job experience in order to enter this field.

Many bachelor programs already require individuals to complete internships, but for programs that don’t, students are highly encouraged to seek these opportunities.

Many universities and colleges may host geology research projects in which individuals can learn how to document geological features or how to use highly specialized equipment needed to complete a variety of data gathering projects.

Licensing will depend on individual states and mainly depend on whether a Volcanologist is providing their services to the public.

Volcanologist Job Description

Volcanologists are specialized geoscientists that focus on volcanoes and their activity.

Many of these individuals have to travel in order to perform their jobs and can visit dormant or active volcanoes making it a dangerous occupation.

Volcanologists will arrive at their assigned site and begin gathering a plethora of physical data and samples from within or outside of a volcano.

Gathering samples requires the use of highly specialized and sophisticated equipment.

Some equipment may include remote sensing or seismic activity technology.

The main duties a Volcanologist completes may include the following:

  • Collect, gather and organize data
  • Predict whether a volcano is close to erupting
  • Predict how long a volcano has been dormant and whether it will become active
  • Provide advice on evacuations and protection procedures
  • Determine any health hazards from ash and smoke from erupting volcanoes

Volcanologist Salary and Career Path

Exact salary information for Volcanologists does not exist; however, there are figures for the branch of geoscience which includes this profession.

In 2012, the median salary for all Geoscientists was approximately $90,890 per year.

Exact wages will depend on a variety of factors including years of experience or the type of industry an individual works in.

The job outlook for all Geoscientists is expected to grow at a faster than average rate when compared to other professions.

Job opportunities for all Geoscientists are projected to increase by 16 percent through the year 2022.

This growth is attributed to the increase in demand for environmental protection and resource management.

Volcanologists are part of a field that is focused on learning about the earth and the mechanisms that keep the earth running.

Volcanologists are specialists who may be involved in dramatic and dangerous situations by gathering research from an active volcano, but can also sue their skills in a lab environment.

Their work is highly important especially in a day and age in which the public is becoming more interested in preserving the earth.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$112,540
New Hampshire$73,800
New Jersey$82,230
New Mexico$77,900
New York$84,080
North Carolina$65,380
North Dakota$66,040
Rhode Island$81,160
South Carolina$61,120
South Dakota$60,360
West Virginia$56,020
Puerto Rico$43,430
Virgin Islands$48,380

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $112,540.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $112,540
California - $92,320
Washington - $85,870
Virginia - $85,660
Colorado - $84,690
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Environmental Scientists and Specialists, Including Health, OCC Code 19-2041, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat does a volcanologist do?

Volcanologists are specialists in geophysics who study active and inactive volcanoes.

There are different types of volcanologists – geophysicists, physical volcanologists, geochemists, and geodesic volcanologists.

The duties of a specialist will differ a bit depending on the specialization; however, the typical tasks usually include studying dead volcanoes; keeping track of active volcanoes; publishing and presenting their findings; collecting and analyzing samples, and so on.

A volcanologist can be employed by universities, the private industry, and by government agencies.

The specialist might spend their time doing office and lab work one day and hiking through mountains in all kinds of weather the other day.

QuestionHow much do volcanologists make?

On average, a volcanologist can make a little less than $48.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to follow this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $30.000 and $90.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the employer, the location and so on.

The volcanologists that work in Houston, Texas, for example, have the highest average salaries.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a volcanologist?

You would certainly need to obtain at least a bachelor’s degree in physics, chemistry, earth science, geochemistry, petrology, or a related area, in order to become a volcanologist.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

However, in most cases, you are expected to have a master’s degree (between $30.000 and $120.000) or a doctorate degree (around $30.000 per year).

A Ph.D. is a must if you want to teach or conduct independent research in volcanology.

QuestionWhat is the demand for volcanologists?

Between 2018 and 2028, the geoscientist (including volcanologists) job market is expected to grow by 6%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is close to the national average for all occupations in the United States.

Job opportunities will be best for those candidates who possess a master’s or a doctorate degree.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a volcanologist?

It will take you 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree, 2-3 years to acquire a master’s degree, and anywhere between 4 and 6 years to earn a Ph.D.

The majority of volcanologists also have a few years of post-doctoral studies.

Of course, field experience is a must; you might want to consider traveling to the places that have volcanoes.

Some states may require volcanologists to be licensed (as the specialists often advise the public on whether a volcano will erupt or not).

To become a licensed specialist, you would have to possess a degree and at least a few years of experience (the requirements vary by state).

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