The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) tracks earthquakes, geological phenomenon, provides civilian mapping, and many other important functions. Part one of this three part series explores their history, programs, and the economist (GS-0110) job series. Three economists were interviewed for this article.
About the USGS
The USGS agency is a science organization that provides,” impartial information on the health of our ecosystems and environment, the natural hazards that threaten us, the natural resources we rely on, the impacts of climate and land-use change, and the core science systems that help us provide timely, relevant, and useable information.”
The mission of the USGS is to serve “the Nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.”
The USGS has over 10,000 scientists, technicians, and other support staff that work in over 400 locations nationwide .
The USGS is the largest water, earth, biological science, and civilian mapping agency. They collect, monitor, analyze, and provide scientific understanding about natural resource conditions, issues, and problems. This agency provides diverse scientific expertise and can carry out large-scale, multi-disciplinary investigations, and provides impartial scientific information to resource managers, planners and other customers.
The USGS was formed on March 3, 1879 and President Rutherford B. Hayes signed a bill appropriating money for sundry civil expenses for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 1879.
The sundry civil expenses bill included the establishing of the USGS, and charging it with a unique combination of responsibilities: “classification of the public lands, and examination of the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain.”
The USGS is 110 years old and this agency stills fulfills its original mission in the classification of public lands, the examination of the geological structure, mineral resources, and the produces of the national domain. The USGS conducts research on the cutting edge of science that effects on the economy, and helps to develop and apply innovative means in solving problems in resource management.
The USGS has many varied programs that focus on science, climate ecosystem among others. Here is a sampling of 2 of their more prominent programs.
Core Science System
The Core Science System is a new mission for the USGS. The role of this program is the understanding of the Earth’s complex ecosystems. Ecosystems exist all over the world. By using an ecosystem-based approach, the USGS can use all science themes that will provide specific data and other information that can be utilized by the USGS and its partners. “The vision for Core Science Systems builds on core strengths of the USGS in characterizing and understanding complex Earth and biological systems through research, modeling, mapping, and the production of high quality data on the Nation’s natural resource infrastructure.”
Through research, activities will provide a foundation for ecosystem-based approaches from geologic mapping, topographic mapping, and biodiversity mapping. The framework is designed to improve the efficiency of scientific work. This will enable a way to preserve and recall data for future applications, organizing existing scientific knowledge and data to facilitate new use of older information. This will help with the integration of new data, applications, and other science products to make interdisciplinary research easier and more efficient within the USGS.
The Ecosystem Science program is about how to make well-informed decisions about how to use our national resources wisely and to help sustain our Nation’s economic and environmental well-being.
This program utilizes basic and applied science criterion. From the local, regional and national levels there are issues that affect our Nation. Resource managers and other policymakers face a variety of issues that include renewable and nonrenewable energy development, agriculture, forestry, water supply, and resource allocations in both the urban and rural environments.
Ecosystem science is the study of systems of organisms interacting with their environment and the consequences of natural and human-induced change on these systems. The USGS helps to develop policies that enable decision makers, to better adapt to the changes that occur in these ecosystems.
The USGS provides the necessary information to help decision makers on the matters involving our environment. The USGS uses science to provide managers with options and decision-support tools in resources sustainability.
Economist (GS-0110) Career Path
This series includes positions that require application of a professional knowledge of economics in the performance of duties that include: research into economic phenomena, analysis of economic data, and the preparation of interpretive reports; advice and consultation on economic matters to governmental officials and private organizations or citizens; and the performance of other professional work in economics including supervision and the direction of economists engaged in the various economics programs of the Federal Government
Grecia R. Matos, is a GS-0110-13 economist and works in Reston, Virginia, in the National Minerals Information Center .
Matos always wanted to make a difference and her economics background helped her succeed in the job. She suggests that you need a “systems approach not just mathematical, but adding a human/social dimension to a holistic vision a country and the world.” Matos states, “her job as economist provides insights into many challenging and relevant issues, such as to know the dollar value of resources we produce and the physical quantity needed to keep up with our standard of living.”
