Navigating Geoscience Recruitment Trends in the UK

Our Geoscience Consultant, Chris Kelly, discusses recruitment trends, the impact of Brexit, and key skills sought after by UK employers.

February 14, 2024


In the face of a rapidly evolving energy landscape, the UK remains steadfast in its role as a prominent hub for geoscience professionals. In this blog, I will employ a blend of first-hand experience and third-party sources to provide an overview of the current trends in recruitment. Additionally, I will touch upon the impact of Brexit and some the key skills sought after by E&P operators. This is my first blog post of 2024, and I would love to hear your feedback, I hope you enjoy reading it.

Current Trends in Geoscience Recruitment in the UK

The demand for technically skilled geoscience professionals in the UK has historically been influenced by a number of factors; chief among them the price of oil, which has driven the ebb and flow of recruitment within the E&P market since time immemorial. As at the time of writing this blog, the price of Brent Crude Oil sits at $79.23 USD, an increase of 195% when compared to the near 4-year period from April 2020. The recovery of the price of oil has in-turn introduced a relative stability in terms of new recruitment efforts for UK-based oil and gas operators over this period, particularly in a contracting/consultancy capacity.  

It would be ill-advised to mention the price of oil and associated recruitment efforts without also considering (in tandem) the shift in socio-political sentiments and the energy sector’s subsequent movement towards more sustainable practices. The introduction of the UK’s Energy Profits Levy (‘Windfall Tax’) has in-turn introduced a large degree of uncertainty for the UKCS. The response to said Levy was swift from the likes of Harbour Energy and Apache, whom are still in the process of reducing their headcount both in London and Aberdeen, respectively.  

Furthermore, within a published research note, Edinburgh-HQ'd Wood Mackenzie say that there are “a few other obvious candidates left” for North Sea exits, referencing CNOOC, ExxonMobil, and Dana Petroleum.  

In distinct contrast to the potential exits, The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) recently issued 24 new exploration licenses (spanning some 74 blocks) as part of the second tranche of the latest Licensing Round – NEO Energy, Orcadian Energy, Equinor, Shell, BP, and TotalEnergies being among the 17 awarded companies. Given the competition in securing such blocks, the UKCS clearly remains an attractive prospect, garnering the capital allocation of some key players that will undoubtedly require additional headcount across a variety of disciplines.

Despite a change in political outlook, I have seen a marked increase in the availability of contract/consultancy-based roles within the UK geoscience space, specifically within the Geology, Geophysics, and Operations Geology. Given the current opportunity for consolidation within the UKCS (and associated improvements in scale and diversity), I anticipate that this trend will continue, and we will begin to see more permanent opportunities achieve the necessary budget and headcount approvals.

Additionally, reflecting Wood Mackenzie’s sentiments, I have seen an increase in the number of roles that, whilst not focused on traditional hydrocarbons, do require the same key geoscience skill sets across a variety of CCS/CCUS, hydrogen, and onshore/offshore wind projects. This is a fantastic opportunity to reach out to Dan, Heather and Beatrice, Consultants within our newly launched Low Carbon & Renewables Sector.

man in office wear smining
Chris Kelly, Consultant - Geoscience

The Impacts of Brexit

Due to changes in labour and regulatory frameworks, there is no doubt that Brexit has fundamentally altered the dynamics of international talent acquisition and landscape of geoscience recruitment.

As can be seen from this New Scientist article, the UK's ability to attract and retain the best scientific and engineering talent from Europe has taken a hit. Companies that wish to engage with skilled ‘foreign’ workers must navigate the legal quagmire of securing a Skilled Worker Visa in which they have to meet a range of requirements from British Home Office approval, Sponsorship Certification, and worker examination amongst other bureaucratic hurdles that often stifle attraction and retention.  

This poses significant challenges for both employers and job seekers, particularly in the fields that rely upon cross-border collaborations. Whilst this is not an easy process to navigate by any means, when EU-based operators engage in the hiring of senior technical talent, we actively lobby to broaden the talent pool by considering the standard of technical excellence within the UK.

Skills Sought After by UK Employers

UK employers in the geoscience sector are increasingly looking for candidates with a blend of traditional geological expertise and skills in emerging technologies. We are observing a trend where traditional Geoscience degrees (with strong technical foundations) are being complimented with skills in data analytics, artificial intelligence, and coding beyond degree-level.  

This is, in-part, due to the mature nature of the UKCS and operators’ wanting to maximise the economic value of mature assets by utilising increasingly diverse skillsets and emerging technologies. For instance, during my conversations with senior-level geoscientists, many have referenced their success in implementing machine learning and AI-based decision support systems in their day-to-day roles, where it otherwise wasn’t in-place. Whilst this is admittedly a rather unique technical skillset, it effectively demonstrates the point that operators encourage and deploy diverse portfolios of skills.

From my personal experience, I have noticed an increase in the desire for techno-commercial skill sets. For example, individuals that have been part of a Joint Venture team (in either an operated or non-operated capacity), have played an active role in TCMs / assumed the role of company representative, or have experience in influencing decision-making. I believe that this is part of a growing trend of companies that would like for its subsurface teams to be able to work cross-functionally; delivering the technical expertise, defending technical assertions, demonstrating an understanding of how that technical work underpins the decision-making process, and how that ultimately drives commercial value.  

In terms of graduate roles, there is an increasing requirement to demonstrate both academic and practical excellence whether that be through internships, research projects, or placements. Whilst this is undoubtedly a challenging task, my advice is to carve out the time and seize the opportunity to actively network within the geoscience community – join early career & alumni networks, join organisations such as the GESGB & The Geological Society, and attend both networking events and evening lectures. In building these connections, you will simultaneously bolster your network and come to learn about opportunities that you hadn’t otherwise considered.  


Geoscience recruitment is rapidly changing. This change is being driven by a multitude of factors including a marketplace of ever-evolving skill sets, shifting political landscapes, and an industry-wide interest in new energy sectors. As a job seeker, it is crucial to consider these pieces in tandem as doing so will help in navigating such a dynamic market. I encourage job seekers to stay abreast of recent developments within the industry (both domestically and internationally), and showcase their commitment to continued professional development through a blend of relevant courses, academic lectures, and technical certifications.  

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I hope you enjoyed reading this blog, if you are interested in some more reading material around this topic area, why not check out the results of the WeConnect Energy’s - Salary Survey 2023, which provides in-depth insights into career goals, salaries, and the leading issues currently influencing the industry.

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