Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
CHOOSING A CAREER / SEP. 30, 2014
version 3, draft 3

How to Become a Geographer in the US

Geographers study the earth and its features. They observe the characteristics of physical phenomena such as the land, mountains and rivers. They are also interested in the inter-relationship between humans and the earth. They seek to understand how the characteristics of the earth shape human activity and vice versa.

Geographers turn up useful information about the environment and offer up critical analysis about contemporary problems such as global warming. Geography can be categorized as economic, social, cultural, political, urban, regional and so on, depending on the specific aspect of human and physical features that you wish to study. Therefore, you will need to choose a specialization based on your specific area of interest. Geography is both a natural and social science, so it is a great career path for those who are naturally curious about how various phenomena come about.

What Does a Geographer Do?

  • Depending on their specific area of interest, geographers collect data through qualitative methods such as interviews, surveys and census and quantitative methods such as statistical analyses
  • They also study maps, photographs, satellite imagery and other representations of an area to understand the physical features and human activity therein and also to modify the same using the date they collect
  • Analyze the geographic distribution of physical features and map occurrences such as temperature, rainfall and extreme weather conditions to provide information about the area
  • Use their geographic findings to inform policies, strategies, future development planning and other human activities in an area
  • Develop spatial theories of location, distribution and interaction which enable people not only to discover previously unknown facts about a location but also inform research in other disciplines. For example, spatial location models have enhanced understanding of marine life in the deep ocean

Qualifications

  • You will need to have an advanced degree to work as a geographer. The Bachelor’s degree will cover courses such as physical and human geography, mathematics, statistics and research methods. You will also be trained on how to use geographical equipment and methods such as remote sensing, computer mapping and geographic information system technology (GIS)
  • At the Masters level, you will be able to specialize in the area of geography you wish to work in. To qualify for top-research positions and to head field teams, you will need to have a PhD
  • The job is ideal for people with natural curiosity and learning aptitude. You will also require sharp analytical skills that allow you to determine how various factors are inter-connected and to draw logical conclusions based on your findings
  • Since geography involves a lot of information gathering, you should be astute in both field and secondary research
  • The ability to interact with people from different cultures is another skill that is useful in the conduct of this job
  • Additional core competencies are adaptability and team-work skills
  • Internships and field experiences not only give you a chance to learn what the job entails but also give you insight as to whether you have what it takes to do the job in terms of the required skills and aptitude.

Salary

Geographers are in demand, primarily because they study human and physical interaction and are in a position to inform any number of policies, strategies and plans of action. The job outlook as at 2012 was one of the highest at 29% as compared to national average of 8%. The salary range was:

Entry level

 

$41,910

Mid career

 

$74,760

Successful

 

$103,870

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Work Environment

The work involves substantial travel and you can sometimes end up in places with extreme weather or no modern conveniences. Conversely, when you are compiling your findings, you will spend many hours in the research laboratories and offices. From time to time, you will have an opportunity to present your work to various audiences. Arguably, geographers have the most dynamic work environment of all the existing occupations.

Career Prospects

Geographers can use their unique knowledge of human and environmental patterns in virtually any industry. For example, in online mapping companies to improve services, in consumer goods and services companies to understand client choices, in telecommunications companies to make sense of traffic data, in business for market area analysis, in government for urban and regional planning and development. Geographers can branch into any profession due to their specialized analytical skills. The profession is highly marketable and offers limitless opportunities for career growth.

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