Where in the World Can You Apply Your Knowledge of Geography?
Geography bridges the gap between the natural and social sciences. A geography degree can take you places if you've got what it takes to succeed in a competitive job market. Since most geographers work full-time during regular business hours, you can enjoy a well-paying career while balancing work and family. Find a teaching position and you can be on the same schedule as your kids.
Why Study Geography?
The study of geography is about so much more than maps. It can prepare you for careers in which you develop solutions to some of the most important issues facing modern society, including natural disasters, climate change, urban expansion and multicultural integration. Coursework will hone your research and analytical skills, both of which are valued by employers in many fields.
Physical geographers study patterns of climates, landforms, vegetation, water and soils. Human geographers study the spatial aspects of human existence. Geographers in both subspecialties may use tools such as Remote Sensing, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and online mapping such as Google Earth.
There are a wide variety of geography sub-specialties that can prepare you for a number of careers. Specialties include: economic, political, cultural and population geography; human-environment interaction; natural hazards; and spatial statistics, to name a few.
Careers in Geography
It's possible to find a job with a bachelor's degree in geography, but because competition in the job market is keen, those with advanced degrees, field experience or specialty training may have more opportunities.
Careers in geography include the following:
- Cartographer: Develop and produce different kinds of maps and related diagrams, charts, spreadsheets and travel guides. Work may include restoration of old maps and historical documents.
- Conservation Officer: Protect the natural environment and raise awareness of the ways local communities can enjoy their natural settings without negative impact.
- Environmental Consultant: Address a variety of environmental issues, ensure commercial or government clients comply with regulations, and study the impacts of land, air or water pollution.
- Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Officer: Use computerized systems to collect, store, analyze, manage and present complicated geographical information, such as radar. Geographical data is used for a variety or purposes, including meteorology, telecommunications and transportation planning.
- Recycling Officer: Plan and develop environmental and waste reduction policies and programs.
- Teacher/Professor: Teach geography and related courses in middle school, high school or at the college level. Teaching jobs require courses (and possibly a major) in education and may also require an advanced degree.
- Town Planner: Improve existing infrastructure and participate in the management and development of municipalities and rural areas. Ensure that development is sustainable, and natural environments are preserved to the extent possible.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for geographers are expected to grow by about 6 percent over the next decade, which is about average compared to all other occupations. Competition for jobs will likely be strong, as there will be more candidates than positions to fill.
Depending on job title, location, level of education and years of experience, pay varies widely. The median annual wage for geographers was $74,260 in 2016; half of those in the field made more, while half earned less. Most geographers work during regular business hours. Some geographers, depending on their employer, may be required to do fieldwork that takes them to foreign countries or remote locations.
Denise Dayton, M.Ed., M.S. teaches career readiness and workplace success, along with other business courses, at a small college in New England.