How to Become a Geographer - Career Guide & Jobs

How to Become a Geographer: Career Path Guide

If you want to become a geographer, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a geographer:

 

• You have an interest in the surface of the earth

• You have an interest in the relationship between the earth and its inhabitants

• You are able to apply theories and techniques in the natural and/or social sciences to solve problems

• You have an interest in collecting data through fieldwork, which may include travel to distant or remote locations

• You are able to draw conclusions from analysis of different sets of data

 

Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a geographer. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!

 

 

Education Needed to Become a Geographer

There are many career options for those with a bachelor, master or doctoral level education in geography. The specific educational requirements for becoming a geographer can depend on a variety of factors, including:

 

• Whether the geographer will be working in human or physical geography

• The level of responsibility the geographer will have professionally

• Whether the geographer will be working in private or public industry

 

Undergraduate Degree: Having an undergraduate degree in geography will qualify you for a variety of positions. Those who have completed coursework in remote sensing and GIS are particularly desirable to many employers within public and private industry. An example of a geographer career with a bachelor’s-level education is GIS Specialist.

 

Master’s Degree: Obtaining an master’s degree in geography often qualifies graduates to work in many applied research positions, as well as mid and senior-level positions in private and public industry sectors. They may also qualify to instruct geography in some colleges and universities. An example of a position in geography with a master’s degree is Community Planner.

 

Doctoral Degree: A Ph.D. degree in geography qualifies graduates to work as university professors, as well as lead and senior researchers in universities and private research organizations. These graduates may also work as consultants for private and public industry. An example of a career as a geographer with a doctoral degree is University Professor.

 

Some geography-related jobs allow candidates to substitute an advanced degree for work experience or GIS proficiency. 

 

 

 

Geographer Job Description

The job description of a geographer can vary based on the specific responsibilities of their job. The general job descriptions of a geographer can be summarized based on whether they are physical geographers or human geographers.

 

Physical Geographers: Are responsible for studying the physical geographic characteristics of a region, which may vary in scale from local to global. They use theories and techniques from the natural sciences as well as information technologies, such as high end mapping techniques, geographical information systems (GIS) and satellite analysis to study the surface of the earth.

 

The aspects of the earth’s surface that physical geographers study include spatial organization, processes and patterns at the earth's surface, and environmental change.

 

Human Geographers: Are responsible for using theories from the social sciences to examine the spatial aspects of human existence, such as how people and their activity are distributed in space, how people use and perceive space, and how they create, develop and sustain places. They also study social phenomena such as political or cultural structures, as they relate to geography. 

 

Since geographers study the earth and the social systems that relate to it, they can be considered both natural and social scientists. 

 

 

Geographer Job Duties

• Provide advice and serve as an expert concerning environmental issues

• Identify optimal new retail site locations

• Study the effects of pollutants and epidemics on people in particular regions

• Provide geographical information systems support to the private and public sector

• Provide advice relating to heritage site plans

• Confer with land use planners

 

 

Characteristics Needed to Become a Geographer

In order to enjoy performing the duties of a geographer, you need to have certain personality traits. Taking enjoyment from your duties as a geographer is important, as it helps you maintain a positive attitude towards your work, which usually leads to having a long and successful career.

 

• The intellectual and emotional stamina needed to complete the required education

• Enjoy consulting with other professionals in the field

• A keen interest in the relationship between the earth and its inhabitants

• Enjoy taking a methodical approach to gathering information

• Enjoy employing theories and techniques from the social and natural sciences to solve problems

• An interest in collecting data through fieldwork, which may include travel to distant or remote locations

 

 

Skills Needed to Become a Geographer

The skills needed to become a geographer vary based on whether you plan on working in a field related to human geography, or in a field related to physical geography.

 

Skills Needed to Work in Human Geography

 

• Able to use laboratory, statistical, interview and field techniques to collect data

• Able to use survey data to examine urban, rural and social issues

• Excellent writing skills, needed for preparing reports on research finding

• Able to apply theories and techniques in the social sciences to solve problems

 

Skills Needed to Work in Physical Geography

 

• Able to use GIS and Image Analysis Systems (IAS) technologies for planning and resource management

• Excellent writing skills, needed for preparing reports on research finding

• Able to apply theories and techniques in the natural sciences to solve problems

• Able to create and manipulate digital images in GIS software

• Able to draw conclusions from analysis of different sets of data

 

 

 

 

Geographer Career: Working Conditions

Work Setting: Geographers may work in settings such as offices, laboratories and classrooms. Depending on their specialization, some human and physical geographers conduct field studies, which may involve extensive travel and experiencing a wide variety of environments ranging from Arctic tundra to forest, and from cities to rural areas.

 

Working Hours: The hours of work for geographers that work in the field typically depend on the weather and the duration of the field season. In an office, laboratory or classroom setting however, geographers typically work normal business hours.

 

 

Geographer Salary

The salary level of geographers can vary, depending on factors including:

 

• Their level of education

• Their level of experience

• The size and type of their employer

• The specific responsibilities of their job

 

Geographer Salary Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Other Professional Occupations in Social Science occupational group earn an average of between $43.12 and $58.21 per hour.

 

Geographer Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, Canadian workers in the Other Professional Occupations in Social Science occupational group earn an average salary of $54,718 per year.

 

Geographer Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary level of American workers in the Geographers occupational group is $74,760 per year.

 

 

Who Creates Jobs for Geographers?

Geographers may be employed on a part-time, full-time or contractual basis as environmental consultants, resource managers, teachers, professors, urban or regional planners, geography specialists or advisors. They typically work for the following types of organizations:

 

• Municipal, provincial/state or federal governments

• Private consulting firms (working on retail siting, marketing, health care planning, or urban planning)

• Organizations involved in heritage site planning

• Colleges and universities

• Public or private environmental research agencies

• Electronic mapping and graphic design companies

• Geographic information systems (GIS) groups

• Travel and tourism companies


 

What Fields do Geographers Work in?

Human Geographers: May apply their skills and knowledge to fields such as urban and regional planning, transportation, marketing, real estate, tourism, and international business.

 

Physical Geographers: May apply their skills and knowledge in areas such as weather forecasting, land and water resource management, as well as forest, wetland and rangeland plan development or analysis. 

 

 

Geographer Jobs

Our job board below has "Geographer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Careers Similar to Geographer

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Geographer, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.

 

Cartographer

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist

Hydrographer

Land Surveyor

Water Resources Specialist

 

 

References: Geographer Career Information

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a geographer.

 

Alberta Learning and Information Service website: alis.alberta.ca

United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website: www.bls.gov

University of Georgia website: geography.uga.edu

 

 

Scholarships for Becoming a Geographer

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a Geographer can be found on our Geography Scholarships page.

 

Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!

 

 

Becoming a Geographer: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a geographer. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!

 

Geography  

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