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Why Licensure

Licensure Information-

This page contains several documents that deal with licensure of geologists and the questions that are often raised by candidates from States where licensure is required. The index below provides a brief summary for each of the documents with a direct link to the document.

Candidates should take note that ASBOG® does not license or register geologists. ASBOG® provides the examination materials that are required by ASBOG® member States. Individuals must apply to and become licensed/registered by the regulatory agency in the State in which they practice.


  1. Why Licensure?- Prepared by The Committee on Professional Licensure of the Association of Engineering Geologists as a Public Education Service and updated by ASBOG®. This document deals with the questions of why geologists should be licensed as a profession.
  2. Why Geologists? - A pamphlet prepared by ASBOG® dealing with such topics as registration, protection of the public, and which States register geologists. This document also deals with the question Why not hire engineers to certify geologists' work?
  3. Evaluating a Geology Degree? - This one page paper discusses the benefits of using the ASBOG® Fundamentals of Geology (FG) examination as one measure to evaluate a College/University geology program at the undergraduate and graduate levels.









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Public Protection through Licensure

The ASBOG® Fundamentals of Geology Examination is a requirement for a person to become a Licensed Professional Geologist and to offer geologic services to the public in States that register geologists by examination. Pass-fail analyses of the Fundamentals of Geology Examination indicate that nearly 50 percent of the applicants who take the examination lack the knowledge and experience to practice geology at a minimum competency level.

Much of today’s geological practice affects the health, safety and welfare of the public, the environment, and the economy and feasibility of engineered works. Thus the public deserves to be protected.

Unqualified geologists, who are employed in jobs that affect the public, place an undue risk on the health, safety and welfare of that public. The risks include:

  1. The possibility of an error that will cause a loss of life or property
  2. The higher costs of supervision
  3. The costs of repeating incorrect and incomplete work
  4. Lower cost/benefit ratios brought about by an inability to do efficient work

Registration Examinations-

The registration examinations used by State Boards of Geology to complete an applicant’s registration are carefully developed and designed by ASBOG® and routinely updated to reflect changes in the profession. The initial step in developing an examination is to carry out a task analysis. The task analysis is based on a survey of registered geologists to determine:

  1. The amount of time spent on a specific task;
  2. The importance of the task in protecting the public; and
  3. The extent of competence required for an entry level geologist at the time of initial licensure.

The results of these three independent responses are used to determine the relative significance of each content area on the Geology Examinations as a requirement for a person to become a Licensed Professional Geologist. Pass-fail analyses of the Fundamentals of Geology and Practice of Geology Examinations indicate that nearly 50 percent of the applicants who take the examination are unqualified to practice geology. Further evaluation of the results from decades of testing results indicate that those not passing the ASBOG® examination(s) lack the required knowledge and/or experience to offer geologic services to the public in a manner that would protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public, the environment and/or the economy.

Additionally, the results of the task analysis are used to determine the relative significance of the tasks that are performed by geologists and used to set the blueprint for each of the ASBOG® examinations - one for the Fundamentals of Geology and one for the Practice of Geology. If constructing geologic maps is the most significant task, then the examination will have more questions on constructing geologic maps. If, on the other hand, a task is determined to be the least significant task, it may be dropped from the examination all together. The blueprint developed based on the task analysis is the template for the examination and ensures that it represents the current practice of the profession.

Subject Matter Experts who represent the full spectrum of the profession are brought together to write and review questions for the examination. These experts prepare questions in their field that other experts will review and approve. The criteria for a question includes:

  1. Does it have only one answer?
  2. Is it related to a blueprint task?
  3. Is it related to public protection (health, safety, environment, and fiscal)?
  4. Is the question clear and direct?
  5. Is it written at the entry level?
  6. Is it free of trickery?
  7. Does it avoid assessing trivia?

If the question passes each of these criteria it will be approved for the examination database. Prior to and after a question has been used on an examination it is reviewed and evaluated by the subject matter experts from each of the States where registration by examination is required. The first step in the evaluation of each examination is to require these experts to take the examination. The experts, working as a committee, review each examination question to determine:

  1. The correct answer,
  2. That there is only one correct answer, and
  3. That the question meets the criteria listed above.

If the question passes review, the experts assign a difficulty score to the question. The score for each question is combined to determine the degree of difficulty of the examination, which is then compared with the minimum level of competence required for a person to practice geology before the public to ensure that every administration of an ASBOG® examination meets this requirement.

