Career, Salary and Education Information
What They Do: Geographers study the Earth and the distribution of its land, features, and inhabitants.
Work Environment: Most geographers work full time during standard business hours. Many geographers do fieldwork, which may include travel to foreign countries or remote locations.
How to Become One: Geographers need a bachelor’s degree for most entry-level positions and for positions within the federal government. Work experience and a master’s degree are typically required for more advanced positions.
Salary: The median annual wage for geographers is $85,220.
Job Outlook: Employment of geographers is projected to show little or no change over the next ten years.
Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of geographers with similar occupations.
Following is everything you need to know about a career as a geographer with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:
Top 3 Geographer Jobs
IT - Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Technician
- Daggett County
- Manila, UT
Daggett County in Manila, UT is looking to hire a full-time IT - Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Technician to maintain the county's GIS databases and computer systems. Are you well-trained in ...
Senior Stormwater Engineer / Geographic Business Development Lead
- Herrera Environmental Consultants, Inc.
- San Diego, CA
As a Senior Engineer and Geographic Business Development Lead in our Water Practice, you will join a team of experienced, creative, and mission driven professionals working on diverse projects across ...
Human Resources Generalist
- Valley Wide Cooperative
- Rexburg, ID
This position may also lead company-wide, strategic cross-functional projects which may expand beyond the designated geographic region. The HR Generalist - Business Support will work in close ...
What Geographers Do[About this section] [To Top]
Geographers study the Earth and the distribution of its land, features, and inhabitants. They also examine political or cultural structures and study the physical and human geographic characteristics of regions ranging in scale from local to global.
Duties of Geographers
Geographers typically do the following:
- Gather geographic data through field observations, maps, photographs, satellite imagery, and censuses
- Conduct research via surveys, interviews, and focus groups
- Create and modify maps or other visual representations of geographic data
- Analyze the geographic distribution of physical and cultural characteristics and occurrences
- Collect, analyze, and display geographic data with Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
- Write reports and present research findings
- Assist, advise, or lead others in using GIS and geographic data
- Link geographic data with data pertaining to a particular specialty, such as economics, the environment, health, or politics
Geographers use several technologies in their work, such as GIS, remote sensing, and global positioning systems (GPS). Geographers use GIS to find relationships and trends in geographic data. These systems allow geographers to present data visually as maps, reports, and charts. For example, geographers can overlay aerial or satellite images with GIS data, such as population density in a given region, and create digital maps. They then use the maps to inform governments, businesses, and the general public on a variety of issues, such as developing marketing strategies; planning homes, roads, and landfills; and responding to disasters.
The following are examples of types of geographers:
Physical geographers examine the physical aspects of a region and how they relate to humans. They study features of the natural environment, such as landforms, climates, soils, natural hazards, water, and plants. For example, physical geographers may map where a natural resource occurs in a country or study the implications of proposed economic development on the surrounding natural environment.
Human geographers analyze the organization of human activity and its relationships with the physical environment. Human geographers often combine issues from other disciplines into their research, which may include economic, environmental, medical, cultural, social, or political topics. In their research, some human geographers rely primarily on statistical techniques or quantitative methods, and others rely on nonstatistical sources or qualitative methods, such as field observations and interviews.
Geographers often work on projects with people in related fields. For example, geographers may work with urban planners, civil engineers, legislators, or real estate professionals to determine the best location for new public transportation infrastructure.
Some people with a geography degree become postsecondary teachers.
Many people who study geography and who use GIS in their work are employed as surveyors, cartographers and photogrammetrists, surveying and mapping technicians, urban and regional planners, or geoscientists.
Work Environment for Geographers[About this section] [To Top]
Geographers hold about 1,600 jobs. The largest employers of geographers are as follows:
|Federal government, excluding postal service||63%|
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||9%|
|Educational services; state, local, and private||9%|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||9%|
Geographers who do fieldwork may travel to foreign countries or remote locations to gather data and observe geographic features, such as the landscape and environment.
Geographer Work Schedules
Most geographers work full time.
How to Become a Geographer[About this section] [To Top]
Get the education you need: Find schools for Geographers near you!
Geographers need a bachelor's degree for most entry-level positions and for positions within the federal government. Work experience and a master's degree are typically required for more advanced positions.
Education for Geographers
Geographers with a bachelor's degree qualify for most entry-level jobs and for positions with the federal government. Geographers outside of the federal government may need a master's degree in geography or in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Some positions allow candidates to substitute work experience or GIS proficiency for an advanced degree. Top research positions usually require a Ph.D., or a master's degree and several years of relevant work experience.
Most geography programs include courses in both physical and human geography, statistics or math, remote sensing, and GIS. In addition, courses in specialized areas of expertise are becoming increasingly important because the geography field is broad and interdisciplinary. For example, business, economics, or real estate courses are becoming increasingly important for geographers working in private industry.
Other Experience for Geographers
Students and new graduates often gain experience through internships. This type of practical experience allows students to develop new skills, explore their interests, and become familiar with geography in practice. Internships can be useful for jobseekers, because some employers prefer workers who have practical experience.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Geographers
Although certification is not required, most positions require geographers to be proficient in GIS, and certification can demonstrate a level of professional expertise. The GIS Certification Institute offers the GIS Professional (GISP) certification for geographers. Candidates may qualify for certification through a combination of education, professional experience, and contributions to the profession, such as publications or participation in conferences. The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing also offers certification in GIS. Candidates may qualify for certification with 3 years of experience in GIS, four references, and the passing of a written exam.
Important Qualities for Geographers
Analytical skills. Geographers analyze information and spatial data from a variety of sources, such as maps, photographs, and censuses. They must then be able to draw conclusions from their analyses of different sets of data.
Computer skills. Geographers must be proficient in GIS programming and database management and should be comfortable creating and manipulating digital images with the GIS software.
Critical-thinking skills. Geographers need critical-thinking skills when doing research because they must choose the appropriate data, methods, and scale of analysis for projects. For example, after reviewing a set of population data, they may determine the implications of a particular development plan.
Speaking skills. Geographers must be able to communicate with coworkers; present, explain, and defend their research; and be a contributing member of teams.
Writing skills. Geographers often write reports or articles detailing their research findings. They also may need to write proposals so that they can receive funding for their research or projects.
Geographer Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]
The median annual wage for geographers is $85,220. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $53,410, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $118,380.
The median annual wages for geographers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Federal government, excluding postal service||$93,640|
|Educational services; state, local, and private||$64,760|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||$64,430|
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||$64,250|
Most geographers work full time during regular business hours.
Job Outlook for Geographers[About this section] [To Top]
Employment of geographers is projected to show little or no change over the next ten years.
Despite limited employment growth, about 100 openings for geographers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Employment of Geographers
Budget constraints are expected to reduce employment for geographers in federal government. However, governments and businesses will still need geographers to research topics such as natural hazards and the use of resources. For example, geographers’ analyses on population distribution and land use are important for infrastructure planning and development by both governments and businesses.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2021||Projected Employment, 2031||Change, 2021-31|
A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.