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Geography Careers in Business

The private sector contains many dynamic and exciting employment opportunities for geographers. Although the number of job descriptions that include the term “geographer” is relatively low, more and more companies are recognizing the value of geographic analysis in their everyday operations. Among the most valued geographic skills by private sector employers are those related to spatial thinking and geospatial technology, cartography, location analysis, and economic geography.

 


Geographers in Large Businesses and Corporations

Traditionally, geography-related jobs in large businesses and corporations can be found in the following areas:

  • Environmental consulting
  • Software development and database management
  • Real estate and retail markets
  • Large mapping companies/organizations
  • Transportation and logistics departments of major corporations

Corporations need to expand their operations around the world to compete, and to do so, knowledge about space at multiple scales is necessary. Analyzing and understanding the impact of differences and interactions among cultural, political, legal, business, human, and natural resources are some of the activities that attract geographers to positions with modern global corporations. Geographers are especially well-suited to these roles because of their abilities and expertise with regard to spatial and place-based analysis, cultural differences and commonalities, and scientific synthesis.

Despite the breadth of the discipline, not all corporate employers fully understand the practical nature of the field of geography. As such, geographers should be prepared to persuasively present their geographic abilities to employers during the interview process and be creative in thinking about how geographic knowledge and geospatial skills can enhance a company’s operations. Below are some examples illustrating the value of geography in large businesses and corporations:

►Logisticians and supply chain analysts: connecting and optimizing operations. Geographers have long recognized that logistics and supply chain management are central to the function and form of economic space. One of the best preparations for a career in logistics is a good foundation in geography and its methods for analyzing and visualizing the distribution of social and environmental phenomena. Cartographic skills and geovisualization techniques can simply and effectively communicate large amounts of information to a corporation, detect patterns that may not have been anticipated, reveal problems with bad data, help understand large and small-scale features, and facilitate the formation of hypotheses.

►Sustainability managers: quaility of life for future generations. The adverse impacts of human activity on the natural environment are widely known. In response, many corporations have implemented sustainability programs and are hiring managers to administer them. As more firms attempt to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and seek ways to conserve energy, they will need employees with skills transcending academic boundaries who can bundle different technologies into comprehensive solutions. Geographers are well positioned for these types of jobs because of their broad interdisciplinary training.

►Market research analysts: it's all about the customer. Thanks to GIS and other geospatial technologies, it is possible to understand consumer behavior patterns more clearly than ever before. Companies are now able to answer a wide range of critical questions about their businesses with a high degree of confidence – questions ranging from the site of new locations and the allocation of marketing budgets to the best plans for future expansion – all based on new and improved knowledge of who and where the customers are. In addition to courses in spatial statistics and GIS, geography students can better prepare themselves for careers in market research by taking elective courses in sociology, economics, and marketing.

►Spatial statisticians and data analysts: more than just number-crunchers. Positions for geographers in large businesses and corporations are often masked as “data analysts,” “statisticians,” or “sales territory alignment analysts,” generic job titles that companies use when they advertise for positions involving the management and analysis of data. However, different industries use analysts in different ways. For example, in the financial services industry, tax software companies can use GIS to map the different tax codes used in their software; in the healthcare industry, data analysts might be assigned to epidemiological studies to analyze demographic data by geographical region; and data analysts in sales and planning departments often participate in sales territory alignment projects, using GIS and spatial analysis to help develop marketing strategies to improve a company’s sales performance and profit margins.

►Geographic consulting: a world of opportunity. Geographic thinking in consulting has great value for both the public and private sectors, as geographers possess unique perspectives, skills, and training that enable them to bring forth environmental, geopolitical, and sociocultural contexts to the center of projects. This understanding of how to analyze and integrate these diverse aspects makes geographer-consultants essential methodological and theoretical “anchors” in interdisciplinary teams. In community and economic development, for example, geographers are ideally suited to help organizations think about, analyze, and evaluate their work at various scales of impact, and how these scales and impacts intersect.

 


Geographers in Small Businesses

Small businesses deliver products or services that are not provided by other companies, or may offer products at a superior price or quality value relative to existing products. Geographers, with their unique perspective for solving problems that draws on spatial thinking, place analysis, and interdisciplinary approaches, can develop a variety of businesses that serve vital needs of consumers, government agencies, corporations, and nonprofit organizations.

