Geoscience jobs dwindle in Kansas, prospects higher in other states

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Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (left) chats with K-State President Kirk Schulz on the sideline of Kivisto Field during the fourth quarter of the Sunflower Showdown Saturday evening in Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kansas. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

An executive directive signed by Gov. Sam Brownback abolished 18 job classifications and replaced them with 16 new classifications, leaving workers in the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and other agencies to reshuffle into new job classifications in late September. Fifteen of the abolished categories include environmental and geological science work.

Matthew Brueseke, associate professor of geology, said he does not believe reshuffling the jobs will adversely affect this year’s graduates with geoscience degrees. He said there are more jobs in the geoscience field outside of government agencies, and these are the fields that most K-State graduates plan on going into.

The most common employers for K-State geoscience graduates are various resource-sector companies involved in oil and gas mining, environmental consulting agencies and government agencies, according to Brueseke.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2014 people working in geoscience fields in Kansas made, on average, around $80,000; the national average salary for geoscience workers was about $105,000 in 2014.

Texas and Oklahoma have the highest national average salaries for geoscience jobs, according to the BLS. Texas geoscience salaries averaged nearly $150,000 in 2014, and Oklahoma geoscience workers made over $125,000, on average.

“Many of our graduates have ended up in Texas and Oklahoma, though there are many careers in Kansas,” Brueseke said.

K-State alumni should not be intimidated when considering work in Texas, according to Lisa Givens, director of Communications at the Texas Workforce Commission.

“I can say that as a transplant myself, I have found Texans to be some of the most friendly people around, and the employment opportunities are diverse for those with current in-demand skills,” Givens said.

Rex Buchanan, interim director at the Kansas Geological Survey, said he believes current geoscience majors should not read into the jobs reclassification.

“I think that was more of an adjustment in state government, getting folks in geoscience on a scale comparable with other technical backgrounds and providing some sense of pay equity,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan also said geoscience jobs tend to follow the oil and gas market.

“The BLS data reflect the fact that most energy-sector companies in the USA are based in Texas and Oklahoma, and this sector pays the best,” Brueseke said. “Mining pays similar, but often slightly lower.”

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Danielle Cook
Hey there! I'm Danielle Cook. I'm currently a freshman in journalism and mass communications. I live for telling true stories, so I hope to be doing it for the rest of my life. Luckily, I also live for late nights and early mornings – as long as there's coffee and I'm in good company.