Geophysical Engineering

Career Objectives

Provide knowledge of natural physical phenomena that occur on the planet.

Professional Profile

Professional who investigates and understands the physical phenomena that occur in the Earth by using principles and practices of Physics, in order to know their behavior and solve problems related to it.

For this, he has sound knowledge in physics and mathematics, an appropriate geological training as well as a good handling in data processing.

Unlike the geologist who analyzes the relatively stable systems of the Earth, the geophysicist examines dynamic systems in it, where he often has to run to a place in the world to study a phenomenon that is happening there.

You can continue your Master’s and Doctorate studies if you are more inclined to geophysical science research than in the application of this knowledge in the resolution of practical problems.

Specific tasks or activities carried out in the profession

Research of Physical Phenomena

He explores and describes the geological structures, composition and textures that make up the earth’s crust.

He analyzes the planet’s dynamics, studying the physical phenomena that are produce in the terrestrial, ocean and atmospheric environment, such as its gravity, magnetism, tides, *tectonics, *seismology, etc.

He analyzes the functioning of the planet today and in its remote past, explaining its evolution based on the analysis of physical phenomena that occur in it.

He employs *deductive methods to explain natural variations produced in the gravitational, magnetic and electrical fields of the Earth.

In relation to principles and laws, he explains the presence and variations of natural physical phenomena within the Earth and their surface manifestations, such as:

The movement of continents and the origin and mechanisms of forces responsible for it; earthquakes; the expansion of the ocean floor; the generation of crust in the mechanism of a mobile and dynamic Earth and the effect of different temperatures inside it.

He analyzes the relation that exists between natural phenomena; for instance, how waves and tides correlate with electromagnetic fields.

He evaluates seismic, volcanic and tsunami risks.

He studies ocean-atmosphere *interaction processes.

He determines air pollution aspects, evaluation of extreme climatic phenomena (El Niño) and global climate change.

In recent years, he uses his research techniques in the study of the Moon, the Sun and other planets of the solar system.

In the research process:

He identifies the problems and designs a research program to deal with this problem.

He carries out measurements in oceans, the atmosphere, the Earth’s surface or geological drilling, as the case may be, with sophisticated measurement systems.

He studies reading of measuring equipment.

He collects data obtained from measurements and sets out a *hypothesis based on them.

He integrates *theory with *mathematical modeling and data acquisition.

He challenges assumptions previously established, if his data demonstrates those false assumptions.

He sets out and discusses ideas and future research plans.

He writes reports with the findings obtained.

Development of Practical Applications

He examines the effects of the atmosphere in radio waves and satellite communications.

He performs solar and wind energy assessments.

He adapts geophysical methods in the location and monitoring of the environmental impact produced by industrial, agricultural and construction of civil works activities in the subsoil, such as the contamination of groundwater, accidents, tank leaks, landfills, hazardous waste, etc.

He evaluates environmental risks by locating *tectonic faults, faults, etc, that could constitute natural hazards for the population such as floods or landslides.

He develops *theories and *techniques for the exploration of subsoil resources.

He discovers and quantifies reserves of economic interest for their subsequent exploitation. For that, he locates the areas in which there is a high probability of finding mineral deposits, or groundwater, identifies geothermal sources or geological structures in which hydrocarbons are accumulated, and he advises company executives that decide if whether to open a mine or drill a well.

Jointly with the geologist, he locates suitable places for the *foundation of dams, bridges, highways and civil works, studying the structural conditions of the subsoil since the weakness of the surrounding rock could mean a disaster for the dam. This way, he provides an important support tool for civil constructions and topographic works.

He provides information on the knowledge of physical phenomena derived from the gravitational field, the magnetic field and especially seismic waves, for the safety of his civil works in the face of possible earthquakes.

He carries out *geophysical mapping with information obtained from different *geophysical prospecting methods.

Use of methods and techniques

-He uses *geophysical prospecting methods to examine the internal structures that make up the Earth. For instance:

-He performs *gravity prospecting to carry out measurements in order to determine the Earth’s gravitational field trying to explain its variations.

