Geology is one of the most accessible of the sciences, and it also has the highest proportion of scientists having immense amounts of fun. You don't need an expensive degree to get involved with geologists, and even get mistaken for one. Just follow my Sooper Sekrit Manual, and you'll have folks believing you interrogate rocks for a living in no time.
The greatest thing? With minor adjustments, you can apply it to any branch of science. But all of us here know geology's the best!
1. Read blogs.
Oh, hey, look, you are! But read blogs by professional geologists, too. There's one heck of an education awaiting you on the internet. It's like sitting in a field full of geologists, and they're personally teaching you what they know. They'll show you wonders and introduce you to new concepts and get you conversant in the life and work of a geologist. They'll even answer questions if you show up in their comment sections and compliment their rocks!
2. Read books.
Read deeply and widely, everything from pop sci to textbooks. Yes, indeed, reading textbooks is fun! It can be rough going at first, but if you read absolutely everything reputable you can get your hands on, you'll end up absorbing far more than you realize. Next thing you know, you'll be pontificating on things like thrust faults and metamorphism, throwing around $100 words like they're pennies, and observers will believe you have an expensive education. It's a lot of fun, especially when you tell them all you've got is a high school diploma or GED and a handful of college credits, or that your college degree is actually in the circus and performing arts. Have a camera handy: the look on their faces is priceless.
3. Read papers
Once you're breezing through those books whose introductions explain that the average layperson may find it tough going because the author was writing for experts, head over to Google Scholar and seek out the actual scientific literature. You'd be amazed how much is actually available for free. You'd be even more amazed at how much of it you can actually comprehend. It's the best way to get in-depth information on a particular aspect of geology. It's also fascinating to see how science is done. And then you'll have a bag full of $1000 words to throw around like confetti.
4. Learn the lingo
Oh, look, you already have. Side effect of all that reading you're doing. You'll still need to look up unfamiliar terms quite often, but this is the internet – you can find all manner of geologic dictionaries for free with a simple search. If you can, take a side trip and learn the Greek and Latin words that form the roots of so many of our terms: once you know them, it's quite easy to puzzle out what an unfamiliar word means.
5. Befriend geologists
Or let them befriend you. They're a lively, fascinating bunch, more than willing to let layfolk who have an interest and the willingness to learn hang about with them, and they'll show you things like how to properly use a rock hammer and what a Brunton compass is for. They will make you look upon this world with wonder and awe and appreciation. And do they ever know how to party!
6. Collect rocks
Be one of those people who loves rocks so much they're willing to schlep ten thousand pounds' worth of 'em out of the wilderness. And I'm not talking about the really perfect mineral specimens and gemstones and all that other stuff that everybody in the universe likes. I'm talking about mudstones and basalts and all of those kinds of rocks that are deadly-dull to the average human being. You'll be easily mistaken for a professional geologist when you whip out a boring brown rock and expound upon its wild journey to lithification.
7. Dress in geo gear
Not that there's a standard uniform, but we're talking clothes and shoes suitable for long, dirty hikes over outcrops in all sorts of weather. Cargo pants, flannel, and hiking boots will probably do you. Make sure to have at least one shirt with ridiculous geology puns like "Schist happens."
8. Carry a rock hammer and hand lens
Not everywhere. Just out in the field. When you go on hikes, have a hammer with you specifically made for bashing rocks with. Geologists know that a rock can look very different when broken open, due to the effects of weathering. So they don safety goggles, pick up a hammer, and whammo. Then they whip out a hand lens to study the fresh face exposed. They may occasionally nibble on the rock in order to determine what it is, but this is optional if all you're wanting to do is pass. I don't think it's common knowledge among layfolk yet that geologists can discern a lot about a rock by consuming bits of it.
9. Have the appropriate stickers for your car/laptop/other handy surfaces
I'll shamelessly plug my small line of geology-themed stickers here. You can also get mugs, shirts, magnets, and a variety of other items suitable for showing off your love of the good science of rock-breaking.
There you go. All you need to know in order to be mistaken for a really real geologist. As for why you'd want to be mistaken for one, well, that is because geologists are teh awesome and geology is one of the most important, most interesting, and most beautiful sciences in existence. As we saw yesterday, geology is literally the foundation of our civilization and we ignore it at our peril. Besides, getting mistaken for a geologist gives you more opportunities to get outside and play with hammers and shiny rocks, which is about the best life possible.