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Consumer Guide


​Someone may say he or she is a geologist; however if a person wishes to engage in the public practice of geology in the State or Oregon, he or she must be registered (i.e. licensed) by the Oregon State Board of Geologist Examiners (OSBGE). This online resource guide explains how Oregon designates geologists who are registered to practice in the state.

Geologist-in-Training (GIT):  GITs are individuals who have completed the minimum education requirements and passed the first part of the national geology exam whereupon they can apply to OSBGE for this registration.  GITs are certified by OSBGE as advancing towards full registration and must work under the supervision of an RG or CEG. A GIT may apply to take the second part of the national geology exam after completing the minimum work experience requirement under the supervision of an RG or CEG. Upon passing this second part of the national geology exam, a GIT may apply for registration as a Registered Geologist (RG).  GIT registration is voluntary, not mandatory.

Registered Geologist (RG):  RGs are qualified for registration based on:

  • a college degree in geology or a related field involving a minimum of 45 quarter hours of geology coursework or otherwise presenting evidence of completion of the stated amount of coursework.
  • a minimum of three years geologic work experience
  • passing both parts of a rigorous national geology examination
  • maintaining registration with OSBGE through annual renewals

Individuals that have earned the RG can advertise they are "Registered Geologists". RG’s stamp and sign their reports indicating their registration is up to date. The presence of an official RG stamp and signature on reports and other work products indicates the RG stands behind the data and its interpretation in their reports.

Certified Engineering Geologist (CEG):  CEGs are RGs who are qualified for a specialty registration based on:

  • the RG registration
  • work experience in engineering geology
  • passing an additional examination in engineering geology
  • maintaining RG and CEG registrations through annual renewals with OSBGE
An individual with the RG is not authorized to practice engineering geology in Oregon.  The CEG specialty registration is required.​​

​Geoscientists who are employed as federal agency employees are exempt from OSBGE registration for work done on behalf of the U.S. government. Likewise, so are professors in academic institutions. However, if they are retained as consultants in geology or engineering geology outside their academic work and are completing work for the public, then they must be registred with OSBGE. Also, a person does not need to be registered to testify or prepare to testify in a public proceeding such as a land use hearing.​

​What should I expect of a geologist?

Registration. Persons engaging in the public practice or geology in Oregon are required to be registered by the OSBGE. RGs will usually state their registration in their advertising and for sure it will be stated in the reports they produce.  Anyone can check on an individual's registration using the license search feature on the OSBGE web site. 

Professional memberships. You may want to inquire about professional memberships and attendance at professional meetings. These are indicators the person is active in the profession and is likely up-to-date in practices. Other licenses or certificates held usually indicate specialized competencies.

Familiarity with the area. You may want to inquire if the geologist is familiar with your locale. Geological conditions vary widely within the state; therefore a geologist’s familiarity with the geology of an area is worth considering.

Has done similar work. You may want to inquire if the geologist has done similar work. A list of projects worked on might be helpful.

References. You may wish to ask for references. Some aspects you may want to inquire about from references are adherence to agreed-upon schedules and the quality of their reports, e. g. purpose and scope of the work done, statement of methodology, documentation, and stated limitations of the report.

Contract. Having a contract is a good business practice. A contract is especially useful if it specifies the terms and scope of work expected along with the time frame. If a retainer is involved, a contract can state its purpose and whether it will be applied to the bill or charged separately.

​What should I expect of a geologist’s work?

Verbal or written report? Although a verbal report may be more inexpensive, in the long run, it may be more costly. With a verbal report, if there is any problem with the site, there is no written record of the work completed. It will come down to the geologist’s word against your word. A written record documents conditions as of the specific date and thus if in the future there are any changes in conditions there is a record of previous conditions. Furthermore, a report can be consulted years hence when it may not be possible to contact the individual(s) originally involved in a project.

Report should meet standards

A written report should meet generally recognized standards for a geologic report; in particular, the report should state the purpose and scope of the work done, discuss methodology, present documentation, present interpretations, make recommendations, and state limitations of the report.​

RGs locate, describe and evaluate geologic resources and features on the earth’s surface as well as those below the surface.  RGs advise on the extraction of these natural resources; locate, map and interpret data on geological hazards and advise on remedies.

Some kinds of projects an RG may be involved in are:

  • characterizing and evaluating sites for petroleum and chemical contamination,
  • evaluating groundwater resources and how new developments of groundwater will impact other human and ecological uses,
  • understanding flowing water systems and participating in stream restoration projects,
  • determining the placement of water wells and evaluating the water quality and capacity of wells,
  • assessing direction and movement of groundwater flow and recharge from stormwater,
  • mapping and interpreting geologic hazards for land-use planning purposes,
  • mapping faults; trench fault alignments; and evaluating seismic hazards,
  • mapping and investigating gravel, sand, and mineral deposits; assessing their economic value, and evaluating their potential for development,
  • assessing coastal hazards and advising on the potential for coastal erosion,
  • evaluating slope stability and landslide potential when not involving buildings, roads, dams, retaining walls, etc.,
  • making recommendations on the management and disposal of contaminated soil especially during construction projects.

​CEGs can cover the same areas of expertise as RGs, but in addition, they apply geologic knowledge as it might affect the design, construction, and maintenance of civil engineering work, i.e. structures, roads, dams, retaining walls, etc.  CEGs practice in "geotechnics" which refers to applied scientific work involving soil and rock mechanics, geology, geophysics, hydrology, or related sciences as applied to the solution of civil works problems.  CEGs may work independently but often work as part of a team of design professionals.