For example, when using a gravity meter; different types of rocks on Earth have different masses and will therefore attract objects to a greater or lesser extent.

A gravity meter is sensitive enough to detect the minor changes in gravity that reflect differences in density, and these variations can be used to infer the structure of the Earth’s crust.

-He performs *magnetic prospecting to investigate the origin, history and development of the Earth’s magnetic field.

-He performs *seismic prospecting to study, through the recording and analysis of seismic waves, the internal formation of the planet.

He makes use of radar, dynamite, electronic instruments, topographic maps, Global Positioning Systems (*GPS) and aerial photography, during his work.

For instance:

With explosions, he can measure and trace sound waves created by them.

The information obtained from these tests and the reading of equipment help him to determine the types and patterns of rock beneath the surface.

Aerial photography reveals ground disturbance that goes unnoticed from land that may be related to deposits in the subsoil; in humid places, the soil color varies according to humidity level; the color is darker when there is greater humidity, which indicates there is more soil; a light color on it could be the evidence of a buried structure.

He carries out data processing in computer that use specially developed software.

He prepares *simulation models in computers.

He draws up maps and diagrams to present the results visually.

Resource Management

He manages human, material and financial resources in geophysical studies.

Occupational Field

-Universities, in their Geophysics, Engineering, Geology and Materials Research faculties

-National and international Institutes

-Water resources companies

-Mining companies

-Construction companies

-Oil drilling and natural gas extraction companies

-Hydroelectric power plants

-Port companies

-Aquaculture companies

-Forest companies

-Insurance companies

-Fisheries Research Institutes

-National Meteorological Service

-Meteorological Service of the Navy

-Airport Service

-Astronomical Observatories

-State agencies in charge of the exploration of the national territory for the search, extraction and use of energy, mineral and water resources.

-Public bodies related to the environment.

-Private companies in advice, geophysical and environmental impact studies.

-Ministry of Energy

-Ministry of Communications and Transport and Social Development

-National Center for Prevention of Disasters

-Ministry of Agriculture

Estimated time of College years

5 years

Main courses considered in the syllabus

Basic Training Courses

*Statistics and Probability

Mathematics (5 semesters)


*Physics (4 semesters)

Professional Training Courses

*Introduction to Geophysics

*Fundamentals of Geology




*Rock Mechanics

*Structural Geology

*Stratigraphy and Sedimentology


*Fundamentals of Topography and *Geodesy

*Signal Analysis (2 semesters)

*Electrical Prospecting

*Seismic Prospecting

*Electromagnetic Prospecting

*Magnetic Prospecting

*Gravity Prospecting

*Radiometric Prospecting

*Computer Science

*Geographical Information Systems

*Research Methodology

Complementary Training Courses


*Project Evaluation



Seismology and Solid Earth Geophysics

Physical Oceanography

Atmospheric Sciences

*Environmental Geophysics

Vocation, Skills and Interests required in the candidate to this career


-Interest in the application of mathematics and physics.

-Fascination with the observation of physical phenomena of nature.

-Curiosity and interest in understanding the origin of natural phenomena and the existing relationship between them.

-Interest in the conditions in which the planet is located.

-Taste for handling precision electronic instruments and computer equipment.

-Motivation for the application of knowledge in Natural Science.


-Mathematical skill

-Aptitude for the understanding of Physics

-Spatial Location

-Visual acuity

-Ease for graphical interpretation

*Deduction and *analysis capacity

Candidate Personality

-Willingness and ability to work as a team.


-For finding an explanation to the processes that are occurring in nature, to be able to understand it and know how to treat it.

Or any specific dream or longing which feels involved or oriented towards this direction.

Work Scope

He spends most of his time outdoors with different types of weather and travelling to several regions of the country in the study of the characteristics of the Earth. He also develops his task in laboratories and research centers using computers for modeling and calculations.

So he must have great adaptability to work and settle down in different environments and a compatible health to perform field work.

He relates to professionals in meteorology, geology, oceanographers, physicists and environmental chemists, civil engineers, topographical engineers, mining and metallurgical engineers, and petroleum engineers, among others.

