The question of whether or not I am a geologist is not just an amusing exercise in academic politics. In Washington, as in most U.S. states, geology is a regulated profession; guidelines for who can and cannot call themselves a geologist in a professional context are laid out in the administrative code and enforced by the Geologist Licensing Board.
I am not a geologist, nor will I become one any time soon. To comply with Washington law, I would need to complete coursework in the core subjects of geology (as specified in WAC 308-15-040: structural geology, mineralogy, petrology and sedimentary geology/stratigraphy) and then my professional clock would start ticking – experience gained prior to completing these educational requirements doesn’t count towards the necessary 5 years. So, assuming I have understood the requirements correctly (always a gamble!), it would take a minimum of 6 years to become a Washington professional geologist. Even if there is a way to appeal for a shortcut, man, what an annoying hurdle.
On the other hand, if I got a job in California I could be a geologist in a few months. In fact, as far as I can tell, Washington is almost uniquely strict about this – only Nebraska has an equivalently rigid licensing requirement.
Disclaimer: This map is based on my quick skim of these ASBOG summaries. It is not intended to provide professional or legal advice; for actual information on licensing for professional geologists in your jurisdiction, you should consult applicable authorities.
In case anyone else wants to make a cheesy custom-colored map of the U.S., here’s the quickie web app I used.