What is the Difference Between a Geologist, an Engineering Geologist, and a Geotechnical Engineer?

Geotechnical engineer observing a job site

These three professions—though all are very closely related and have overlapping expertise—have three distinctive roles.  As you’re assembling your design/construction team, you may be wondering about the difference between the three. While all three are experts in earth composition and structure, it can be broken down in this way: Geologist, PG, Engineering Geologist, CEG, and Geotechnical Engineer, PE.

A Geologist studies and understands the history of how and why soils and earth were formed and their relation to specific regions.  Some geologists never work within the construction field—but focus instead on research and interpretation aspects of earth science.

An engineering geologist has the research and historical background to help provide valuable perspective on construction requirements and likely has the experience of using this knowledge in support of engineers.  In many cases, engineering geologists can produce

Geotechnical Engineers—though they may have a lesser understanding of how the earth and soils were formed, rely on their practical experience and theoretical knowledge of soil mechanics to determine how to build on any given site.

These perspectives are all important, depending on the individual project type and its site conditions.  In fact, Central Geotech has all three professions on staff.  However, most jurisdictional permitting authorities require the stamp of a geotechnical engineer to move forward with permitting. To ensure your site is ready for building, you’ll want to hire a geotechnical engineer.

What is Engineering Geology?

Engineering geology is the study of how geology and engineering work together, especially in terms of how human-made developments impact earth structures and vice versa. While directly related to geotechnical engineering, engineering geology sets the foundation and best practices for how to properly execute civil engineering projects through research and earth formation application.

An engineering geologist may study and set the standards on how to proceed with:

  • Earth material properties
  • Landslide risk and slope stability
  • Flooding and erosion
  • Seismic investigations
  • Dewatering
  • Other geological hazard assessments

The main goal of engineering geology is understanding the environmental impact of man-made construction and how to limit damage or risks for both humankind and the earth.

What is Geotechnical Engineering?

When comparing engineering geology vs. geotechnical engineering, you’ll see that geotechnical engineering puts the findings of geology and engineering geology into practice.

A geotechnical engineer is responsible for visiting a development site and assessing whether or not the project is feasible. To do so, the geotechnical engineer conducts a thorough site investigation, which tests everything from the chemical makeup of the soil and water to how weather and climate will affect the proposed building long term.

Engineering Geology vs. Geotechnical Engineering

Geotechnical engineering is a sub-speciality of civil engineering and is applied across several industries such as construction, military, mining, coastal, and ocean fields. On the other hand, engineering geology is a sub-speciality of geology, focusing on the behaviors of soil, rocks, and groundwater in relation to engineering. Both specialized practices rely on the other to evolve and discover better methodologies, but each are applied in different ways.

Central Geotech recognizes and acknowledges the unique perspectives of both of these professions, and relies heavily on this key relationship when producing work for projects.

Hire a Geologist, an Engineering Geologist, or a Geotechnical Engineer (or maybe all three!) through Central Geotech

Central Geotechnical Services consists of an expert team of geo-science professionals who can guide you through your new construction project. Our training and experience gives us the breadth of expertise and knowledge to help solidify your building plans. Contact us to learn more about our services.