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Public Perception

Many people will claim that the use of an examination as a requirement for registration is unnecessary and that it is only used to limit membership. This claim appears to be supported by the fact that a geologist must have a 4-year college degree, have some work experience, and be sponsored by their peers and superiors for registration. History, however, shows that a 4-year college degree and recommendations by peers and superiors vary widely and do not prove that a candidate has the academic preparation or understanding of geology necessary to practice geology that affects the public or the environment. This observation has been supported by the number of individuals who have not passed the ASBOG® examinations that are designed to uniformly test minimum competency in the content areas identified as the standard practice of geology throughout the Country necessary for the protection of public health, welfare, and safety.

Prepared by:
The Committee on Professional Licensure
of the
Association of Engineering Geologists
as a Public Education Service
Updated by: The Executive Committee
of the
National Association of State Boards of Geology (ASBOG®)

Why Geologists

Geology as a Profession

Geologists make use of their special knowledge for the benefit of the public: from the obvious, e.g., exploration and development of mineral resources plus development of water resources’ to the less obvious, e.g., evaluating the stability of foundations for buildings, dams, bridges and roadways, plus many others. Few other professions affect the public more than geology, especially through collaboration with the construction and engineering professions. "Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice," a popular saying with much merit.

Why register geologists?

The application of geologic knowledge and experience are integral to many actions involving public health, safety, and welfare (including financial). Professional geologists working with others can determine and apply sound geologic knowledge and procedures that will serve to avoid endangerment of the public or the environment.

How will the public be protected?

First, no one may be represented as a Professional/Registered Geologist unless registered by the State in which they practice. Second, State registration boards are typically granted the authority to monitor and enforce the registration laws, thus ensuring the practice of geology in a competent manner by Professional Geologists within that State.

Who can become registered as a geologist?

While it will vary from State to State, typically individuals who have a college degree in geology and four years of geological work experience can initially qualify for registration. In addition, however, States that have fully implemented registration laws require successful completion of two or more examinations to demonstrate minimum competence in both the fundamentals and the practice of geology.

More specifics.

Registration assures that qualified and reputable individuals provide accurate geologic information to the public. Examples of the practice areas covered by registration include the following:

  • geologic mapping
  • groundwater resource and development protection
  • mineral-resource evaluation
  • oil and gas development
  • safe oil, gas, water, or mineral drilling
  • accurate and reliable information to government agencies for public use
  • environmental geology issues
  • land surface stability
  • solid waste siting
  • toxic, nuclear, and hazardous waste disposal siting
  • contaminated soil investigations and remediation
  • groundwater investigations
  • mined-land reclamation
  • acid mine drainage suppression and remediation
  • dam and impoundment construction
  • highway, roadway, and bridge construction
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Geology sounds a lot like engineering. What's the difference?

Geologists are trained to consider the entire physical environment, the materials that compose it (rocks, soils, and water) and the dynamic physical and geochemical processes that drive it. Engineers are more concerned with facility design including material and structural properties along with construction and constructability considerations.

Geologists and engineers generally work together making sure that all natural and man-made influences are considered in a project or setting.

Why don't geologists register as engineers?

Geologists have education and professional experience that is specifically directed toward investigating and using the earthen materials that affect the public or natural spaces.

No other profession has comparable education and professional experience.

Why not hire engineers to certify geologists' work?

For public protection, persons can only certify geological work for which they were trained in the fundamental geologic principles and have the necessary experience. Geologists are trained and have experience in geologic interpretation of earthen materials; engineers are trained and have experience in designing and building. These are two distinctly different professions. However, because of the close relations between those who interpret and those who design and build, geologists and engineers must work together in a collaborative fashion.

Can an engineer register as a geologist?

Yes, if qualified as a geologist.

How do they work together?

Geologists interpret, engineers design and build. Geologists investigate earth materials and processes and advise how to compensate for those conditions to assure safety. Engineers take this information, and working with geologists and others, determine how to design and build safe structures in a cost-effective manner.

What does it cost taxpayers?

Nothing. Registration is typically self-funded by fees paid by the registrants.

Who serves on registration boards?

Ordinarily, State boards are composed of representatives from the profession and the public. The board members are generally appointed by State governors with the advice and consent of the legislature.

Which States register geologists?

Thirty states and one US territory (Puerto Rico) now have registration, licensure, or certification laws: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.


To find out the latest on states which are actively pursuing registration laws visit our Member Board States page on this site.

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Last Updated: July 8, 2022