They are effectively a bridge between geology, engineering and public health. The geology training helps engineers understand environmental threats. The engineering element helps geologists understand the unique challenges of civic works and private development. Finally, both are encouraged to understand the need to consider public health and safety during civic works.
Engineering Geologists will look at safety issues such as rock stability for a site and ask such questions as: can the underlying bedrock support heavy structures? Is the bedrock stable enough to support mass development such as transit systems and tall buildings? Is the rock radioactive? Is the radiation level considered safe for people to live and work here? What are the geological risks of building here? They will also look at human developments that might affect the stability of the ground - mine shafts, waste disposal sites (gas leaks as well as ground stability).
They do not just look at the ground rock, but also water sources, soil stability and other natural processes that could impact a new development. This way, they are more like environmental engineers when they study such issues as flood risk. They will assess commercial and industrial development, public works, assessment of military activity (such as ground assessments in areas that have been bombed - many work in Iraq, ensuring that a site is safe before redevelopment).
Where do they work?
Overwhelmingly, they will work in civil engineering and civic works. Hazard assessment is a large part of their job so they can often expect to work for government bodies assessing the potential for developments. Public health and environmental health are now legal obligations in assessing a site for development, not just for wildlife and environmental impact, but for human health. We need to understand whether an area is prone to flooding, earthquakes or other ground instability.
Also for government or even in the private sector, they may assess and examine sites following a disaster - though not just the large ones. A river flood may lead to soil and / or geology instability once the waters have fallen back. They could be involved in making the ground safe again. This is a role they could carry out in the charitable sector too.
In the private sector, they will perform much the same work. However, they could also be involved shoring up a site after a site closes down. Some private bodies that have dug through soil or geological features may be obliged to ensure its safety - typically old mine shafts on privately-owned land. They may consult or employ Engineering Geologists to ensure that this work is carried out properly.
Steps to take
- Ensure your degree and/or classes are tailored towards the sector
- Relevant work experience/internships will be extremely useful when it comes to applying for a job.