How to Become a Geographer (2023)

How to Become a Geographer (1)

Geographers study the earth, its land and systems, and its animal and human inhabitants. While this may sound quite broad, geography itself is a very broad field, encompassing both the natural and social sciences. Geography is generally divided into two subfields - physical and human. Physical geographers study the physical aspects of the surface of the planet, such as landforms, glaciers, atmospheric and hydrological phenomena, and natural hazards, and how they influence populations. Human geographers study human cultures and their political and economic characteristics. Physical and human geographers may work together to study humanity's interactions with the environment.

What Do Geographers Do?

Physical geographers examine physical features of the natural environment or landscape. For example, they may map the locations of glaciers, and study how their meltwaters affect the human communities downstream.

Human geographers analyze human activity and its relationships with the physical environment. Human geographers are further broken down into sub-fields.

  • Cultural geographers examine how various aspects of a particular culture relates to, and has been influenced by, its location.
  • Economic geographers study economic activities. They may research the geography or distribution of resources, supply chains, and how location influences industry.
  • Environmental geographers research how humans impact the environment. They often study climate change, habitat loss, biogeography (the distribution of wild animal populations), or desertification.
  • Medical geographers investigate the distribution of health issues and disease. For example, a medical geographer may map reported incidences of a disease.
  • Political geographers study the relationship between geography and political systems.
  • Regional geographers may study some or all of the above aspects of a particular region, ranging from a neighborhood to a continent.
  • Urban geographers study how geography relates to cities. For example, they may examine how transportation systems or city layouts affect population and health within a city.

Geographers typically gather data from field observations, maps, satellite and air photos, laser scans, and censuses. They then use technologies like geographic information systems (GIS), implementing quantitative and statistical methods, to map, analyze, and understand the data.

GIS is a powerful mapping technology used by geographers to overlay maps and data relating to a particular location, query and analyze their spatial relationships, run statistical analyses, and create new maps illustrating the resulting discoveries. The results are used for planning and policy making. For example, a geographer might overlay data on slope, precipitation, average wind speed, locations of energy grids and other buildings, etc. to find an optimal location for a new wind farm.

Due to the interdisciplinary nature of geography, geographers often work with or advise people in related fields. For example, they may work with legislators, engineers, energy companies and others to site a new energy facility.

Geographers may work under various job titles. For example, geographers and GIS specialists may work as GIS technicians, surveyors, cartographers and photogrammetrists, urban and regional planners, and geoscientists.

Where Does a Geographer Work?

As of 2012, 49 percent of about 1,700 geographers worked within the federal government. GIS specialists often work for state or local government. Many other geographers work for architectural and engineering firms. Geographers may also work as teachers or professors, at any level from kindergarten through to Ph.D. granting institutions. Most teach at colleges, universities, and professional schools.

Most geographers work full time and keep typical business hours. Many geographers do fieldwork to gather data on the environment, or the location of a site slated for development. Some geographers travel to foreign countries and remote destinations.

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What Is a Typical Geographer's Salary?

The median pay for geographers in 2020 was $85,430. At $92,080, the highest paid geographers worked for the federal government. Those in professional, scientific, and technical services earned a median salary of $86,740, while those in educational services earned a median of $63,310.*

Geography Jobs

Recent Geography Job Listings

Use the search box below to find all the geographer job listings in our job board.

Geographers use their knowledge of the planets physical, biological and urban features to review and assess all kinds of information. Geographers create data sets, which are fundamental in their use through other scientific disciplines throughout the world. While jobs do vary, most geographers will engage in the following tasks:

  • Proficient in a number of peripheral technologies and sub-disciplines, i.e. GIS, cartography, geology, remote sensing, photogrammetry, imagery analysis, urban planning
  • Assess all sources of geographic information in all its varied forms (paper, digital, internet, etc)
  • Create data sets and maps that inform many other scientific disciplines and intelligence agencies
  • Conduct research relating to the various aspects of physical, climatological, and human geography
  • Generate reports
  • Review scientific literature and data in order to stay updated in the field
  • Consult with policy makers and government liaisons to debrief about current geographical issues
  • Be comfortable with temporary, short-notice travel
  • Fluency in another language is always an asset

