How Do You Get Involved With Volcano Research?

Concentrating on math and science subjects, especially geology, in school is a good first step towards a career in volcanology. It is also helpful to take field method-oriented courses or to volunteer with volcanologists.

Most volcanologists have at least a Master of Science degree, and many have doctorates and several years of post-doctoral work. Geology, computer and technology-oriented courses are essential for an aspiring volcanologist, as is advanced mathematics, physics and chemistry. Because an important part of volcanology is communicating safety information and research findings to the general public, communications and technical writing courses are also useful.

An aspiring volcanologist should supplement education with practical experience. Some universities offer summer field courses that get students out in the field for hands-on experience. Volunteer programs are also available that allow interested individuals to gain experience in all aspects of volcanology, from volcano monitoring to computer programming.

Most importantly, volcanologists must love what they do. Volcano research is a limited field, jobs are scarce, and turnover is low. The U.S. Geological Survey, for instance, employs only 60 full-time volcanologists in positions that require advanced degrees. Researchers earn a living wage, but do not become rich. Researchers are also subject to dangerous and uncomfortable conditions such as active volcanoes, extreme heat and cold, and dangerous gases.