Volcanologists try to understand how and why volcanoes erupt, try to predict future eruptions as well as trying to understand the health and environmental impacts on the Earth. Volcanoes cannot be understood without learning about the structure and chemistry of the planet, its rocks and the interaction of volcanic material with water and air.
Volcanology requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree; however most volcanologists hold a master's degree or a doctoral of philosophy (Ph.D). Studies include math (pre-calc) and science, such as geophysics, geochemistry, geomorphology, structural and sedimentary geology, remote sensing and petrology.
Field work involves collecting data to be analysed by mapping rock distribution, photographing ground deformations, calculating gas emissions and measuring volcanic seismic activity.
Collected data is analysed, recorded and interpreted by chemically dating rock samples, performing computer modelling of volcanic eruptions, and writing scientific papers.
Volcanologists measure volcanic gasses, swelling and deflation by using tools, including seismometers to measure earthquakes from the volcano, surveying equipment, GPS and satellite imagery.
Volcanology jobs are hard to find as funding is limited and jobs are scarce. Employment for volcanologists lies within the university system, where the focus is on research, or by the government, with positions focusing on hazards and monitoring.
A typical volcanologist's salary (2009) can range from about £19,500 to £58,500 per year, based on experience, according to Oregon State University.