►A spatial perspective of economic activity. Using GIS and other geospatial technologies, geographers in small businesses can help clients determine the best site for a new retail store on the basis of customer demographics, customer proximity, travel routes, and competition. Similar services can be provided in the context of real estate and environmental impact analysis. Many businesses, research centers, and government agencies require large volumes of spatial data.

►Value of place. Geographers can translate their understanding of place into business practices ranging from creating geography curricula for educators to writing travel guides and developing place-based social media and gaming apps for smart phones. By associating a product with a specific place (e.g. connecting it with the place of production or drawing on regional identity), businesses can increase the worth of the product. With appropriate training in business principles, geographers can tap the potential of place knowledge for producing their own products and services.

►"Ecopreneurship" and interdisciplinary thinking. As an integrative science, geography is contributing to sustainability in development and business practices. This perspective offers an approach to running a small geography business in a manner that appeals to a growing interest among consumers for sustainable manufacturing, local product sourcing, and environmentally friendly business models. As potential customers begin to shift their purchasing habits toward businesses that operate off these models, geographers have an opportunity to start businesses that revolve around sustainable, environmentally friendly ideas.

 


Profiles of Private Sector Geographers

Caitlin Kontgis

Applied Scientist Lead (Solutions), Descartes Labs

 

Education: Ph.D. in Geography (University of Wisconsin-Madison), M.S. in Environmental Health Sciences (University of California-Berkeley), B.A. in Geography (University of California-Santa Barbara)

 

Daniel McGlone

Senior GIS Analyst and Cicero Data Manager, Azavea

Education: Masters in Urban Spatial Analytics (University of Pennsylvania), Bachelors in Geography and Geospatial Imaging (Harrisburg University of Science and Technology)

 Amanda Sankey

Environmental Consultant, Crouch Environmental Services, Inc.

Education: B.S. in Resource and Environmental Studies, Concentration in Geography (Texas State University, San Marcos), Minors in Communications and Geology (Texas State University, San Marcos)

 

Ashok Wadwani

Founder and President, Applied Field Data Systems

 

Education: M.S. in Physics (University of Lucknow, India), M.B.A. (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University)

Sean O'Brien

GIS Analyst, U.S. Bank

 

Education: Master's in Geographic Information Science (University of Minnesota), B.S. in Geography (University of Minnesota)

Julie Dunbar

Manger of Editorial Development, ABC-CLIO

 

Education: M.F.A. in Writing (Naropa University), B.A. in Geography (University of Colorado)

 


Video Interviews with Private Sector Geographers

Dr. Naya Jones, Managing Director of Get Rooted Consulting, describes being a health geographer applying scholarship on place and social justice to improve marginalized communities. 

Dr. Donald Poland, Managing Director, Senior Vice President Urban Planning, Goman + York Property Advisors, discusses his experience as an urban planner and what led him to geography.

Peter Lenz, Senior Geospatial Analyst, Dstillery, describes taking the path from geography to building a career in data analytics. 

 

 Who Hires Geographers?

The following list of over 380 private sector employers is based on a review of 57 geography department alumni webpages:

