What is Geophysics?


Geophysics is an interdisciplinary physical science concerned with the nature of the earth and its environment and as such seeks to apply the knowledge and techniques of physics, mathematics and chemistry to understand the structure and dynamic behavior of the earth and its environment. The required sequence of Mathematics, Physics and Geophysics courses is designed to provide a basic structure on which to build a program with science electives normally selected from Geology, Astronomy, Oceanography, Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry courses.

Why is Geophysics important?

Geophysics is the science which deals with investigating the Earth's internal structure dynamics, using the methods and techniques of Physics and Mathematics. The physical properties of earth materials (rocks, air, and water masses) such as density, elasticity, magnetization, and electrical conductivity all allow inference about those materials to be made from measurements of the corresponding physical fields - gravity, seismic waves, magnetic fields, and various kinds of electrical fields. Because Geophysics incorporates the sciences of Physics, Mathematics, Geology (and therefor Chemistry) it is a truly multidisciplinary physical science.

What do Geophysicists do?

The two great divisions of Geophysics conventionally are labeled as Exploration Geophysics, and Global Geophysics. In Global Geophysics, we study earthquakes, the main magnetic field, physical oceanography, studies of the Earth's thermal state and meteorology (amongst others!). In Exploration Geophysics, physical principles are applied to the search for, and evaluation of, resources such as oil, gas, minerals, water and building stone. Exploration geophysicists also work in the management of resources and the associated environmental issues.

Geophysics contributes to an understanding of the internal structure and evolution of the Earth, earthquakes, the ocean and many other physical phenomena. There are many divisions of geophysics, including oceanography, atmospheric physics, climatology, petroleum geophysics, environmental geophysics, engineering geophysics and mining geophysics.

Jobs in Geophysics


Generally, Geophysicists will be part of a team with other Earth Scientists (Geologists and Engineers) working on exploration, construction, and environmental problems. Geophysicists are scientists who study the structure and composition of the Earth. They use sophisticated instruments and computing methods to measure physical properties such as: density, electrical resistivity, electrical fields and radioactivity of rocks; velocity of sound waves transmitted through the ground; changes in gravity and magnetic fields of the Earth; reflection of radio signals from rocks near the Earth's surface. Geophysicists use one or more of these measurements to find oil, natural gas, metals (gold, iron, etc), diamonds, potash, coal, and many other minerals. In addition, geophysical properties are used to identify environmental hazards and evaluate areas for dams or building construction sites. Complicated visualization of the Earth's interior is an important part of the geophysicists job, and state-of-the art computing and imaging technologies are important parts of the geophysics tool kit.

Geophysics covers a broad range of earth science and offers a variety of options. This list includes some, but not all, of the divisions of geophysics: Seismologists, Marine geophysicists, Exploration geophysicists, Petroleum geophysicists, Mining geophysicists, Environmental geophysicists, Atmospheric physicist and Climatologist.

There are several categories of geophysics jobs: consulting, oil, academic, and government. Government and academic employment is highly competitive but very desirable.

Career Services


Do you know where your future lies after you graduate from UBC? The question may seem a little premature, but it isn't. The nature of 'employment' and 'careers' is changing rapidly and the successful graduate will be one who learns how to capitalize on the knowledge and skills gained in a degree program in order to secure the type of employment she or he seeks. A little-known branch of UBC's Student Services is called Career Services. Housed in Brock Hall, Career Services staff can help you prepare for a career after you graduate from UBC. They offer workshops on searching for jobs and on the skills needed to get interviews and make them successful. Students also get access to web-based career resources and on-campus visits by potential employers. Unfortunately, many students make their first contact with Career Services in their last term of fourth year and that's much too late. Don't be one of them!

Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences,
2020 - 2207 Main Mall
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4
Telephone: 604-822-2449
Telephone: 604-827-3480 advisor Catherine Johnson

Advising and Program Approval - All students in the program should consult the adviser during the first week of classes to confirm their programs. Adviser will be available during the last two weeks of the Winter Session Term 2 and while the online Student Service Centre or telephone registration system is open for registration in the summer.