Maggie, age 16, wrote with the following question:
"Ever since I was a child, I have been interested in nature. The things that I was most captivated by, however, were the rocks I found. In my science classes, my favorite units dealt with the Earth’s hard exterior. I would like to become a geologist.
"I like to be thorough, so before I became too excited about this career, I did some research. Almost everything I saw, I liked. Except for one thing. I read that many geologists must be away from their families for a considerable amount of time. I was hoping you could give me an insight into your personal experiences and opinions on this subject. Did you get lonely often? How long were you away from your family? Is being away worth it?"
I circulated Maggie's question to my blog and newsletter readers. They gave back a wide range of replies, which I present with their permission, from encouraging to cautionary.
From Christen Rowe, grad student, University of California at Santa Cruz:
"As a geologist specializing in a "field-based" project, I have spent about 12 weeks in 4 years actually working in the field. I also have spent 2 months and several weekends teaching in the field. There are also 4 or 5 day conferences about twice a year. But I don't think the travel is really much more than a business professional would do—the only difference is that there are sometimes long absenses (1 or 2 months at a time). Some geologists working in mining exploration spend much longer away but this is a small minority of the jobs which are available. Also I have found ways to incorporate my friends and family into my field work when possible, taking a few days off to go camping for example. So my advice is that every geology job has different commitment and there are lots out there which might suit someone's needs."
From an American geologic technician:
"I am not a geologist, but I work and travel with geologists supporting them in the field by performing geology, hydrology and geophysics related tasks. The trip having the longest duration was two weeks and the most I have spent on travel in one calendar year has been six weeks. An average year for me has three to four weeks of travel. Most of the trips I have been on are one week or less, so for my family life, this is not a problem. I am middle-age and I have a capable wife who is able to handle most problems that may occur while I am away, and I have two well-behaved children. Of course, while away I am always available to them in the evening via hotel telephone. I would say I have a good situation at home that allows me to do the work I do.
"I enjoy this job very much as it allows me to visit some places I may never have been to on my own. Some of the places I've been to include Death Valley and the Amargosa Desert in California/Nevada, Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho, and various quarries in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Alabama. I have been able to work with an interesting group of scientists as well. On one trip we had scientists from Egypt, France, Peru, Pakistan and Mexico in our group."
This is your Guide again. If you have your own advice for Maggie, just add it using the "Readers Respond" form below.