2U Inc., 3megawatt GmbH, ABC-7 Chicago news, Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services, Inc. (AE2S), Advantage Timberland, AECOM, Aerial Services, Inc., Aero-Graphics, Inc., Aerometric, Inc., Air Analysis LLC, AIR Worldwide, Inc., Alabama Power, ALAGASCO, Alfred Benesch & Company, All Environmental, Inc., Allegheny Gas Company, Allegheny Surveys, Inc., ALLWorld Project Management, Altosoft Corporation, Amec Foster Wheeler, American Electric Power, Ames Construction, Inc., Aniuk Consulting, LLC, Anoplate, Apex Logistics International, Inc., Appen LTD., Apple, Appomattox River Company, ARCADIS, Arcudigm, LLC, Argonaut Software, Arizona Public Service, ASRC Federal, Athenica Environmental Services, Inc., Atkins Global, Atmospheric and Environmenta Research, Inc., August Mack Environmental, Austin EnviroSolutions, Avalara, Avalon Language Institute, Avid4 Adventure, Inc., Aztec Consultants Inc., Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group, Inc., BackCountry.com, Badley Ashton & Associates, Baldwin & Sons, Baltimore Gas & Electric Co, Banks Environmental Group, Barrick Gold Corp., Bartlett Tree Experts, Benchmark Associates, Inc., Bentley Systems, Beverage Distributors of New Hampshire, Birrenkoit Surveying, Inc., Bloom Communications, Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems, Bogia Engineering, Inc., Bolton and Menk, Inc., BonData, Booz Allen Hamilton, Boucher and James, Inc., Brejle & Race Consulting Engineers, British Petroleum, BSC Group, Buckeye Partners, L.P., Buffalo Niagara RiverKeeper, Buffalove Development, Burns & McDonnell Engineering, Byers Engineering, Cacapon and Lost Rivers Land Trust, CALIBRE Systems, Calvista Gold, Campbell Scientific, Cardno, Carolina Solar Services, Carroll Engineering Company, Carson Services Inc., CBRE Group, Inc., Cenergy, LLC, CenterPoint Energy, Century Engineering, Inc., CH2M Hill, Chevron, CHS, Inc., Cicsco Systems, CityWorks, Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., CloudView Eco Farms, Coastal Environments, Inc., Concho Resources, Constellation, Crown Castle, CrownQuest Operating, LLC, CSRA, Inc., CSX Transportation, Cultural Geographics Consulting, Inc., Danaher Corporation, Data2insight, LLC, Davey Resource Group, Inc., Davey Tree Expert Company, Dell Global Sustainability, DeLorme, Delta 21 Resources, Inc., Descartes Labs, Inc., Devil Mountain Wholesale Nursery, Devon Energy, Dewberry, Inc., Dominion Virginia Power, Drilling Info, Duo Security, E. & J. Gallo Winery, EagleView, Earth Energy Consultants, LLC., Earth Engineering, Inc., Earthworks, Ecology and Environment, Inc., ECOTrust, Edible by Design, Emerus, Empirica Surface Logging, Inc.- ALS, EN Engineering, EndPoint Environmental, LLC, Entact Environmental, Entech Engineering, Inc., Entrix, Environmental Consulting, Inc., Environmental Remediation and Recovery, Inc., Environmental Science Associates, Epic!, Esri, Exelon, Exploration for Equitable Resources, ExxonMobil, Fastenal Corp., FB Environmental Associates, Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber, Inc., FLO Analytics, Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth LLC, Foit-Albert Associates Architecture, Engineering and Surveying, P.C., Fort Point Associates, FTI Consulting, Fugro Chance, Fugro Seismic Imaging, Fuss & O'Neil, Inc., GAI Consultants, Inc., Garcia and Associates, GARMIN, Genentech, Inc., GEO Jobe Consulting, GeoCue Group, GeoMedia, GeoSearch Environmental Consultants, GEOSpatial, LLC, Geosyntec Consultants, GHD Consulitng Services, Global Currencies, Ltd., Global Footprint Network, Global Relief Technologies, Global Vision International, Golder Associates, Inc., Gomez and Sullivan, Engineers, Google, Graymont Limited, Grazing Buffalo, Eco-Landscape Design and Restoration, Gresham, Smith, and Partners, Gulfland Appalachian Energy, Inc., Gulfport Energy Corporation, H2E, Inc., Halliburton Corporation, Hanover Engineering Associates, Hawx Boots, Inc., HBK Engineering, LLC, HDR, Inc., Heartland Technology Solutions, LLC, Herzog Technologies, Inc., Hess Corporation, Hexagon Geospatial, HSBC Bank USA, Hubbell, Roth and Clark, Inc., HubSpot, HyPack, ICF International, IHS Marketing, ImageCat, Inc., Independent Archaeological Consulting (IAC), LLC, Infinity Consultants, Ingram Micro, Insignia Environmental, Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, Integrated Capital Strategies, LLC., Inter-American Developmental Bank, INTERA Incorporated, International Imagine