Some kinds of projects a CEG may be involved in are:

  • determining strength and characteristics of soil and rock for foundations,
  • assessing the stability of cut slopes, excavations, and earthwork surrounding structures,
  • mapping terrain, identifying landslides and contributing to development of approaches to safeguard adjoining structures and roads,
  • determining appropriate grading to control and manage surface drainage for site development,
  • participating in designing subsurface drainage for structures and below ground utilities,
  • evaluating the suitability of routing road alignments and construction,
  • participating in the siting and construction of landfills, bridges, dams, and levees,
  • working with foundation analysis and design for deep building foundations, retaining walls, and waterfront structures.​

​GITs perform geologic work under the supervision of an RG or CEG. The supervising RG or CEG takes responsibility for certifying the work.​

Geologists are often part of a team consisting of engineers, soil scientists, and other professionals. All professionals engaged for a project are expected to act within the limits of their licenses, education and experience. Furthermore, contributions to the reports by these other professionals should identify the geologist’s specific contribution in the report.

How can I locate a geologist to hire?

Here are a few ideas:

  • First, inquire of the firm you are working with if they have a RG (or CEG depending on need) on the staff.  Many small firms have a list of RGs or CEGs they usually contact when they need geologic work done for a client. However, before hiring another geologist it is best to discuss with the firm you are working with.
  • Second, on OSBGE’s web page you can search for RGs and CEGs with active registrations. Data is updated approximately each 24 hr.  You can select various search criteria.
  • Third, use the telephone yellow pages (both paper and electronic) to find a geologist.  It is not unusual for geologists to undertake work many miles from their home base and thus have work experience in many different parts of the state.  Using the yellow pages from several locales may be useful.

Recommendations. OSBGE DOES NOT make recommendations about hiring particular geologists. Nor does OSBGE gather information about other licenses, certificates, or academic work a geologist may have completed.  Board staff can only verify that an individual indeed has an active registration and can also check if there is any disciplinary history for the individual.

OSBGE investigates all formal complaints. Formal complaints involve allegations of violations of Oregon laws or Oregon Administrative Rules pertaining to the public practice of geology in Oregon. Formal complaints are those submitted in writing and signed by the complainant. OSBGE can also initiate a complaint based on information brought to it's attention.  OSBGE does not guarantee investigation of anonymous complaints.  See the File a Complaint section of the OSBGE website for more information.

The Code of Professional Conduct (Oregon Rule 809-020-001) may be of special interest.

Board Action. Upon investigation by OSBGE of a formal complaint, OSBGE may take disciplinary action against a Board registrant as warranted, and such actions can range from a letter of reprimand to revoking registration.  OSBGE can also impose civil penalties on registrants or unlicensed individuals for violations of laws and rules for geology practice in Oregon.  However, not all investigations result in disciplinary action or civil penalties.

What does OSBGE do?

The purpose of OSBGE is to safeguard the health and welfare and property of the people of Oregon. To do so OSBGE:

  1. Licenses professionals engaged in the public practice of geology.
  2. Responds to complaints from the public and profession
  3. Educates the public
  4. Communicates with regulatory agencies
  5. Cooperates with related boards and commissions
  6. Promotes professional ethics
  7. Provides systematic outreach to counties, cities, and registrants.

For further information, see OSBGE’s website. Also feel free to contact the OSBGE office.

What doesn’t OSBGE do?

OSBGE does not recommend particular RGs or CEGs for work.

OSBGE does not arbitrate disputes about billing or the appropriateness of fees charged for geologic work unless negligence, incompetence, or fraud is indicated.

OSBGE does not register any other professions.

OSBGE’s office does not provide information about Oregon geology. Suggestions for finding such information are: contacting the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries; contacting your local college or university library; checking with your local public library or consulting the titles on this short list of books about Oregon geology included in this online Consumers Guide. 

In general, the State of Oregon does not automatically recognize the licenses given to individuals by other states to practice geology. But by meeting certain conditions, a geologist with an out-of-state registration can apply for a “comity” registration in Oregon. Once granted, he/she would be listed among the Oregon registrants.

There is provision to issue a temporary registration for out-of-state geologists to do work in Oregon without an Oregon registration. However such permits have strict limitations. For further information on either Oregon “comity” registrations or temporary permits, please contact the Board office.

Disclaimer. This Consumer Guide is offered as a service to consumers. The information here is not to be construed as official Board policy, nor does it supersede Oregon statutes and rules pertaining to the public practice of geology. For further information please contact the Board office.

Miller, Marli, Roadside Geology of Oregon. Missoula, Mountain Press, 2014. 2nd edition.

Bishop, Ellen Morris. Hiking Oregon’s Geology. Seattle, Mountaineers, 2004. 2nd edition.

Bishop, Ellen Morris. In Search of Ancient Oregon.  Portland, Timber, 2006.

Orr, Elizabeth L. and William N. Orr. Oregon Geology. Corvallis, Oregon State University Press, 2012. 6th edition.

Orr, Elizabeth L. and William N. Orr. Oregon Fossils, Corvallis, Oregon State University Press, 2009. 2nd edition.

NOTE:  In addition to these general surveys of Oregon geology, there are books available which cover the geology of specific areas of the state, e.g. the Columbia Gorge, Cascades, etc.  Check with your local library for more information.


Geologists at work
Related document
Consumer Guide (pdf)

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