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Geography Careers

Career Description

Geographers study nature and use of areas of earth’s surface, relating and interpreting interactions of physical and cultural phenomena. Conduct research on physical aspects of a region, including land forms, climates, soils, plants and animals, and conduct research on the spatial implications of human activities within a given area, including social characteristics, economic activities, and political organization, as well as researching interdependence between regions at scales ranging from local to global.

Common Work Tasks

  • Analyze distributions of physical and cultural phenomena on local, regional, continental, and global scales
  • Study the distribution of resources and economic activities
  • Examine variations in climate, vegetation, soil,  and landforms and their implications for human activity
  • Study the physical, economic, political, and cultural characteristics of regions ranging in size from a congressional district to entire continents
  • Investigate health care delivery systems,  epidemiology (the study of the causes and control of epidemics), and the effect of the environment on health
  • Use GIS to create computerized maps that can track information such as population growth, traffic patterns, environmental hazards, natural resources, and weather patterns, after which they use the information to advise governments on the development of houses, roads, or landfills
  • Write and present reports of research findings
  • Locate and obtain existing geographic information databases

Other Job Titles

Geographers are also known by other titles, including:

  • Anthropologists
  • Geologists
  • Hydrologists
  • Physical Scientists

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
Graduates with master’s degrees in applied specialties usually are qualified for positions outside of colleges and universities, although requirements vary by field. A Ph.D. degree may be required for higher-level positions. Bachelor’s degree holders have limited opportunities and do not qualify for most of occupations. A bachelor’s degree does, however, provide a suitable background for many different kinds of entry-level jobs in related occupations, such as research assistant, writer, management trainee, or market analyst.

Geographers need excellent written and oral communication skills to report research findings and to collaborate on research. Successful geographers also need intellectual curiosity and creativity because they constantly seek new information about people, things, and ideas. The ability to think logically and methodically is also essential to analyze complicated issues. Objectivity,  an open mind, and systematic work habits are important in all kinds of research. Perseverance, too, is often necessary, as when an geographer spends years studying artifacts from an ancient civilization before making a final analysis and interpretation.


The median annual salary of a Geographer is $65,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $97,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $40,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of geographers are:

  • Federal Executive Branch - $71,780
  • Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services  - $58,910
  • Local Government  - $54,240
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools  - $48,130
  • Scientific Research and Development Services - $56,650

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  6%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 100
  • Employment 2006 : 1,100
  • Employment 2016:  1,200
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