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Where Geographers Work

Many geographers pursue rewarding careers in education; business; local, state, or federal government agencies; and nonprofit organizations. These sectors can be described as follows:

  • Education - The education sector includes K through 12 institutions, colleges and universities that award at least a two-year degree, continuing education and informal education organizations, and higher education institutions. Educators may also work in educational administration and academic research positions.
  • Business - The business, or private, sector refers to the segment of the economy composed of enterprises owned by individuals or groups. Corporations are accountable to their shareholders and operate at national or international scales. Independent businesses are privately owned by an individual or small group and usually operate at a local or regional scale. 
  • Government - Applicants new to the public sector, which includes federal, state, and local government, may find the broad, integrative perspective offered by academic training in geography to be an asset. Nearly 2 million civilians—1.8 percent of the U.S. workforce—are employed by the federal government, while state and local governments employ 19.8 million workers. Geography's emphasis on addressing real-world problems and issues is excellent preparation for public sector employment, particularly at the local and state levels where much policy innovation, implementation, and bottom-line responsibility reside. 
  • Nonprofit - Roughly nine percent of the U.S. workforce (12 million individuals) is employed by an estimated 1.4 million nonprofit organizations, whose causes and values span the entire political spectrum. Because nonprofits typically strive to create a better world (as defined by their mission statements), they offer great opportunities for job seekers hoping to make a difference. 

To learn about the careers of geographers working in each of these sectors, check out our online collection of professional profiles or download our Profiles of Professional Geographers Slideshow.

Excerpted from: Adams, Joy K. 2013. Switching sectors: Transitioning into and among business, government, and nonprofit careers." Chapter 3 of Practicing Geography: Careers for Enhancing Society and the Environment, eds. Michael Solem, Kenneth Foote, and Jan Monk. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.


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