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Careers in Geography

Geography is so rich in possibilities, it is simply impossible to convey on our website the full range of opportunity that a career in our field might entail. Geographers apply their unique knowledge, skills, and perspectives in a diverse range of industries. They hold positions as urban planners who assess the costs and benefits of proposed transit systems, as state climatologists assessing the impacts of rising sea levels, as consultants advising firms about moving into new markets, and as human rights advocates working with refugees. These are just a handful of the many types of careers available to geographers.

This website aims to raise greater awareness of the burgeoning opportunities in geography. There are hundreds of occupations that require knowledge of and skills in geography, and the diversity of career opportunities available to geography graduates continues to grow every year. Consider the following list of occupations in which geographers are found:

 

·       Geospatial Information Scientists and Technologists:

o   Employment: 413,000

o   Projected Growth: Faster than average, 7-10%

o   Median Wages: $88,550

·       Geosphysical Data Technicians:

o   Employment: 16,300

o   Projected Growth: Faster than average, 7-10%

o   Median Wages: $51,130

·       Geographic Information Systems Technicians:

o   Employment: 412,800

o   Projected Growth: Faster than average, 7-10%

o   Median Wages: $88,550

·       Cartographers and Photogrammetrists:

o   Employment: 11,800

o   Projected Growth: Much faster than average, 11% or higher

o   Median Wages: $65,470

·       Remote Sensing Technicians:

o   Employment: 72,400

o   Projected Growth: Faster than average, 7-10%

o   Median Wages: $50,550

·       Precision Agriculture Technicians:

o   Employment: 72,400

o   Projected Growth: Faster than average, 7-10%

o   Median Wages: $51,130

·       Urban and Regional Planners:

o   Employment: 39,100

o   Projected Growth: Much faster than average, 11% or higher

o   Median Wages: $74,350

·       Transportation Planners:

o   Employment: 39,400

o   Projected Growth: Average, 4-6%

o   Median Wages: $83,330

·       Environmental Scientists and Specialists:

o   Employment: 85,000

o   Projected Growth: Faster than average, 7-10%

o   Median Wages: $71,360

·       Environmental Restoration Planners:

o   Employment: 85,000

o   Projected Growth: Faster than average, 7-10%

o   Median Wages: $71,360

·       Atmospheric and Space Scientists:

o   Employment: 10,000

o   Projected Growth: Faster than average, 7-10%

o   Median Wages: $95,380

·       Soil and Plant Scientists:

o   Employment: 18,000

o   Projected Growth: Faster than average, 7-10%

o   Median Wages: $63,200

·       Climate Change Analysts:

o   Employment: 85,000

o   Projected Growth: Faster than average, 7-10%

o   Median Wages: $71,360

 

(*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment figures are for 2018; projected growth is for the preiod 2018-2028; median wages are for 2019)

The partial list above accounts for a combined 1,360,200 employees in geography-related fields, with large numbers of new job openings expected through the foreseeable future. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median wages for Geographers were $81,970 in 2019. Even the lowest paid 25% of Geographers made $63,300 annually, far exceeding the median wages for all income earners.

However, most people who are ultimately attracted to the discipline of geography are motivated by much larger aspirations than good salaries. The opportunity to make a difference in the world, in whatever expression that takes, is one of the most frequently cited reasons why current geography students, researchers, and practitioners explain their career choice.  Given the breadth and depth of this rich discipline, which comprises perspectives from physical sciences, social sciences, and humanities, this desire to make a difference by using the intellectual approaches and conceptual tools of the discipline may be, in fact, one of the clearest characteristics that geographers as a community have in common.

Professionals with a Conscience

Some of the ways that geographers are making valuable contributions to the work and performance of businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies include:

►Understanding Social Systems. Geographers analyze the ways in which people interact in economic, political, social, and spatial contexts. Geographers offer a powerful perspective that can help employers take the specific needs and interests of a population into consideration when making decisions. From emergency-response teams using GIS technology to model high-risk areas that could flood during hurricanes, to designing digital maps that help ambulance drivers and firefighters respond to disasters more quickly, the work of geographers can save lives.

