This question may be way too specific, but what is the word for someone who surveys land in search for Oil (for petroleum). I think it might be a scientific word, like one that ends with -ist (like biologist)

  • 1
    Well, you might start with "geologist", though there are lots of specialties involved.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 9, 2015 at 19:45

4 Answers 4


Petroleum geologist.

A petroleum geologist is a earth scientist who works in the field of petroleum geology, which involves all aspects of oil discovery and production. Petroleum geologists are usually linked to the actual discovery of oil and the identification of possible oil deposits or leads. [Wikipedia]

Petrogeologist is used also but it is less common.


Both my father and his father made their livings at precisely this job. The term used for it within the petroleum industry (in the United States, anyway) is exploration geologist.

A person who conducts seismic mapping of the strata of rock and other deposits in a particular area in order to help assess their potential as a source for oil or natural gas is called a stratigrapher.

  • Interesting. It seems like a more general term and not specific to petroleum industry. "An Exploration Geologist is a person who uses their specialized knowledge of the earth’s surface to discover resources of value. This type of Geologist is used extensively in the mining industry." careerminer.infomine.com
    – ermanen
    Commented May 9, 2015 at 20:12
  • @ermanen: Right. But since multiple specialties of "petroleum geologist" are employed within the petroleum industry, the term "exploration geologist" is actually more specific than "petroleum geologist" within the industry. It's also a bit odd in that you might expect it to be something like gold prospecting, with the vast majority of the exploration geologist's time being spent in the field; but in fact most of the person's time is spent in an office analyzing stratigraphic data, recognizing continuities with known petroleum-bearing layers elsewhere, and the like.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented May 9, 2015 at 20:21
  • Petroleum geologist explores and charts stratigraphic data also but specifically to locate hydrocarbon fuels (oil and natural gas).
    – ermanen
    Commented May 9, 2015 at 20:29
  • I can't account for the word choice then, I guess. It's certainly true that the engineers that my father worked with were known as "petroleum engineers," but for some reason "petroleum geologist" was not a job title at the oil company where he worked (nor, I believe, at the one where my grandfather worked).
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented May 9, 2015 at 20:34
  • Yes, it might depend on the company also. One distinction might be, exploration geologists search for new fields and petroleum geologists explore and develop the petroleum reservoirs.
    – ermanen
    Commented May 9, 2015 at 20:37


Today prospectors are almost always (and when hired by serious interests, always) exploration geologists. Since their field is geology they are more likely to refer to themselves as geologists than prospectors.

But prospector covers both them and also those in earlier times whose methods were informed by less scientific knowledge than today.

Conversely, geologist covers geologists who apply their training to other ends.


If you're just guessing there might be oil down there and drill a well, you're a wildcatter. The days of wildcatters is long gone. All the crude that is ridiculously easy to find was found (and extracted) long ago.

If before drilling that expensive well, you drill a number of holes, sink small amounts of explosives into those holes, and apply some hairy mathematics on the seismograph readings (and other readings) that result to "see" what's down there, you're more likely to be a petroleum geologist (or more specifically, an exploration geologist).

The petroleum industry distinguishes between upstream, midstream, and downstream, and within upstream, it distinguishes between exploration and production. This is a question about exploration.

  • Yes, I believe that Jed Clampett discovered the last previously unknown near-surface oil deposit back in 1962.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented May 10, 2015 at 1:26

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