Best Jobs in America

CNNMoney/PayScale's top 100 careers with big growth, great pay and satisfying work.

6. Petroleum Geologist
Petroleum Geologist
6
"On a routine basis I get to imagine a world completely different from ours that comes to life through the rocks we look at," says Lee Krystinik, a petroleum geologist based in Tulsa, Okla. "And I get paid to go hunting buried treasure."
Median pay: $183,000
Top pay: $289,000
10-year job growth: 21.2%
Total jobs*: 33,800

What they do all day? Discovering the next great oil play is the goal of these geoscientists. You might envision them in the field breaking rocks with hammers, but they actually spend the day in front of high-powered computers, running simulations and manipulating geologic data to test their hypotheses of where petroleum reservoirs can be extracted.

How to get the job? Business acumen is as important as the ability to decipher geophysical clues. The job isn't just finding where to drill and turn up oil -- it's finding the location where a company can drill and make a great profit.

What's great? What's not? Petroleum geologists get to explore the wonder of the dynamic Earth. But with a lot riding on their calculations -- oil and gas wells can cost several hundred million dollars -- they must be able to handle high-precision work under high-stress conditions. --G.W.

What they do all day? Discovering the next great oil play is the goal of these geoscientists. You might envision them in the field breaking rocks with hammers, but they actually spend the day in front of high-powered computers, running simulations and manipulating geologic data to test their hypotheses of where petroleum reservoirs can be extracted. --G.W.

Quality of life ratings:
  • Personal satisfaction: A
  • Benefit to society: B
  • Flexibility: B
  • Low stress: B
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*Total jobs is estimated number of people working in broader BLS 'job family.'

Sources: PayScale.com, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and CNNMoney research

Do Petroleum Geologists have great jobs, or what? Are these great jobs, or what?
It's still a tough job market, so when CNNMoney, in partnership with data from PayScale.com, set out to find America's Best Jobs this year, first and foremost we looked for professions that offer great growth opportunities.

Other big factors: pay (how strong it is now, and how fast it's growing), overall job satisfaction, and how many jobs are in the field overall.
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