Association of American Geographers
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Why this poster’s message is important.

Your Mom Said GraphicThe text in this promotional piece for careers in geography was written to grab your attention.  But its simplicity belies a greater potential impact because it is based upon research about how young people, from underrepresented groups especially, make their career path choices.  Its claims are also derived upon facts and knowledge about the current state of the discipline of geography.  Here’s what you should know:

Get a good job.

The economic pressures that most students face when deciding their majors cannot be understated.  Not only do they themselves keep in mind their future employment prospects, but the strong influence of parents reminding them to choose wisely is very common.  But frequently, ‘geography’ rarely occurs to moms and dads as just such a career.  This poster aims to raise greater awareness of the growing opportunities in this field.
(You can order the poster using this form.)

Consider the following trends since 2000:

  • In 2004 the US Department of Labor released a statement highlighting geospatial technology as one of the most important emerging and evolving fields in the technology industry (Gewin 2004).
  • The US Department of Labor projects “much faster than average” growth, in excess of 20% or more, in jobs for geographers, geoscientists, cartographers, urban and regional planners, and other geographic professionals, with projected needs of upwards of 15,000 additional employees in each of these career fields between 2008-2018 (US Department of Labor 2010). 
  • Since members of underrepresented groups exit in large numbers at different transition points (NSF 2000; Jones 2002; Leggon 2003), the opportunity that geography offers for employment at multiple pathways—from technical positions with a GIS certificate, to professional posts for associates, bachelor’s and beyond —makes it an attractive choice for job-conscious youth and minorities in particular.

Make a difference.

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.

At least three recent global trends can be identified as contributing to a renaissance of geography and its potential for making a difference in society and the world, especially since the turn of the century, when we now find ourselves “confronted by insurmountable opportunities” (Richardson & Solís 2004).  These include globalization at an increasing pace and scale, phenomena that compel greater understanding of the world, places, people, and natural systems that affect us as a planet and as global citizens and consumers.  It includes a recent proliferation of geographic technologies, once fairly obscure and now pervasive in our daily lives, such as GPS in cell phones and cars, online mapping at your fingertips, cable news reports using spatial visualizations, and many more applications in modern business and government services that underlie operations, planning, and progress in all sectors everywhere we live and work.  It also includes an academic trend toward greater interdisciplinarity, especially a renewed focus on big questions that matter but that require a breadth of knowledge and multiple fields to tackle. Geography’s long-standing intellectual traditions in crossing those usual disciplinary boundaries are now better understood, increasingly seen as relevant and more widely respected in scholarly circles.

These trends have produced unprecedented growth in the field:

  • Geography is experiencing a resurgence as an academic discipline for tackling issues of local, national, and global significance (e.g., climate change, immigration, economic trade) by attracting scholars drawn to its conceptual frameworks for interdisciplinary and integrative research (Pfirman and the AC-ERE 2003); 
  • Undergraduate degrees in geography at U.S. institutions of higher education grew by about 49 percent (from approximately 2,900 to 4,320) between 1987-1988 and 2007-2008.  During that same time period, master’s degrees in geography grew by over 50 percent (from approximately 580 to 882) and doctoral degrees grew by about 71 percent (from approximately 150 to 257).  These rates of growth outpace most other disciplines (Pandit 2004; Murphy 2007; AAG 2008).  
  • In the five-year period between 1999-2000 and 2004-2005, the size of the tenure-track faculty in geography departments offering degrees through the Ph.D. grew by 8 percent (from 721 to 780).  Similarly, the same institutions witnessed growth in undergraduate majors (up 12 percent from 4,552 to 5,094), master’s students (up 14 percent from 1,120 to 1,279), and Ph.D. students (up nearly 11 percent from 1,076 to 1,191).   Liberal arts and comprehensive institutions also experienced growth in geography faculty and student populations during this period (Murphy 2007).
  • The number of high school students taking Advanced Placement Human Geography grew from 3,272 in 2002 to 50,730 in 2009 (Murphy 2007, Hildebrant 2010);

What is not said.

What you will not see in this poster are images about or verbal definitions of what geography is.  The goal in omitting these elements is to focus on a clear, inspirational message about what motivates and attracts new talent to the field of geography.  This field is in fact, so rich in possibilities, that it would be at best confusing, or at worst, impossible to completely convey in a one-page promotional poster the full range of opportunity that a career in geography might entail.  Less is more when it comes to this venue, but there are many other materials that can help communicate and elaborate this information. Such graphics and explanations are produced in much greater detail on this Careers in Geography website as well as the longer format of the AAG’s Careers in Geography brochure.

Created in May 2004 by Dr. Patricia Solís, AAG, inspired by listening to the voices of many geography students, especially those from Texas State University, San Marcos.  Copyright Registered.  Posted for educational and dissemination purposes only; please do not reprint, translate, or otherwise alter without express written permission.


Watch it here

See a video clip in relation to the poster's message here.

Download a copy.

You may also choose to download the pdf version as an 8.5x11 flyer and print out for your own use.

Translated versions are available here in pdf only for the following languages:

Spanish - ArabicChinese (Traditional) - Chinese (Simplified) - French - German - Indonesian - Japanese - Korean - Malay - PortuguesePolish - Romanian - SlovakTagalog - TurkishVietnamese 

[Thanks to Niem Huynh, Candida Mannozzi, Damien Asseya, Alvine Ahodegnon, Jiangfan Fu, Wei Li, Edwin Chow, My Quynh Huynh, Duy Tran Xuan, Trung Tran Vinh, Ozan Aygun, Ilay Celik, Nurcan Demiralp, Yusuf Doğan, Injeong Jo, Ji-Eun Han, Minori Yuda, Ana Maria Viegas Firmino, Gabriela Fragoso, Ewa Dabrowska, Ewa Kuczynska, Sven Fuhrmann, Anke Uhlenwinkel, Sarah Schellner, Michal Pazický, Liliana Dumitrache, Alina Mareci, Darío Solís, Ricardo Castillo, Marcela Zeballos.]