Materials (IIMAK), Interwest Consulting Group, J2 Global Communication Inc., John Deere, Joy Kuebler, landscape architect, KAYA Associates, Inc., KFDA- Broadcasting, Texas, Kleinfelder, KPMG International Cooperative, LandIQ, Landvest, Inc., LandWorks, Inc., Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, Inc., Layne Christiansen Co., Lexmark International, Inc., Liberty Environmental, Inc., Linn Energy, LiquidHub, Loll Designs, Inc., Loughlin Water Associates, LTL Consultants Ltd., LUMOS Networks, M.J. Reider Associates, Inc., M.M. Newman Corporation, Magnolia River, MapQuest, Inc., Marstel-Day, LLC, Martin Marietta Materials, Inc., Masego Inc., Matrix Design Group, Inc., McNeill Land Surveying, LLC, MDA Information Systems, LLC., Mead & Hunt, MedExpress Urgent Care, Meridium, Inc., Metro Commercial Real Estate, Michael Baker International, Inc., Microsoft, Mike Price Construction, Milliman, Inc., MinebeaMitsumi Aerospace, MJ Mechanical Services, Momentum Recycling, Mostardi Platt Environmental, Municipal GIS Partners, Inc., Navigant Research, Navigation Technologies, Nelson Consulting, New York Times, NEWS3 Las Vegas, Nokia HERE Maps, Norfold Southern Railway, North Shore Mining Company, Northeast Natural Energy, Northrop Grumman, nSide, Nussbaumer & Clark, Inc., NVision Solutions, O.C. Tanner Global Recognition Company, Oceaneering International, Inc., ORC Utility & Infrastructure Land Services, Orca Maritime Inc., Osmose Utilities, Oxbow Development, Pacific Ag, Pacific Watershed Associates, Panamerican Consultants, Inc., Paper Converting Machine Co., Parsons Engineering, Parsons Transportation Group, Patriot Engineering and Environmental, Inc., Pennsylvania American Water Company, Peter J. Smith & Co, PG&E, Pictometry Intl., Pitney Bowes, Pittsburgh Technology Center, Planet Labs, Polar Field Services, Pond & Company, Portnoy Environmental, Inc., Potesta and Associates, Predictive Analytics, Property Catalyst Group, Pruet Oil Company, LLC, Quantum Geospatial, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP., Recognition Media, LLC., Recreational Equipment, Inc., Reinventing Geospatial, Inc., Renewable Energy Group, Research Planning, Inc., Resource Environmental Solutions, LLC., RG Next, RJE Telecom, Inc., Roux Associates, San Francisco Estuary Institute, SanAir Technologies Laboratory, Inc., Sanborn Map Company, Segra, Settimio Consulting Services, Inc., Sienna Environmental Technologies, LLC., Sigma Partners, Simmers Crane Design Services, Skelly & Loy Engineering, Soul Garden, Spotts, Steven, and McCoy Group, Inc., Starline USA, Inc., Stellar Services, Steptoe & Johnson PLLC, Stericycle Environmental Solutions, Stetson Engineers, Stratasan, Strategic Geospatial Solutions, LLC, Strickland Group, Summit Engineering, Inc., Sunde Land Surveying, SunGard, Survival Flight Incorporated, T-Kartor Group, T&M Associates, Terra National Real Estate Group, Terracon, Tetra Tech, The Adecco Group, The Cadmus Group, LLC, The Chambers Group, Inc., The Davey Resource Group, The Kentucky Mesonet, The Land Bank Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation, The Louis Berger Group Inc., The Retail Connection, The Schneider Corporation, The Sidwell Company, The Vanguard Group, The Villages® Technology Solutions Group, Thomas Comitta Associates, Inc., Timmons Group, Inc., Toll Brothers, Inc., Tom Harrison Maps, TomTom, TriZetto Group, Inc., TruServe Corporation, Two Farmers Farm, Ubisense, Uniland Development, UPM, Urban GIS, Inc., Utah Clean Cities Coalition, Valley Rural Electric Cooperative, Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc., VET Environmental Engineering, LLC, Village of Hoffman Estates, Vision Planning and Consulting (VPC), LLC., W&M Environmental Group, Wachs Water Services, Wade Trim, Walmart Global, WAND-TV Decatur, IL, Watershed Assessment Associates, Wave Broadband, Weatherford International, Webster, McGrath & Ahlberg, Wendel Architects & Engineers PC, West Seneca Developmental Corporation, Western Ecosystems Technology, Inc., Western Land Services, Western Weather Group, Inc., Weston Solutions, Inc., White Gold Corporation, WhiteWater Midstream, LLC., Whitman, Requardt & Associates, LLP, Wilbur Smith Associates, Inc., Wilcox Environmental Engineering, Inc., William and Works, Williams Companies, Inc., Wiser Company, LLC, Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions, Workbridge Associates, WorldView Solutions, Inc., WSP Global, WSP USA Inc., WTOL-TV, Xcel Energy, Inc., Zephyr