Geotechnician and Geotechnologist

Geotechnicians and geotechnologists do scientific research on and in the crust of the earth with the objective of locating and extracting natural resources, or of determining subsurface conditions and locating building materials prior to building large civil constructions.

They are initially given a broad and generalised training, but will usually specialise in one of four directions, namely, mining and exploration, geophysics, geohydraulics or engineering geology, and will be involved in the following types of activities:

Mining and exploration geology, where they are usually employed by one of the large mining companies and will either work at a mine or in the field. In the course of mining activities, they will work underground three or four times per week for three-hour shifts, gathering information on newly exposed rock surfaces with the objective of locating ores or predicting hazardous mining conditions.

Exploration geology involves the search for new natural resources such as gemstones, precious minerals, basic metals, fossil fuels (coal and petroleum), ceramic minerals, building material or ground water. These are sophisticated and expensive research projects, where teams of scientists are involved in fieldwork using satellite and aerial photographs, geophysical observations, sampling and analysis of soil, rocks and plants and deep-drilling methods. The end results of these projects are the establishment of new mines, quarries and water resources.

Geophysics is the process where sophisticated instruments are used to evaluate conditions in the earth’s subsurface. Geophysics is also used in many other types of geological research such as the location of ores, of groundwater and in the evaluation of bedrock conditions for the design of foundations for large civil constructions. Geophysics involves fieldwork and computer analysis and requires an advanced understanding of Mathematics, Physics and Geology.

Geohydrology involves the analysis of ground-water conditions with the objective of finding new water resources, locating waste-disposal dumps or evaluating groundwater-pollution situations. Geohydrology involves fieldwork, usually incorporating aerial photographs and geophysics, together with computer analysis.

Engineering geology, where two distinct applications are involved. On the one hand, engineering geotechnicians are involved in the establishment of large civil constructions, which includes dams, bridges, tunnels, roads, large buildings and new townships. They must gather information on geological conditions in the subsurface in order to make recommendations for the design of foundations.

On the other hand geotechnicians locate building materials that will be used in large construction projects. They usually work on construction sites where they are involved with surface mapping, drilling projects or geophysical observations. They are also involved with computer analysis.

Personal Requirements

  • enquiring and analytical mind
  • interested in geography
  • fond of travelling, camping and outdoor life
  • observant and practical
  • capable of working independently and in isolation
  • also able to work in a team
  • capable of conceptual, differential and divergent thinking
  • good three-dimensional perception

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course

Each institution has its own entry requirements.

What to Study

Diploma: N.Dip: universities of technology - during this period the students will spend 5 semesters at the university of technology and one semester at an employer, where they undergo in-service training in order to gain practical experience.

Please consult the South African Council for Professional and Technical Surveyors (PLATO) for qualifications that are recognised as the required academic qualification to allow registration. Graduates with one of the listed qualifications only need to submit their diplomas/degrees and record of practical experience to apply for the law exam and registration.

Graduates with other relevant qualifications will needto submit all their academic records including curricula and lecture hours for each particular course to PLATO for consideration



  • large mining companies
  • construction and engineering companies
  • research institutes
  • government departments, for example, Dept of Water Affairs
  • laboratories
  • educational institutions
  • self-employment, with enough experience, can work as a private consultant for mining companies or research institutes

Further Information

South African Association of Geotechnology
P O Box 56959
Arcadia, 0007

The South African Council for Professional and Technical Surveyors (PLATO)
Unit 3, Building 2
Bruma Boulevard Office Park
20 Zulberg Close
Bruma, Johannesburg
Tel: (011) 626 1040

Getting Started

  • begin to select and study rock samples and read about this field
  • make appointments to talk to geotechnicians about this type of career and ask permission to observe them at work

Programmes by Study Institutions

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