Geophysicists study the earth's physical features, including its atmosphere and hydrosphere. They examine and measure seismic, gravitational, electrical, thermal and magnetic forces, using the principles of physics, mathematics and chemistry.

They analyse data to compute the earth’s shape, estimate composition and structure of the earth’s interior, determine flow patterns of ocean tides and currents and help locate petroleum and mineral deposits. They investigate the origin and activity of volcanoes, glaciers and earthquakes.

They compile data to prepare navigational charts and maps, predict atmospheric conditions, prepare environmental reports and establish water supply and flood control programmes. Some may also study other planets. Solid earth, fluid earth and upper atmosphere, are three general fields of geophysicists.

Geophysics involves the use of a number of techniques used to solve specific problems. The most important of these are: the gravity technique, the magnetic method, seismic techniques, electric and electromagnetic methods and radiomagnetic methods.

Geophysicists generally spend a certain percentage of their time in the field carrying out geographical measurements, while the rest of the time is spent in the laboratory or office, processing, interpreting, modelling, evaluating and reporting the results.

Personal Requirements

  • be curious
  • think analytically
  • have mathematical ability
  • able to communicate well both in speech and in writing
  • able to work as part of a team
  • good health
  • enjoy working outside and away from home

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Science 
Recommended subjects: Geography

What to Study

Degree: BSc majoring in Geography - all universities, or majoring in Geography and Environmental Management / Sciences / Studies - NWU, UJ, UCT, RU, UNISA, UV, UZ, Monash, UWC, US, Wits.

The entry requirement for this career is a BSc (Hons) in Geophysics or Physics.


  • mining groups
  • government departments (Geological Survey, Water Affairs)
  • Chamber of Mines
  • research institutes, such as CSIR
  • universities of technology and universities
  • consulting companies
  • self-employment, as a consultant

Further Information

Geological Society of South Africa
CSIR Mining Precinct (formerly CSIR Miningtek)
Corner Rustenburg and CarlowRoads
Melville, South Africa
Tel: (011) 358-0028

Council for Geoscience
280 Pretoria Street, 
Silverton, Pretoria
Tel: (012) 841-1911

Getting Started

  • join a science club
  • gain laboratory experience by taking courses that include laboratory work
  • arrange to speak to a geophysicist and ask permission to observe the work

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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