►Improving the Environment. Geographers study natural phenomena and work in areas as diverse as conservation, climate change, geology, meteorology, hazards, and natural resource management. Geographers understand human-environment relationships and how to use that information to manage natural resources and to protect the planet as a whole. The digital maps and geospatial tools geographers use have a myriad of positive effects for society and the environment, such as reduced air pollution through more efficient transportation because of GPS navigation, which could potentially reduce global CO2 emissions by 5% per year (Alpha Beta, 2017).

►Enhancing Financial Performance. Geographers, using geospatial tools such as GIS and GPS, are able to map and analyze economic data in search of important spatial patterns and relationships that can significantly enhance business efficiency and profitability. Spatial and temporal analysis is an important component of a geographic education and a skill valued by a large number of business employers. Recent reports suggest that online maps facilitated business sales worth more than $1 trillion globally. Businesses using geospatial services to improve productivity or sales reap substantial benefits, with recent research suggesting total geospatial revenues could be worth $1.6 trillion in the US alone (Alpha Beta, 2017; Boston Consulting Group, 2018).

The videos below provide an overview of how geography can lead to a meaningful, fulfilling career, as well as the diverse, often unexpected pathways that lead people to our field. Follow the tabs at left for an overview of career options and resources for geography careers in business, state and local government, federal government, nonprofit organizations and NGOs, and education.

A Day in the Life of a Geographer

Joseph Kerski discusses what it's like to be a geographer and why it matters. 04m:35s.

Geographers Making a Difference

Geography is a broad and diverse field, but one thing geographers have in common is using a geographic perspective to have an impact on the world. 04m:24s.

Advice on Jobs in Geography

Start building your career. Listen to some sage advice about jobs in Geography: from defining what you can contribute to any position to doing the geography you feel passionate about.  03m:47s.

Geography Can Take You There

Your Mom said you should major in something that would get you a good job. But don't you want to do something you love? What if you could do both? This short clip presents the message behind the popular careers poster available here.  00m:40s.
 

Nekya's Story

Geographer Nekya Young tells about her journey to find a college major that would ultimately lead to a meaningful career working with communities, recounting the many opportunities and support she found along the way.  07m:24s.

Journeys into Geography

Many people find the field of geography through various pathways.  This video shares stories of students, recent graduates, and seasoned geographers to illustrate some of the diverse ways that they have found their own journeys into geography. 12m:21s.

Creating a Departmental Home

AAG research shows that departmental climate is very important for the success of minority and international students. In this video, geographers of color and geographers of international backgrounds speak about their programs and what home means to them. 05m:46s.

 

 

 

What Geographers Do

Human geography is concerned with the spatial aspects of human existence. Physical geographers study patterns of climates, landforms, vegetation, soils, and water. Geographers use many tools and techniques in their work, and geographic technologies are increasingly important for understanding our complex world. They include Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Remote Sensing, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and online mapping such as Google Earth.

Explore the links below to review sample job titles associated with specific subfields within geography. 

 Geomorphology

    Weather and Climate

    Biogeography

    Natural Hazards

    Economic Geography

    Political Geography

    Cultural Geography

    Population Geography

    Human-Environment Interaction

    Cartography

    GIS

    Photogrammetry

    Remote Sensing

    Field Methods

    Spatial Statistics

    Regional Geography

    Spatial Thinking

    Global Perspective

    Interdisciplinary Perspective

    Diversity Perspective


    Subdiscipline definitions from: Solem, Michael, Ivan Cheung, and M. Beth Schlemper. Skills in professional geography: An assessment of workforce needs and expectations. The Professional Geographer 60, no. 3 (2008): 356-373.

 

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AAG Careers in Geography Brochure

The AAG Careers in Geography brochure is geared toward recruiting both upper-level high school and undergraduate college students to geography courses, geography majors, and possible careers in geography.

To obtain copies of the Careers in Geography brochure, contact the AAG central office or mail or fax in the order form. Consider a career in geography, and find your place!

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