Careers opportunities in the Geography Field
A common question asked of those studying geography is, “What are you going to do with that degree?” Actually, there are many potential careers for geography majors. While job titles don’t often include the word “geographer,” studying geography teaches young people a wide range of useful skills for the marketplace, including computer, research, and analytical talents that translate well to the workforce.
An internship in an area of interest will get your foot in the door and provide valuable on-the-job, real-world experience that will make your resume much more impressive. Here are some options as you begin your job search:
Urban Planner/Community Developer
Geography is a natural tie-in with urban or city planning. City planners work on zoning, land use, and new developments, from gas station renovations to the development of new sections of the urban geography. You’ll work with property owners, developers, and other officials.
If you’re interested in this area, plan to take urban geography and urban planning classes. An internship with a city planning agency is essential experience for this type of work.
Those with cartography course backgrounds probably enjoy making maps. News media, book and atlas publishers, government agencies, and others are looking for cartographers to help produce maps.
City governments, county agencies, other governmental bodies, and private groups often need experienced GIS (geographic information system) professionals. Coursework and internships in GIS are especially important. Computer programming and engineering skills are also helpful in this arena—the more you know about computers, the better off you are.
Organizations such as the National Weather Service, news media, the Weather Channel, and other government entities occasionally need climatologists. These jobs usually go to those with meteorology degrees, but a geographer with experience and coursework in meteorology and climatology would definitely be an asset.
Regional transit authorities and shipping, logistics, and transportation companies look kindly on applicants with transportation geography and good computer and analytical skills in their backgrounds.
Environmental assessment, cleanup, and management companies do business throughout the world. A geographer brings excellent skills to project management and the development of papers such as environmental impact reports. It’s a wide-open field with tremendous growth opportunities.
During your college years, you’ve undoubtedly spent time developing your writing skills, and as a geography major, you know how to research. Consider a career as a science writer or travel writer for a magazine or newspaper.
Becoming a high school or university geography instructor requires additional education beyond your undergraduate degree, but it would be rewarding to instill your love of geography in future geographers. Becoming a geography professor would allow you to research geographic topics and add to the body of geographic knowledge.
Emergency management is an under-explored field for geographers but fertile ground for geography majors. They understand interactions between humans and the environment, know about hazards and earth processes, and can read maps. Add a bit of political acumen and leadership skills and you have a great emergency manager. Get started in this field by taking hazard courses in geography, geology, and sociology and interning with an emergency management agency or the Red Cross.
For a population geographer who loves demographic data, what could be more rewarding than becoming a demographer working for state or federal agencies to help develop population estimates and other information? The U.S. Census Bureau actually has a position titled “Geographer.” Interning in a local planning agency would help you get started.
Another way to become involved in demography, the study of human populations, is marketing, where you gather demographic information and get the word out to those interested in the demographics you’re researching. This is one of the more glamorous arenas for a geographer.
Foreign Service Officer
Every country on Earth has a diplomatic corps to represent their homeland abroad. Geographers are excellent candidates for this type of career. In the United States, you begin the process of becoming a foreign service officer by taking the Foreign Service Officer Test. The work can be difficult but rewarding. You might spend years, if not your entire career, away from home, but depending on the assignment, that might be just fine.
Your research skills as a geographer apply particularly well to working as a librarian. If you want to help people navigate the world of information, this could be the career for you.
National Park Service Ranger
Are you a physical geographer who needs to be outside and wouldn’t consider working in an office? A career in the National Park Service could be right up your alley.
Real Estate Appraiser
Real estate appraisers develop an estimate of value for a piece of property, researching market areas, assembling data, and using various analytical techniques to provide a number that reflects all market evidence. This multidisciplinary field incorporates aspects of geography, economics, finance, environmental planning, and law. Typical appraisal tools include aerial photos, topographic maps, GIS, and GPS, which also are the tools of a geographer.