Related Careers

-Geology, Meteorology, Physical Oceanography

*Glossary of Terms

*Analysis: Study that is made of a reality or situation, distinguishing the facts, qualifying them and seeing the relationship between them.

*Signal Analysis (Course):

Spectral Analysis of Signals: analysis of electronic signals and their mathematical foundations.

Signal Processing: Application and analysis of techniques to identify useful signals when they are contaminated by unwanted signals.

Fundamentals of Digital Filter design: Theory in which the design of digital filters is based on.

*Mapping: Technique that studies different methods or systems that allows a part or all the earth’s surface to be represented on a plane.

*Geophysical Mapping: Description of the subsoil in terms of layers of sediment, depth of rocky levels, etc.

*Foundations: Bases or foundations underground that support the structure of a building.

*Computer Science (Course): Types of programs (software) necessary both to operate the machine and software to solve mathematical and engineering problems.

-Method of Program Design in the development of programs that solve basic engineering problems.

-Data storage in different media of a computer system.

-Information technologies to access useful information in his academic and professional performance.

*Deduction: From a general principle known, conclude regarding a particular case.

*Economics: Study of the social organization of the economic activity.

*Statistics: Statistics is the mathematical study of processes to which answer is not possible to determine accurately since they are random processes.

*Statistics and Probability (Course): Basic studies of the collection, processing and analysis techniques of a piece of data (sample) of a larger set of them (universe) in order to describe their characteristics; and the study of probabilities that these characteristics are given and all that universe.

-Analysis of some random experiments that occur in nature and in engineering.

*Stratigraphy:*Strata: Layers of rock in the Earth’s crust.

*Stratigraphy and Sedimentology (Course): Layers of the Earth’s crust, their normal order of superposition and relative age.

-Events that have happened in the Earth’s surface over the course of geological times.

-Disposition of sediments or sedimentary rocks or in *overlapping strata.

-Processes that produce the formation of *sediments.

-Analysis of the properties of sedimentary particles.

-Factors that intervene in the formation of sedimentary environments.

-Major external factors that influence or control sedimentary processes.

*Project Evaluation: Analysis of project development alternatives. –Feasibility study, that is, if the project is technologically and economically possible.

*Physics (Course):

Statics: Fundamental principles of Newton’s classical mechanics, the laws that govern them and their applications.

Kinematics and Dynamics: Mechanics of movement of particles and bodies considering the geometry of the movement and the causes that modify it.

Newton’s laws in the resolution of exercises of particle movement in a plane, where the causes that modify this movement intervene.

-Work and energy, impulse and the amount of movement of the particle.

Electricity and Magnetism: Principles and fundamental laws of electromagnetism.

-Usage of instruments. -Electrical field. –Potential difference. -Capacitance of a system and the electric potential energy stored in it.

-Behavior of resistive electrical circuits.

-Magnetic field. –Operation of the DC motor.

-Inductance of electrical circuits and the magnetic energy stored in them.

-Operation of the single-phase electric transformer.

-Magnetic characteristics of materials.

Thermodynamics: Fundamental concepts and principles of Thermodynamics. –Application in the solution of physical problems. –Use of instruments and equipment.

Vibrations and Waves: physical and mathematical tools for the analysis of wave propagation, especially the seismic ones.

Electromagnetic Theory: Physical and mathematical bases of the electric and magnetic fields.

*Fundamentals of Geology (Course): Theories about the origin of the Universe and our Solar System and their characteristics. –Minerals that form rocks. –Types of rocks that exist in the earth crust.

-Processes that gave them origin. –Geological structures created by the Earth’s crust processes, based on physical, mathematical and *stratigraphic knowledge.

*Fundamentals of Topography and Geodesy (Course): Measurement and calculation methods and essential procedures in the *surveying of lands to draw up *topographic plans.

-Use of aerial photographs in the identification of accidents in the land form. –Interpretation of *topographic plans and *cartographic maps.

*Geodesy concepts. -Methods of measurement and calculation to determine the shape and magnitude of large areas of the Earth’s surface considering the curvature of the planet; as well as the precise position of points in its surface. –Interpretation of *Geodesic maps.

