All of My Faults Are Stress Related

Andrew Alden at about.com received a question from a reader. She’s in her second year studying geology in Australia, she likes hard rock stuff, she thinks mining and petroleum sound interesting, and she’s worried about juggling it all with a small child.

I teach a fair number of non-traditional students, and I’ve got a number of advisees with small children. We talk about how to juggle coursework and kids a lot (especially when kids are sick, or schools have vacations), but I haven’t had that many long talks with them about jobs (yet). There are geology jobs near my town – engineering geology for housing developments, oil & gas exploration and production, environmental firms, a couple coal mines across the border in New Mexico. Some jobs require (or make possible) crazy schedules – some former students have logged core for natural gas wells and worked like mad for many days straight, and then had long periods off. (Good if your goal is to work and then go on the river, but not so good if you want to match your schedule with daycare.) But other jobs run similar hours to other professional work. (And they cover the full range of jobs around here – engineering geology, petroleum, the coal mine… oh, and teaching high school earth science.) And I know former students (female and male) with young kids who have managed them.

I don’t know the job situation in Australia. But I know that around here, there are jobs that don’t require leaving the family for long periods of time. (I also know that many members of the Association for Women Geoscientists are frustrated with the lack of part-time geoscience jobs, and with the options for women who return to the workforce after time away. So it’s far from perfect, but it’s possible.)

What about you, readers? Advice for her?

Comments

  1. #1 Lab Lemming
    May 21, 2009

    Advice?
    Find a master’s advisor who is child friendly, and combine kids and a masters. The current job market is bad enough as is.

    After that, several of the state surveys have geologists with small children, so they would be good people to approach. Most remote field positions work on a 2-3 week on, 1 week off FIFO schedule, which is pretty rough for kids, but might be manageable with a supportive partner once the little ones are school age.

  2. #2 coconino
    May 23, 2009

    I’ve been lucky with the five-yr old; my family and SO have stepped in when I’ve needed to travel. Larger city environmental consulting firms (think haz waste clean ups or development-oriented geotech) tend to have more local field days, but you still need to expect to work a 12-hr day. Larger cities also tend to have day care with longer access hours. Granted, the economy is not good for consulting firms now. I would go with the above – get your MS (makes you more marketable) and then look for a job. Also, look for a gov’t internship for summer experience. They’ll give you vacation and sick time, and the work may be menial and office-oriented but it will give you experience and may lead to a full-time career post.

    My experience with small-town single parent care was pretty phenomenal – a very lucky happenstance. I dropped child off at 0730 and picked up at 1730 which allowed for a decent workday. When I travel now, either family meets me there or SO takes over on overnight trips. I also try to schedule large trips and long days when kid is with dad.

    Hope this helps.

  3. #3 ReBecca
    May 25, 2009

    I do not have kids but I have several paleo/geo friends that do. They often take their kids with them on trips and int he field when they can (more so in the case where both parents are in the field). When it is just one is a geo/paleo, the other seems to be willing to take up some of the slack so the other can do their job and what they love to do. Same for those with kids in school – they always seem to find a way and I have not experienced anyone being discriminated against because they have a small child. I do know a few people though who can not move off for a job because they have a child or their spouse does and they have to stay in the area due to this.

    I am lucky enough to have a geo/paleo spouse and we plan on just taking the kid with us someday when we need to. Hopefully we will be able to leave them with family when we can’t.

  4. #4 Phylograptus
    June 3, 2009

    As a petroleum geologist I can say that this is one career path that (unfortunately) does not require any real field work. 99 % of your time is spent in an office environment, usually in a major city. Presently and for the coming years there are predicted to be a shortage of new geoscience professionals in this field so it has legs as a career path. The only time I & the majority of petroleum geologists get out in the field on a work related situation is for field training courses.

  5. #5 Jobs in Melbourne
    October 8, 2009

    hello, I don’t know the job situation in Australia. whether it is good or bad i dont know. I am looking for a part time job in melbourne. any body could help me. if you do so i am very thankful to you. thanks for the article owner giving me a chance to post a comment over here…