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Curtin University

Geophysics, a career at the frontier of science and exploration

When you complete a degree course in Exploration Geophysics at Curtin University, you could:

  • be in charge of a multimillion dollar exploration team searching for the next billion dollar oil or gas reserve
  • discover new ways of using the Earth's geothermal energy to power the planet
  • seek new sources of underground water to supplement our shrinking reserves
  • map the layout of a 2000 year old city buried in the desert sands of Egypt
  • make new discoveries as to how the air around us affects the motion of the planet
  • determine new ways to understand the thermal structure and dynamics of oceans
  • apply the techniques and skills you learn from us to reveal the internal structure of other planets and stars.

These are just some of many exciting and challenging scenarios you can find yourself in when you leave us as a qualified exploration geophysicist. It is up to you to decide how to tackle these challenges using the latest geophysical methods and technology.

"If science is your passion, then go for it and don't let anything stop you."

Trang Nguyen
Trang Nguyen, Geophysicist, graduated with honours, 2000 -   advice for other young women considering a similar career. (Fremantle Cockburn Gazette, 4th March 2008)

What is geophysics?

Geophysics combines the sciences of physics, geology, mathematics and computing into something much more.

Geophysics is a non-destructive and non-invasive Earth Science that uses the very latest science and technology in instrumentation, data acquisition and, advanced computer modelling and interpretation in subsurface exploration. We use seismic, magnetic, electromagnetic, radiometric and gravitational technologies and techniques to determine the structure and composition of natural (and sometimes artificial) materials below the Earth's surface without the need for drilling or excavation.

Geophysics is at the very frontier of science and exploration and is used in areas such as:

  • Oil, gas and mineral exploration
  • Underground water exploration
  • Archaeology
  • Atmospherics
  • Oceanography
  • Planetary science
  • Astronomy and astrophysics
  • Urban utility mapping
  • Geohazards such as volcanos or earthquakes
  • Forensics.

Geophysics applies the principles of physics with a knowledge of geology, mathematics and computing, to study the composition of the planets and stars.

Why study geophysics with us?

Curtin University Department of Exploration Geophysics provides specialist geophysics training and offers an internationally recognised, professional degree in geophysics. We are a dedicated team of highly respected, professional trainers and researchers with just one aim in mind when it comes to you: to provide you with all the skills and training you need to become a fully qualified, world class geophysicist.

And when you complete your geophysics degree with us you will be able to gain admission to the following prestigious societies:

  1. The Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists (ASEG)
  2. The Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG - USA)
  3. The European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers (EAGE)
  4. The Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM)

Our Facilities

Australian Resources Research Centre Perth, Western Australia

We are located in the Australian Resources Research Centre (ARRC) at Technology Park in Kensington, Western Australia. This is an active research facility owned and operated by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The facility is home to over 200 leading scientists and researchers from CSIRO and Curtin University who have come together to create a petroleum and minerals centre of expertise for the south-east Asia region.

Our Staff

Our staff members have come from a variety of cultures and backgrounds and are amongst the best in their fields. We will provide you with just the right blend of expert training and real-world experience you will need to complete your study with us and gain immediate employment into the world of geophysics. If you ever need any advice or assistance with your studies, we are always there to guide you.

Our Computing Environment

When you study geophysics with us you will have access to the very latest computer hardware and software applications we have available. We maintain two specialist computer laboratories that run current geophysical and mathematical software in addition to standards such as the latest Microsoft and Adobe products. The geophysical software you will find in our labs is used extensively throughout the commercial world.

Some of the specialist geophysics software applications we have available include:

  • Landmark (Seismic data processing, modelling and interpretation)
  • Paradigm (Visualisation, interpretation and modelling)
  • Encom (Magnetics and gravity, modelling and remote sensing)
  • Geosoft (Mapping and processing)
  • MatLAB (Mathematical computation, analysis, visualization and development)
  • Petrosys (Mapping, visualisation and surface modelling)
  • ERMapper (Geospatial imagery processing).

"Do it. Have fun at uni, study hard."

Amanda Davies

"The industry is huge at the moment and with the demand for hydrocarbons increasing worldwide there are endless opportunities in this field."
Amanda Davies, Geophysicist, graduated with Honours, 2003.