Second-tier geographers often assume the role of team leader or senior advisor to their workgroup. As such, they may have more managerial responsibilities, such as:

  • Reporting to senior administrators and stakeholders
  • Consulting with all levels of government to designate and inform land use
  • Have a deep grasp of geographic technology spanning back through history
  • Be a thought leader and innovator in today's technology from traditional cartography to GPS
  • Have an astute understanding in foreign affairs
  • Manage and retain contracts from third parties
  • Secure funding
  • Ensure projects are completed on time and within budgetary constraints
  • Mentor junior members of the workgroup
  • Foster a positive and challenging work environment
  • Participate in conferences and networking opportunities

What Is the Job Demand for Geographers?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there will be little to no change in the number of jobs for geographers between 2020 and 2030. Despite the limited growth, the profession should see about 100 job openings each year.*

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What Are Geographer Education Requirements?

While a bachelor's degree may be sufficient for some entry-level jobs in government and nonprofits, these jobs often require GIS training. While one-year educational certificates in GIS are available, these are generally designed to supplement, rather than replace, study in other specialties such as geography, geology, environmental science, and archaeology. Geographers need at least a master's degree for most positions outside of government. Research positions usually require a master's degree or doctorate and several years of related work experience.

Most geography programs offer courses in physical and human geography, statistics, remote sensing, and GIS. A solid background in applied technologies such as GIS, GPS and remote sensing is essential. Specializing in a particular aspect of geography, such as water resources, economic geography, GIS, or urban geography, is also advantageous to workers in this very broad field.

While the profession is expanding, it's still relatively small in size and competition is strong. Gaining experience through internships, part-time jobs, or volunteering is important. Certification for GIS professionals, offered through the GIS Certification Institute, is highly advantageous for prospective GIS specialists, particularly for those without advanced degrees.

Related Degree Options for Geographers

  • Applied Anthropology Degrees
  • Geodesign Online Degree Info
  • Biological Science Degree Options
  • Environmental Biology Degree
  • Meteorology Online Degree and Certificate

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What Kind of Societies and Professional Organizations Do Geographers Have?

  • At over 100 years old, the Association of American Geographers (AAG) ( is the foremost professional association for geographers of all stripes. The organization advocates for geography education and the inclusion of geographers in policymaking, hosts an annual conference, publishes a scholarly journal, and disseminates news through its newsletter. Check the job board, or network through its specialty groups and regional divisions.
  • The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) ( focuses on the applied technologies used by geographers, geologists and others, including remote sensing, GIS, LiDAR scanning, and other tools. The society advances the evolution of these technologies, offers training and professional development, and facilitates peer networking.
  • The Society for Conservation GIS (SCGIS) ( is an organization for geographers and others who use GIS for their work in environmental conservation. The group offers free webinars, a job board, annual conference, and local involvement through chapters.

*2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures and job growth projections for geographers reflect national data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed September 2021.


How do you become a geographer? ›

Geographers working outside of the federal government may need a master's degree in geography or in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Some employers allow candidates to substitute work experience or GIS proficiency for an advanced degree. Research positions may require a Ph.

How can I get better at geography? ›

Read books about countries, landmarks, oceans and weather as these are extremely important in Geography. Don't read hard books at the start, read children's and teenager's books to gradually build up your knowledge.

What are 5 basic skills that geographers use? ›

The skills that geographers need to be successful can be categorized into five main categories: Analytical, computer, critical-thinking, presentation, and communication (oral and written) skills.

Is it easy to become a geographer? ›

Geographers need at least a master's degree for most positions outside of government. Research positions usually require a master's degree or doctorate and several years of related work experience. Most geography programs offer courses in physical and human geography, statistics, remote sensing, and GIS.

Is geography easy to study? ›

When it comes to learning each subject separately, it will be easy but gets tough as we go into the higher levels. However, overall, it's a good learning experience. One such subject is Geography, where we learn about the types of landforms, physical structures of the Earth, space and so on.

How can I memorize 10x fast? ›

6 Tips on How to Memorize Fast and Easily
  1. Understand your learning style.
  2. Learn the 3 'R's of memorization.
  3. Practice the substitution method.
  4. Learn the story and link method.
  5. Use the memory palace method.
  6. Apply spaced repetition strategically.
Feb 12, 2021

Is geography exam hard? ›

Geography exams can be difficult to study for, especially since they require memorization skills. Maps and cities can be tricky to visualize. There are lots of specialist terms that can become confusing and mixed-up in your head, especially if geography isn't your best subject.

