Consumer Information

What You Should Know About Professional Geologists and Their Services


What is a licensed professional geologist?

A licensed professional geologist (PG) applies geological principles and data to solve problems related to earth resources and earth processes, to safeguard people and property.  A PG evaluates, plans, designs, investigates, supervises, and/or consults regarding earth materials and natural processes to provide solutions for:

  • building risks from earthquakes, landslides, and floods;
  • locating and developing water supplies, construction materials, and energy supplies;
  • investigating environmental contamination and remediating impacted properties; and
  • evaluating properties of soil, bedrock, and water for locating critical facilities and infrastructure, and minimizing damage from geological hazards.

Individuals, government agencies, and private companies employ PGs.

What credentials does a New York licensed professional geologist have?

A licensed New York PG has completed twelve years of a combination of education and/or practical experience. A PG has also passed a 16-hour, two-part examination that is administered by the National Association of State Boards of Geology, or, in the case of PG’s licensed by endorsement,  such PG may have passed an examination by a legally constituted board of examiners in any other state or political subdivision of the United States determined to be the substantial equivalent of such examination . Most New York PGs have a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited geology program and have earned qualifying practical experience as an intern geologist or by working under the supervision of an established PG. Many geologists also have a master’s degree in their field.

When would I use the services of a professional geologist?

You might employ a PG to:

  • evaluate or develop mineral resources on a property, including construction aggregates and building stone, ground water supplies, industrial metals and minerals, oil and gas, and de-icing salt;
  • identify land movement and develop mitigation measures for geologic hazards such as landslides, mudslides, flooding, swelling clays, erosion or siltation, sinkholes, subsidence, and earthquakes;
  • evaluate subsurface conditions for ground water withdrawal (community and industrial water supplies, dewatering, irrigation) or for subsurface injection (infiltration fields, disposing of liquid wastes, sequestering carbon, or hydrofracturing for water or energy);
  • assess soil, bedrock, ground water, and surface water conditions for permitting activities such as mining, water withdrawal or subsurface injection, storing petroleum or other hazardous substances, waste disposal, energy development, impoundments, construction projects public works, or actions that require environmental reviews;
  • evaluate contamination in soil, ground water, surface water, and soil vapor; identify migration pathways and impacts to a property or resource; and devise measures to avoid or minimize those impacts;
  • design or specify the geologic performance criteria for cleaning up contaminated soil, ground water, and other environmental media; and
  • assess environmental conditions for property transactions, such contamination from fuel tanks, hazardous materials, and other conditions that affect property use or value.

When must I employ a licensed PG?

Generally, you will need the services of a licensed design professional such as a PG any time you need the approval of a government agency or official for a project that includes the application of geologic principles; these officials can only accept geological reports and plans signed and stamped with the seal of the PG. Check with local or regional government officials to determine what you are required to submit. You will also need a PG when the complexity of the geologic design or geologic setting of a project requires the skills of a PG or when the required services fall within the legal definition of the practice of geology.

What questions should individuals with disabilities ask about accessing services?

Ask such questions as whether the office or service location is physically accessible (curb cuts, ramps, restrooms, etc.) as well as whether there is a Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD) and parking for people with disabilities.

What should I expect as a client from a professional geologist?

You should expect to be provided with the following:

  • a description of the PG’s qualifications;
  • names of former clients as references;
  • a clear and complete description of the work that will be done and the products that will be delivered;
  • a project schedule, including terms of payment; and
  • final plans, specifications, and reports that contain the signature and seal of the PG.

The PG can provide complete project services, including project planning, design, field oversight and inspection. He or she also can provide monitoring and reporting services for completed projects, project performance, or regulatory compliance of the finished project.

How do I locate a professional geologist?

Search for geologists online, by area of expertise or by geographic location. The listings may be subdivided by geologic disciplines or specialty areas such as hydrogeology, engineering geology, environmental geology, mining geology, etc.  Many listings include "consulting geologists" and companies which practice in several geologic specialty areas and offer their services to the public. Some engineering and certain multi-disciplinary companies also may be authorized by New York State to offer professional geological services. You may also contact professional organizations for assistance in identifying their members who specialize in your area of need. The New York State Board of Engineering, Land Surveying and Geology cannot refer you to a practitioner.

What can I do to ensure a good professional relationship with a professional geologist if I hire one?

Make your needs and concerns known as clearly as possible; ask questions if you are unsure about any aspect of the project. It is also in your best interest to have a written contract that contains the following:

  • description of work to be performed;
  • work schedule;
  • description of completed products including reports, drawings, and data; and
  • amount and terms of payment of the PG’s compensation.

What records does my PG maintain? Can anyone else get them?

New York PGs must retain for at least six years all preliminary and final plans, documents, computations, records, and professional evaluations related to work upon which the PG placed his or her signature and seal. PGs have an ethical obligation to keep these records secure and to protect client confidentiality.

Verifying a New York License

New York licensed professionals must display a current New York registration certificate which lists the professional’s name, address, and the dates of the registration period. PGs must reregister every three years to practice in New York. Some PGs also display their original New York license, diploma(s), licenses from other jurisdictions, and professional membership certificates. You may verify an individual’s license and registration at http://www.op.nysed.gov/opsearches.htm.

Last Updated: April 21, 2021