Salaries Reflect Rising Demands

Manpower Issues Push Pay

Just as the demand for oil and gas is rising, so is the demand for petroleum geologists – and, as we know with energy prices, when demand is greater than supply, the price goes up.

That is exactly what is happening with salaries for petroleum geologists, according to the annual EXPLORER salary survey. Overall, salaries climbed 8 percent in six age groups, with salaries for geologists with 10-14 years of experience rising almost 15 percent in the past year.

Mike Ayling, of MLA Resources in Tulsa, who has conducted the salary survey since 1982, said that while salaries in all categories were up, the 3-5 year and the 15-19 year categories were also double-digit gainers.

Geologists with 3-5 years’ experience averaged $75,600 annually, up 10.4 percent over the previous year, and those with 15-19 years’ experience were up 11.6 percent at an average of $116,000 annually.

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Just as the demand for oil and gas is rising, so is the demand for petroleum geologists – and, as we know with energy prices, when demand is greater than supply, the price goes up.

That is exactly what is happening with salaries for petroleum geologists, according to the annual EXPLORER salary survey. Overall, salaries climbed 8 percent in six age groups, with salaries for geologists with 10-14 years of experience rising almost 15 percent in the past year.

Mike Ayling, of MLA Resources in Tulsa, who has conducted the salary survey since 1982, said that while salaries in all categories were up, the 3-5 year and the 15-19 year categories were also double-digit gainers.

Geologists with 3-5 years’ experience averaged $75,600 annually, up 10.4 percent over the previous year, and those with 15-19 years’ experience were up 11.6 percent at an average of $116,000 annually.

Ayling noted that the two other experience categories, 0-2 years and 6-9 years were more modest in the increases, perhaps due to the small sample size available. Geologists with 0-2 years experience average $67,800 in salary annually and those with 6-9 years average $77,500.

“The survey significantly reflects the demographic trends in the industry,” Ayling said. “Over half of the data points were individuals with over 20 years of experience, which is not surprising with an average age of 50-plus years in the industry.” (AAPG’s mean age is 49.)

The pay increase for the 0-2 years experience group was 3.2 percent; for the 6-9 year group it was 2.3 percent.

Geologists with over 20 years’ experience averaged $123,600 annually, a raise of 4.7 percent over the previous year.

“The survey also reflects a trend in some companies of giving substantial bonuses in lieu of salary increases to reflect individual and company performance,” Ayling said. The bonus is becoming a major factor in compensation, and Ayling noted that the practice is becoming more widespread and more substantial in quantity. One company reportedly issued bonuses of over 50 percent of salaries for top performers, and cash signing bonuses for new hires also are becoming common.

As a result, Ayling acknowledged that the salary numbers may understate the salaries a bit, but cannot document new-hire salaries above the stated averages. He also said major companies continue to hire master’s candidates only.

The survey is based on employed, salaried geoscientists and cannot account for the large number of unemployed or underemployed individuals. The survey focused on salaries alone and does not include bonuses, employee benefits, autos or other perquisites. It does not attempt to include anyone whose compensation is in the form of consulting fees, retainers or overrides.

The purpose of the survey is to provide a yardstick for those interested in assessing their compensation – and Ayling strongly feels that compensation is often a secondary consideration when evaluating overall job satisfaction.

Ayling noted that hiring has picked up significantly in the past few months, and some companies may begin to experience turnover as companies compete for the small pool of available candidates, especially in the more junior categories.

Which, of course, is what happens when the demand outstrips the supply.


2005 Geological Salary Survey
Years Experience High Average Low
0-2 $80,000 $67,800 $62,000
3-5 83,000 75,600 70,000
6-9 110,000 77,500 57,000
10-14 132,000 107,500 92,000
15-19 121,000 116,000 105,000
20-24 125,000 112,800 100,000
25+ 170,000 128,300 100,000
Average Salary by Degree
Years Experience B.S. M.S. PH.D.
0-2 $62,000 $67,100 $80,000
3-5 n/a 78,300 70,400
6-9 57,000 82,200 79,000
10-14 132,000 102,200 115,000
15-19 n/a 119,500 112,500
20-24 116,300 111,800 n/a
25+ 141,500 120,800 140,000
Historical Averages
Years Experience Average Salary
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
0-2 $53,600 $59,700 $64,000 $65,000 $65,600 $67,800
3-5 61,400 66,000 67,500 71,200 67,700 75,600
6-9 78,400 74,200 74,500 78,300 75,700 77,500
10-14 83,400 89,400 95,000 96,600 91,900 107,500
15-19 94,900 100,600 99,400 102,500 102,500 116,000
20-24 107,700 11,700 111,600 113,900 118,100 112,800
25+ 104,400 117,300 124,000 126,900 125,100 128,300
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