What is the best skill for a geographer? ›

Geographers should also possess the following specific qualities:
  • Analytical skills. Geographers commonly analyze information and spatial data from a variety of sources, such as maps, photographs, and censuses. ...
  • Communication skills. ...
  • Computer skills. ...
  • Critical-thinking skills. ...
  • Writing skills.

Why is geography so hard? ›

As a subject, Geography introduces spatial thinking to a student, some people will never understand the concept, that is, how a compass only ever points to magnetic north, not the North Pole, it also introduces landforms, tectonic plates for countries to sit on, country names, capital cities, river systems, mountain ...

What makes a good geography student? ›

Characteristics of a Geographer

Fluency in complex, geographical enquiry and the ability to apply questioning skills and use effective analytical and presentational techniques. The ability to reach clear conclusions and develop a reasoned argument to explain findings.

What are the top 10 reasons to study geography? ›

Why Study Geography? 11 Reasons
  • Space Vs. Place Awareness. ...
  • A Global Community. When a child or adult studies geography, they are further on their way to becoming a global citizen. ...
  • Nonfiction Reading Skills. ...
  • Learn The Course Of History. ...
  • Travel Smart. ...
  • Understand Globalization. ...
  • Global Interdependence. ...
  • Putting The News In Context.

What are 3 questions geographers ask? ›

The key geographic questions ask Where is it located? Why is it there? What is the significance of the location? As students pose additional questions, they seek responses that help to organize spatial understandings: What is this place like?

What are 6 things geographers study? ›

The six essential elements are The World in Spatial Terms, Places and Regions, Physical Systems, Human Systems, Environment and Society, and The Uses of Geography.

Do Geographers need math? ›

As is for all sciences, mathematics is needed by the geographer to help coordinate those experiences which the qualitative criteria is unable to bring to a complete logical system. For it is mathematics, the technique par excellance, that implements a comprehensive order in the knOWledge of some fields in geography.

Is geography harder than sociology? ›

Both Sociology and Geography are popular optionals in the Civil Services Exam. Geography surpasses Sociology if you look at the absolute numbers of candidates opting for the subjects.

What kind of math does a geographer use? ›

A number of ways in which mathematics is used in geography are mentioned. Plane Euclidean geometry is used in surveying small areas in the field, while spherical geometry and trigonometry are required in the construction of map projections, both traditional elements of mathematical geography.

Why do students fail geography? ›

Poor map work, inadequate preparation and scanty explanation of points were identified. Ideal geography teachers ought to be multiplied in schools, with the utilization of relevant instructional resources and student-centered teaching strategies for improvements. Keywords: Grounded theory methodology.

What grade do you take geography? ›

Incoming 9th graders can choose to take either World Geography or World History their freshman year. However, it is HIGHLY recommended by both the World Geography and the World History teachers at Cypress Woods that incoming freshmen take World Geography and then wait to take World History in their 10th grade year.

What grade do people learn geography? ›

Depending on the education laws in your state, a typical course of study for 7th grade social studies will include geography, Earth's features, the various economic and political systems around the world, and global cultures.

What are the 2 major studies in geography? ›

Geography is subdivided into human geography (study of location and other aspects of human activities) and physical geography (study of landforms, geology, climate, etc.).

What are 5 reasons we study geography? ›

Benefits of studying geography
  • Varied academic knowledge. ...
  • Shape the direction of your degree. ...
  • Highly desirable transferable skills. ...
  • Broad choice of future careers. ...
  • Gain practical experience with fieldwork. ...
  • Prepare for an international career. ...
  • Make a difference. ...
  • Postgraduate opportunities.
Jan 3, 2021

What are the 7 key concepts of geography? ›

Concepts. The Geography curriculum identifies the concepts of place, space, environment, interconnection, sustainability, scale and change, as integral to the development of geographical understanding.

What are the 3 R's of memory? ›

To study effectively remember the 3Rs: reading or looking at charts, maps, web sites, etc; recording or taking notes to help you remember what you have read; and reviewing, or going over your notes so you will remember the information you have learned.