An Application Sampler

Using geophysical techniques you will probe deep into the Earth's crust and gather data about structures hidden far below the surface using state of the art technologies such as seismic, ground penetrating radar, gravity, magnetics and electromagnetics.

seismicA cross section of the Earth's crust detailing the various layers, constructed from geophysical data

Once you have collected all the data you will then use cutting edge computer hardware and software technologies to create graphic models of the earth's crust.

Electrically conductive outline of a manganese ore body with drilling information

Finally, using what you have learned from us, you will be able to interpret your models and reveal detailed features hidden deep within the earth's surface such as oil, gas, mineral or water reserves. This is just one of many ways you can use your skills.

What you learn at Curtin Geophysics

You have a variety of options when you study geophysics with us.

The basic undergraduate course takes three years of full time study to complete. After this you have the option of starting work as a fully qualified geophysicist or completing a fourth year specializing in your area of interest in fields like oil and gas, groundwater. or mineral exploration.

Even after you leave us and are working in the field you can still come back and complete a postgraduate course that provides you with advanced training in various aspects of exploration geophysics.

Students in classroom

How is the undergraduate course structured?

First Year

During your first year with us you are trained in the basic requirements of geophysics, mathematics, physics, geology and computing. This provides you with a solid grounding in the knowledge required to move on to the more advanced and specific topics in this course.

In first year you will:

"The best part of the degree at Curtin was the outdoor labs."

Image of Leon Matthews

"We learned the theory in class rooms but got to go outside and collect our own data." - Leon Matthews, geophysicist, graduated with honours 1995.

Second Year

During your second year of study your knowledge and skills are further expanded in all areas relating to geophysics. You will cover more units in geophysics, geology, maths, physics and some chemistry.

In your second year you will:

Third Year

In this final year you will cover more advanced areas of knowledge in geophysics and build skills that will complete your preparation for employment in the field.

In your third year with us you will:

  • Gain an understanding of measurement techniques and instrumentation and gain experience in data collection, processing and interpretation, and learn advanced techniques and exploration practice in geophysical processing and interpretation
  • Discover how potential fields can be used in interpretation techniques and how electrical techniques are used in geophysical prospecting
  • Attain a fundamental understanding of the seismic exploration method and its application, and gain a sound knowledge of seismic data acquisition methods
  • Develop the skills needed for advanced geophysical analysis and gain a comprehensive knowledge of the electromagnetic and radiometric methods
  • Gain a fundamental understanding of the major physical properties of the Earth with respect to tectonics, magnetic fields and geochronology
  • Determine how geophysical methods can be used to study the environment
  • Find out how to plan, execute and interpret geophysical surveys in a variety of environments and gain field experience in the operation of geophysical instruments
  • Gain experience in writing exploration reports.

Fourth Year (Honours) Program

"I had a friend who had completed the course and he enjoyed it so much that he convinced me to do it as well"

Jarred Townsend

- Jarred Townsend, geophysicist, graduated with honours, 2002.

If you choose you can complete a fourth year in geophysics. During this year you will select a specialist stream in either oil and gas, minerals or groundwater exploration geophysics then design a project that will require independent research and compilation of a final written thesis. There is also a program of advanced coursework to complement and enhance your existing knowledge.

In your Honours year you will:

  • Expand your knowledge in seismic acquisition methods
  • Understand the importance of seismic data processing
  • Gain a thorough understanding of the theory and use of advanced geophysical techniques in exploration and mapping of the Earth's crust
  • Gain sound knowledge of borehole geophysical methods; well logs and borehole seismic
  • Uncover the theory and acquire a practical introduction to seismic interpretation, especially as used in the oil industry
  • Attain an understanding of the principles of operation of many advanced data processing techniques on potential field data. You will also develop a knowledge of modern practices in numerical calculation of potential and electromagnetic fields and gain a comprehensive understanding of the practical influences of on-ideal acquisition, processing and modelling of upon electromagnetic data
  • Prepare and submit a dissertation relating to the research you complete in your honours year.


Our department has developed close ties with industry leaders in this field over many years. These companies include the likes of BHP Billiton, Chevron, Santos, Saudi Aramco and Woodside.

Many of our students are approached by employers before they even complete their studies with us. Once you leave us with your degree you should have no difficulty in obtaining employment where you can use your new skills. Geophysicists can work in a variety of locations around the world and can attain high salaries.

Careers in Geopysics


Here is what you can do today to find out about a career in Geophysics