*Geodesy: Mathematic science that carries out a geometric representation of the Earth or large areas of its surface, where it is necessary to consider the curvature of the Earth.

*Environmental Geophysics: Study of the assessment of future environmental/climate scenarios. -Their importance in the multidisciplinary interpretation of global warming.

*Structural Geology (Course): Stress and deformations produced in geological structures.

-Relation of the geometric elements with geological structures and their expression in the land relief.

-Display and graphical representation of the location of materials in the subsoil, based on surface and borehole data.

-Origin and evolution of geological structures.

-Mechanical conditions under which land discontinuity (faults) are created, due to a loss of cohesion of their materials.

*Geotectonics: Deformations of the Earth’s crust. –Dynamic events that have modeled the geological features of the Earth.

*GPS: Global Positioning Systems. It is a satellite location system that allows you to know the position of an object or person with a margin of error of centimeters.

-This serves the geophysicist for the positioning of a *prospecting.

*Ocean-Atmosphere Interaction (Course): Study of the interactions between the atmosphere and the ocean establishing cause and effect between them, such as: water vapor is led to the atmosphere by evaporation and, eventually, transferred to the ground by precipitation returning to the ocean.

Or that the ocean, when absorbing more heat in the Equatorial zone than in the poles, transfers this heat to colder areas by means of water movement and this modifies the continental climate.

*Introduction to Geophysics (Course): Origin of the solar system and the planet Earth.

-Physical laws that govern the Earth’s movement.

-Dating of the different stages of its evolution.

-Influence of the Sun’s activity on physical phenomena that take place in the atmosphere, in the surface and within the Earth.

-Concept of plate tectonics, their movements and determination of plate boundaries.

-Displacement of the seabed and its entry to the Earth’s crust.

-Correlation of plate tectonics with the creation of continental structures.

-Concepts, principles and laws that govern the Earth’s gravitational field and the factors that affect it.

-Origin of the Earth’s magnetic and electric fields, the factors that make them vary and the relation between them and the internal structure of the Earth, among others.

*Hydrogeology (Course): Origin and formation of groundwater; processes that govern the movement of groundwater inside the rocks and sediments; permeability, porosity and fractures (cracks) of rocks; their chemical analysis. –Weather, *rainfall, among others.

*Hypothesis: Initial proposal that will be later submitted to veracity.

*Topographic Survey: It is graphically representing a place on paper, with all the landforms of the surface.

*Cartographic Maps: It is a global representation of broad areas of a territory as of a country, a region, or the world, where the Earth’s curvature is considered; but with less details than a *topographic plan.

*Geodesic Map: Geometric reference system of large areas of land where the real shape (ellipsoidal) of the planet is considered for its greater precision, and works as Global Reference System for *topographic surveys.

*Rock Mechanics (Course): Physical properties of rocks. –Characteristics of rocks and rocky massifs: resistance, deformability and permeability.

-Classification of rock mass. –Field tests in the detection of these properties.

-Application of Rock Mechanics in underground works excavated in rock as in tunnels, in open-pit works excavated in rock, in the stability of hillsides and in rock *foundations.

*Research Methodology (Course): Stages of the scientific research process and its application to problem solving.

*Mineralogy (Course): Characteristics of the internal structure of crystals. –Processes that determine their origin. –Identification of phenomena in mineral chemistry. –Physical properties of minerals. –Geological phenomena related to the origin of minerals that form rocks and mineral deposits.

*Mathematical Modeling: It is the mathematical representation of the behavior of systems or phenomena.

*Simulation Models: Software that tries to be an imitation of reality phenomena to conduct a study of its behavior.

*Petrology (Course): Processes in the formation of rocks, their characteristics and classification.

-Main groups of minerals that form rocks.

*Igneous rocks, their texture and structure.

-Recognition and description of the sedimentary environments, the origin and processes that lead to the formation of a *sedimentary rock.

-Identification and classification of sedimentary rocks, their texture and structure.

-Identification and classification of *metamorphic rocks, their texture and structure.

*Topographic Plan: It is a scale representation of the relief of a terrain to which extension is small enough not to consider the Earth’s curvature.

