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AAPG Bulletin


AAPG Bulletin, V. 89, No. 10 (October 2005), P. 1275-1292.

Copyright copy2005. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.


A comparison of the geoscientific, nontechnical, and soft skills needed by service-industry geoscientists with those required by oil-company geoscientists

C. P. M. Heath1

11911, West 37th Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, V6M1N5; [email protected]


Service companies now offer an increasing range of services to oil companies in response to significant restructuring of the petroleum industry, creating gaps in their in-house technology. A total of 58 service companies from 10 business sectors completed a survey covering 150 geoscientific, computer, nontechnical, soft, and other skills. Using their data, the author compared the skills needed by geoscientists employed in the service industry with those required in oil companies.

Excepting companies in reservoir characterization, geology, geophysics, and remote sensing, service-company geoscientists need fewer geoscientific skills but greater computer competency than do oil-company geoscientists. The key subdisciplines are sedimentology, petroleum geology, stratigraphy, subsurface mapping techniques, introductory structural geology, introductory geophysics, and log/core analysis. However, each business sector has unique requirements reflecting their principal business focus. Many require a mix of geoscience with another discipline such as engineering for well-logging firms. These variations produced different skill rankings in each segment of the service industry. The key nontechnical and soft skills are critical thinking, ethics, and commitment. Service companies also place greater emphasis on written, oral, and listening communication skills than do oil firms.

Service companies also require math skills superior to oil-company needs together with good marketing and project management business capabilities. To aid geoscience students, prevailing recruiting trends are reviewed, and the need for work experience is stressed. Like oil companies, only large service companies recruit inexperienced graduates. Applicants may be expected to have advanced degrees.

Geoscience departments must address the needs of service companies when contemplating degree and curricula reform. Course relevance is essential as is education in professional ethics.

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