Geophysicists study the structure of the Earth, with a particular focus on physical processes and computer-based data analysis.

There’s a lot of overlap between geophysicists and geologists, although generally geologists are more likely to know a lot about rocks and geophysicists have more skills in physics and mathematics. Geophysicists often use instruments to figure out what’s going on under the ground, without needing to dig holes and collect samples.

There’s also some overlap between geophysics and oceanography, which is the study of the coast and sea. Oceanographers generally have knowledge of chemistry and biology as well as geology and physics. Another related area is hydrology, which is the study of surface and underground water including rainfall, how water travels through soil and rock and how it returns to the ocean and atmosphere.

The greatest demand for both geologists and geophysicists in New Zealand is in the energy and mining sector, including oil exploration and the development of geothermal energy resources.

Geophysicists also work as researchers in universities and Crown research institutes, especially GNS, which focuses on geological resources, nuclear sciences and natural hazards, and NIWA, the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research.

Pay rates depend on qualifications and experience:

  • $40-50,000 starting salary, with a Bachelor's degree
  • $55-75,000 in a research role, with a Master's degree
  • $75-94,000 in a research role, with a PhD
  • Salaries in the private sector may be considerably more

Key qualifications for work as a geologist:

  • Bachelor of Science in Geology, Geophysics or Earth Sciences
  • A Master's degree or PhD may be required for research roles

Recommended school subjects:

  • Maths, especially Calculus
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • English
  • Geography

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Geophysicist: People who work in this role

  • Laurine van Haastrecht

    PhD Candidate, Laurine van Haastrecht at work

    Gareth Hay

    Geophysicist, Gareth Hay at work

    Oliver Gibson

    Geophysicist, Oliver Gibson at work

    Matt Harris

    Geophysicist, Matt Harris at work
  • Sophie Pearson

    Geothermal Geophysicist, Sophie Pearson at work

Geophysicist: Companies that employ people in this job role

  • GNS Science
    GNS Science

Futureintech is an initiative of Engineering New Zealand, funded by Callaghan Innovation