-This serves the geophysicist for the geographical location in which the *prospecting will be performed.

*Rainfall: Study and processing of precipitation data.

*Prospecting: It is the exploration of the land, prior to excavation.

*Electrical Prospecting: They are electrical surveys to estimate the distribution of resistivity in a section of the terrain.

Resistivity measures the greater or lesser ease with which the electric current passes through the earth, based on the fact that certain materials have less resistance than others; This way, you can get images of the subsoil that provide information on the allocation of materials in it.

It is often used to measure the depth at which the bedrock is found in civil engineering projects; or to draw up the map of structural characteristics of areas where oil or mineral deposits will be located.

Electromagnetic Prospecting: This technique combines the electrical and magnetic prospecting.

The set of instruments has a signal transmitter to the ground and a receiver of the signal that buried objects return. –The metal detector is the most well-known instrument that uses this technique.

Gravity Prospecting: Exploration methods that uses variations of the gravitational field to define the characteristics of the subsoil. It detects gravity anomalies that result in differences in ground density.

For instance, gravity deficit (low density) may correspond to domes and hydrocarbons, whereas an excess of gravity (high density) may correspond to a highly mineralized body.

This way, information associated with different densities of rocks that make up the crust is obtained, very useful in Seismic Risk Assessment studies.

*Geophysical Prospecting: It is the study of the structure of the interior of the Earth, by means of instruments to detect their physical properties.

*Magnetic Prospecting: Method that measures the small local variations of the Earth’s magnetic field that may be caused by variations in magnetic properties of subsoil rocks.

This technique defines the characteristics of the subsoil and can be used for the prospecting of magnetic mineral deposits; tectonics and geological mapping studies; study of archeological sites (both terrestrial and submarine), among others.

*Radiometric Prospecting: Method that measures electromagnetic radiation, as an indirect form to identify different types of rocks. It is based on the measurement of natural emission of gamma rays, characteristic of elements and radioactive minerals.

The presence of radioactive substances in rocks can be used in the search for mineral deposits such as: Uranium, Zirconium, Beryllium, Radium, among others.

*Seismic Prospecting: It consists of emitting a signal in the surface of the terrain, such as a small explosive charge, to cause waves to propagate through the layers of the subsoil. The waves propagate into the interior of the Earth and travel times are measured of those that come back to the surface after undergoing refraction or reflection in the limits of the geological layers existing in the subsoil.

Travel times provide information of the depths of different underground layers, being able to obtain a subsoil *mapping based on that.

This information can be useful in exploration wells.

*Chemistry (Course): Organic and inorganic chemistry and the properties of compounds.

-Atomic structure and its relation to the magnetic properties of elements. –Periodic table. –Chemical bonds. –Relationship between thermodynamics and chemical equilibrium. –Electrochemistry. –General points of organic chemistry. –Use of instruments. –Properties of fuels: diesel, gasoline, natural gas and biofuels.

*Igneous Rocks: They are rocks that have been formed by magma (molten rock) that has cooled and solidified.

*Metamorphic Rocks: Metamorphic rocks are rocks that have been exposed to high pressures or high temperatures, have undergone changes in their composition, or have been subjected to an active fluid that brought new substances.

*Sedimentary Rocks: These are rocks that have been formed by the accumulation of sediments.

*Sediments: Organic and inorganic material that accumulates in a loose and unbound way.

*GIS: Geographic Information Systems: A geographic information system is software designed to receive, store, manipulate, analyze and display information with reference to its geographical location.

*Seismology: *Seismologist: Professional who carries out the study of seismic reading and tries to predict earthquakes.

*Geographic Information System (Course): The subjects includes *GIS characteristics and applications. -Its functioning for the analysis and interpretation of the geographical space. –Programming languages to be used in *GIS.

*Techniques: Form or way of doing things.

*Tectonics: Geological structure produced by deformation of the Earth’s crust.

*Plate tectonics: Folds and fractures that modify the Earth’s crust.

*Theory: Proposition or attempt to explain a phenomenon from the beginning.

*Topography: Interpretation of the surface of a terrain from a geometric point of view.