The name geologist is a catch all name for several jobs that require a lot of specialized training and education. There are five different types of geologists jobs in which a person can specialize in. They include the volcanologist, paleontologist, mineralogist, engineering geologist and petroleum geologist. Each one is important for different areas of the economy and cover a broad spectrum of knowledge.
One of the most recognizable geologist for kids is the volcanologist. This is the guy you see out collecting rock samples from volcanos all over the world. It is the job of the volcanologist to predict when and where a volcano will erupt and give that data to emergency management officials. Then it is up to the emergency officials to warn people based on the information when there is a potential threat in their vicinity.
A paleontologist is a person who studies rock formations to see how changes in the climate have affected plants and animals. In other words this is the person who will look for fossils to find answers as to why some species of plants and animals either went or are going extinct. Paleontologist often work with museums that will display some of the fossils that are discovered and fund their research.
A mineralogist is the person who studies the composition of rocks to determine where deposits of valuable minerals might be located. He will make maps of the possible deposit locations for mining companies or individuals that are seeking to find things such as coal, diamonds or gems. I guess you could say he is a glorified gold digger but at least he knows the difference between the real thing and fools gold. A mineralogist basically uses a scientific method for locating the gold or other gems but without the panning like in the old west.
The engineering geologist is the guy that typically works with construction or mining companies on projects that require a lot of excavation. He studies the ways in which excavating effects the surrounding environment and possible problems that can be encountered in addition to techniques for dealing with them. The engineering geologist is the person you would hire if you wanted to dig a tunnel. He would study the rocks to make sure that the tunnel is safe and would not collapse structurally once it is built.
It is the job of a petroleum geologist to find resources such as oil and gas. These are two of the most important resources for our economy which makes their job very important not only to the government but private industry as well.