What Do Geographers Do? Explore a Unique Career

Woman explorer and geographer analyzes the environment

Are you fascinated by the earth and its terrain, as well as how it impacts those who inhabit the planet? If so, geography might be the perfect career path for you. You might be surprised to learn about the wide variety of jobs geographers can do.

What Is a Geographer?

Geography is typically introduced in school as the study of where continents, countries, and communities are located and what their terrain is like. Those things are definitely part of geography, but the scope of the overall field is much broader.

  • Geography involves learning about the physical characteristics of the earth, as well as how life forms such as people, animals, and plants are distributed across the planet.
  • It also involves studying how the planet's features impact its inhabitants and how the inhabitants impact the planet. Professional geographers work in occupations related to these things.

Types of Geographers

There are two types of geographers: physical and human.

  • Physical geographers - People who work in this aspect of geography focus on features of the natural environment. For example, they may do research to determine the impact on the environment if a new manufacturing facility would be built in a particular location. That would consider many factors, including the development's expected and potential impact on the land, water, air quality, overall environment, and natural resources.
  • Human geographers - Those who work as human geographers focus on how humans organize in locations and how their activities impact the overall environment. For example, as more people move to a particular city or town, human geographers may be involved in urban planning. For example, they may explore whether there is a need to add lanes to roadways or install additional traffic signals to account for increased traffic that results from a larger population.

Common Geographer Job Duties

Professional geographers perform a wide variety of tasks, all of which relate to the earth and its inhabitants. Some of these tasks include:

  • Research - Geographers collect and analyze data relevant to the field of study. Geographic research often includes field observations, questionnaires, interviews, or reviewing satellite images.
  • Mapping - Geographers sometimes create visual representations of the locations they are studying in the form of maps, based upon what their research reveals.
  • Analysis - They analyze and draw conclusions from data gathered through primary research, as well as secondary research sources, such as census data, occupation-related statistics, and demographic data.
  • Reporting - They often use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to perform an in-depth analysis of data they have collected, then display their findings for reporting purposes.
  • Advising - Geographers often work in an advisory capacity, providing guidance and assistance to professionals in other fields who need to take geographic factors into consideration.
  • Application - Some geographers focus on applying their expertise within a specific field of study. For example, geographers can play a key role in politics by identifying geographic factors that may impact election outcomes.

Examples of Jobs Geographers Can Do

Geographers can work in a number of different occupations. Any job that requires expertise related to land and/or population factors is one where expertise in geography would be beneficial. Examples include:

  • Atmospheric scientist
  • City planner
  • Conservationist
  • Environmental restoration professional
  • Fish and wildlife warden
  • Forestry manager
  • Freight forwarder
  • Geography teacher
  • GIS analyst or technician
  • Mapping technician
  • Park naturalist
  • Park ranger
  • Space scientist
  • Surveyor
  • Transportation specialist
  • Urban planner

Preparing to Work As a Geographer

Does the idea of working as a geographer appeal to you? If so, start making plans to go to college. A Bachelor's degree is the minimum credential required to work in this field, while many jobs may require a graduate degree.

  • Many schools offer Bachelor's degree programs in geography.
  • If you are interested in a specific aspect of geography, you may want to consider a degree in a specialized field of physical science like meteorology, oceanography, or environmental science.
  • You may also want to consider related fields, such as city or urban planning.

How Much Do Geographers Earn?

Wondering what geographers get paid? Professional geographers can earn a comfortable living. According to 2020 data reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median compensation for people who work in this field is over $85,000 per year. Payscale.com indicates that the average (mean) base pay is around $62,000. Starting pay is likely to begin in the mid-30s or 40s.

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What Do Geographers Do? Explore a Unique Career