Matos has many responsibilities as an economist. One of these is to provide information to the public, and policy makers regarding the current use and flow of minerals and materials in the United States and the world. Additionally, she helps to identify areas where there are adverse impacts of using materials, and identifies efficiencies in reuse, recycling and in waste management.
Matos indicates, “working in a science agency such as USGS, economists provide science to decision makers for environmental policy, study the effects of global climate change, the green economy, provide science to help protect public health, the environment, and to restore ecosystems.”
This specialization includes (1) positions which analyze and interpret relationships incorporating economic factors which cut across all sectors of the economy, (2) positions which specialize in methodology, (3) positions which are not appropriately classifiable to any other specialization in this series, and (4) all positions at the GS-5 and GS-7 levels. Positions in this specialization may be characterized by a variety of assignment patterns.
At all grade levels there are economists who analyze, interpret, synthesize, and project the movements and relationships among the many forces playing upon the economy. Typically, such economists use secondary sources and depend on their colleagues in the various branches of economics to collect and distill primary data. Frequently (though not necessarily), their work results in publication, sometimes in the “learned paper” tradition, but more typically in regular periodic publications of the Government.
Education and Experience
For all grade levels you need at least 1 year of experience at the next lowest grade. Additionally, a bachelor’s degree is required that includes at least 21 semester hours in economics and 3 semesters hours in statistics, accounting, or calculus.
The GS-05 to GS-09 grade levels, you not only need a bachelor’s degree and the experience may include:
- Developing detailed plans for economic studies in accordance with established specifications and other requirements.
- The collecting and compiling of economic data from primary or secondary sources following detailed and exact procedures and regulations.
- The preparation of preliminary interpretive reports, or portions of such reports following precise instructions.
The GS-11 to GS-14 grade levels, in addition to the basic education requirement as stated above, applicants must have 1 year of appropriate professional experience in economics that is equivalent to at least the next lowest grade level The additional experience may include:
- The performance of collecting data from primary sources necessary for a project, such as employment statistics or marketing data. The procedures are exact and well defined and adjusted as necessary.
- The planning and preparing an interpretive report on the productivity capacity of a particular industry, and use the data for a comprehensive industry analysis.
- Assignments include the full scope of the research process, from the initiation of investigations and planning of methods, through the interpretation of finding and the preparation of final reports.
- Other experience can include initiating, planning, formulating, and executing major special studies or continuing projects.
The salary range for a GS-12 is $76,378 (Step 01) to $99,296 (Step 10). A
GS-13 salary range is $90,823 (Step 01) to $118,069 (Step 10). You must be a U.S. citizen to apply for this position.
Carl Shapiro, is a GS-0110 Economist. Shapiro works in the USGS Science and Decisions Center , Reston, VA.
Shapiro was looking for a field that provided structure to complex societal issues. He cites, “economic concepts provide an objective and structured way of considering the issues to form many types of decisions.”
Shapiro does studies in ecosystem services, which are beneficial to nature. He states, “economists work with biological and physical scientists to understand how ecosystem services are produced and with natural resource managers to understand how ecosystem services in making informed decisions.”
Shapiro recommends a career in economics because, “it has a clear and analytical methodology and addresses issues ranging from natural resources, to labor productivity, to policies relating to the money supply. Economists are needed in a wide range of diverse fields.”
Shapiro suggests, “you should narrow your field to a specialty. Economics provides an analytical framework for considering the consequences of scarcity, alternative decisions, and tradeoffs, but it is not always a stand-alone discipline. Its value can be enhanced by connecting its approach with a broad set of societal challenges.”
Stephen R. Gillespie, is a GS-0110-14 economist. He works in the Director’s Office in Reston, VA.
Gillespie states the most exciting part of my job is getting to work with scientists in all sorts of different fields. He suggests that you take math courses in high school. As an economist you will spend a lot of time working with numbers.”
- Diane Noserale, USGS Public Affairs Officer, Reston, VA
- History of the USGS 
Economist Career Path
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