The Professional Geologist License

Pennsylvania and many other states require all non-petroleum professional geologists to either work under a licensed Professional Geologist or to have a Professional Geologist (P.G.) license.  Thus, if you want your career to advance beyond ‘flunky’, you will need to take the P.G. licensure exam.  If you plan to be a petroleum or academic geologist, you do not need to worry about becoming a P.G.

If you are a senior, now is a great time to pay attention to the following:

The certification exam is a two-step process:

1.  First, you must take the multiple-choice Fundamentals of Geology exam.  Currently the exams are held twice a year, in about early October and mid-March.  You may take the exam in March before you graduate, but I'd probably recommend waiting until October, when you've had all of your coursework plus summer field camp.  Regardless, you should certainly not wait long after graduation to take the exam.  Imagine trying to review your entire undergraduate curriculum five years from now when you finally have to get the P.G. in order to advance in your career!

2.  Second, after working for five years, you can take the multiple-choice Principles and Practices of Geology exam.  You will also need three references from licensed Professional Geologists.

Basic Prerequisites to Taking the Professional Geologists Exam

You must have taken at least 30 credits of university geology courses in classes that may cover any of the following subjects:

Physical Geology & Geology Lab Sedimentology & Stratigraphy Tectonics Soils & Rock Mechanics
Historical Geology Paleontology Geochemistry Geologic Hazards
Mineralogy Geomorphology Geophysics Structural Geology*
Igneous &
Metamorphic Petrology
Environmental Geology


Summer Field Methods/  Field Mapping*

*The only classes that are required for the P.G. exam are Structural Geology (GEOL 1100) and the summer geology field camp (GEOL 1960).  Given its importance on the test, Groundwater Geology should be required.

Click here to download a handy brochure from the Pennsylvania Council of Professional Geologists.  The full legal requirements set out in Pennsylvania law are concisely set out here.  (Please let your advisor know if any of the links here fail.)

How To Sign Up To Take These Exams

There are three organizations involved in setting these exams:  Pennsylvania’s Department of State, a privately run company called Professional Credential Services (PCS), and ASBOG.  They each have a website that creates a perpetual ring of links to each other.  I am hoping that what follows will streamline your effort to get your P.G. license.

There are three organizations involved in setting up these exams:  Pennsylvania’s Department of State, a privately run company called Professional Credential Services (PCS), and ASBOG

  • The Department of State deals with the legal documents needed to get your P.G. license.
  • PCS is the company that schedules and gives the licensing exams.
  • ASBOG is the organization that writes the exams and provides guidance as to what you need to know to pass the exam.

Step 1:  Apply to Pennsylvania’s Department of State to Take the Exams:  

Go to Geologist Exam Information and Applications on the Department of State's website and you will find what you most need:  A calendar of exam dates and application forms to take the Fundamentals of Geology exam, to document your student status if you are taking the fundamental exam before you actually graduate, and to take the Principles and Practice of Geology exam.  Please note:  Each year the applications to take the exams are due by June 15th for the October exams and November 15th for the March exams.  At the bottom of this page this you will find links to and,PA-geologist, which I cover in the next section below.

Meanwhile, just so you know, the geologist licensing is in the part of the Department of State webpage relates to the licensing of engineers, land surveyors, and geologists.  If you visit the home page for the licensing of engineering, land surveyors, and geologists, you will find four links under the cryptic heading “Board Resources”.  The two most relevant links are to Board Laws & Regulations, which gets you to the legal requirements and is of interest only if you are in some gray area and have a precise legal question, and to General Board Information, which sounds completely uninteresting and irrelevant, except that it in fact leads to a long list of links with vague and unpromising names, but one is for the Geologist Exam Information and Applications mentioned above.

Step 2:  Apply to Take the Exams from the Company that Administers the Exams

Professional Crenditial Service (PCS) is the organization that schedules and gives the licensing exams.  Click here to go straight to the stuff relevant to the Pennsylvania geologist licensing exams.

The "Information and Forms" link is very useful:  It has links to Candidate Information Bulletin, the Scheduling Form for Examination Candidates, and to the Candidate Handbook on the ASBOG site (discussed below).  The other links are self-explanatory.

Step 3:  Prepare for the Fundamentals of Geology Exam

  • Visit the ASBOG website and can download the Candidate Handbook.  This has a lot of information in it, including sample questions in the appendices.  You may find some of the questions intimidating, but I believe you only need 70% to pass (read the Candidate Handbook for full details). ASBOG stands for the National Association of State Boards of Geology, which should be NASBOG, but isn't.  They write the exams.  If you go over their links you'll find studies that show they base their range of questions on national surveys of what professional and academic geologists think is important for professional geologists to know.  I know they also evaluate past exam questions to weed out bad ones.
  • The Pitt libraries recently purchased a number of study guides for your delectation:
    • ASBOG Exam Secrets: ASBOG test review for the National Association of State Boards of Geology Examination (Hillman QE42.A83 2014)
    • Geology Study Manual: 2015 Review for the National (ASBOG) Geology Licensing Exam (Engineering Library Reserve Desk, 7-day loan period)
    • Practice Quizzes: 2012 review for the National (ASBOG) Geology Licensing Exam (Engineering Library Reserve Desk, 7-day loan period)
  • Reading over your class notes is finally the best preparation once you've got a sense of what the exam might ask.
  • Finally, this web pages includes a PowerPoint PDF with general advice:

What Happens When You Pass the Fundamentals of Geology Exam?

You become a Geologist in Training, or GIT.  Please, don't be a useless git, OK?