How can I study fast without forgetting? ›

Now let's look at some of the ways research shows you can remember more and forget less:
  1. Drink coffee to improve memory consolidation. ...
  2. Meditate to improve working memory.
  3. Eat berries for better long-term memory.
  4. Exercise to improve memory recall.
  5. Chew gum to make stronger memories.
  6. Sleep more to consolidate memories.

Why can't I memorize anything? ›

Major memory changes don't always signal Alzheimer's disease. They can be caused by strokes, head injuries, lack of vitamins in your diet, or sleep trouble. They might even be a side effect of one of the drugs you're taking. When in doubt, see a doctor to sort it out.

What is the pass rate for geography? ›

Geography not only has a very high student pass rate (at 98.7%) it is considered easy by many students because the course content is so engaging.

How to study for a geography test in one night? ›

A good rule of thumb is to focus for 30- to 45-minute increments followed by 5-minute breaks. If you try to cram in all the information the night before the test, your brain will overload and you'll have to work to regain your focus on studying.

How much do you need to pass geography? ›

You'll need a passmark at least 40% for your home language. You'll need a passmark at least 40% for 4 other high credit subjects. You'll need a passmark at least 30% for 2 other subjects.

What are hard skills in geography? ›

The most common hard skill for a geographer is spatial data. 18.6% geographers have this skill on their resume. The second most common hard skill for a geographer is arcgis appearing on 14.1% of resumes. The third most common is remote sensing on 13.9% of resumes.

What is key to thinking like a geographer? ›

Thinking Like a Geographer focuses on high-interest, career-related topics in the elementary curriculum related to geography. Students will explore interdisciplinary content, foster creativity, and develop higher order thinking skills with activities aligned to relevant content area standards.

Can you fail human geography? ›

If you fail the AP® Human Geography exam, you will not receive college credit for the course. Most colleges will not award college credit for any score lower than a 3 (some schools require a 4 for college credit). If college credit is your goal and you failed or scored lower than a 3, you will need to retake the exam.

What makes a good geography essay? ›

There needs to be a logical, well-structured flow of your paragraphs and argument as a whole, where the final sentence of the paragraph leads the reader logically into the next paragraph. You need to avoid jumping from one issue to another, and back.

What is the main purpose of geography? ›

Geography seeks to understand where things are found, why they are there, and how they develop and change over time.

Which is the most important study method in geography? ›

Among all the methods of teaching geography, Project method is the most important which is frequently applicable to teaching-learning process. It is a method which stands against the traditional method of teaching where the theoretical knowledge from the book is accepted 01 received by the students.

What are key words in geography? ›

Basic Geography Words & Map Terms
  • latitude.
  • longitude.
  • topographic map.
  • political map.
  • scale.
  • distribution.
May 19, 2022

What are 5 facts about geography? ›

Here are some incredible, geographic facts about this planet we call Earth.
  • Continents shift at about the same rate as your fingernails grow.
  • Mt. ...
  • Ninety percent of Earth's population lives in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • 4. California has more people than all of Canada. ...
  • Australia is wider than the moon.
Sep 23, 2022

What is a good geography question? ›

Easy Geography Trivia Questions. Trivia Question: What is the name of the tallest mountain in the world? Trivia Question: Which country has the largest population in the world? Trivia Question: What are the names of the seven continents of the world?

How many years does it take to study geography? ›

An undergraduate-level (bachelor's) geography degree will usually last three or four years, depending on the country of study, while master's programs take one or two years. Teaching methods will include lectures, seminars and field work, often involving extended trips to different locations.

How much money do geographers make? ›

How Much Does a Geographer Make? Geographers made a median salary of $85,220 in 2021. The best-paid 25% made $102,060 that year, while the lowest-paid 25% made $64,740.

Is geography a good career? ›

With its opportunities for hands-on learning, as well as its interdisciplinary and holistic approach that spans the natural and social sciences, a degree in Geography will prepare you for many types of careers in private industry, government, non-profits, research, and higher education.

Is being a geographer a good career? ›

Yes, geography is a good major for many undergraduate students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 5% job growth for life, physical, and social science occupations. Professionals with knowledge in this field and related fields can move into a range of meaningful professional roles.


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