There are different types of geography degrees. Human geography is the study of relationships between cultures, communities, and other human relationships, whereas physical geographers study the processes that shape our planet.
Geography is a fascinating subject, but unlike some other degrees, such as business studies or computer science, it might not be immediately obvious to know which jobs might benefit from a degree, but there are quite a few good career options to choose from. This article takes you through the top ten best career opportunities to follow with a geography degree, as well as their average salaries, sourced from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What they do: Geographers study the earth, its features, the planet’s natural processes, and the people that live here. The role is science-led and serves to discover knowledge to improve our understanding of the planet. Geographers working in the field will conduct experiments and observations, before reporting back to companies or educational institutions with geographical data.
How to become: Significant education in geography or Geographic Information Systems (GIS) will be important if you want to become a geographer. This will involve studying at master’s level, and if you really want to gain a job in a prestigious institution, pursuing a doctorate will be important too. You can also become accredited via the GIS Certification Institute.
What they earn: $86,740
2. Industrial ecologist
What they do: Industrial ecologists perform experiments and analyze data from the natural world to understand how environments are being impacted by factors like pollution, the weather, and by human activities. The role is an important part of environmental science and industrial ecologists’ assessments will often form the basis of scientific reports and sometimes be used by government agencies.
How to become: As much as geography is very important, some education or experience in environmental studies or sustainability will also be useful. The role is chiefly concerned with preparing scientific assessments so some research experience, such as that obtained in a master’s or doctorate degree, will be essential for success in this role.
What they earn: $81,240
3. Conservation scientist
What they do: Conservation scientists study the natural environment and make assessments on how plants and animals are faring in their habitats. Conservation scientists will assess if a certain organism is endangered and make recommendations to scientists, companies, and the government on how it might be best to look after threatened species.
How to become: A geography degree will enable you to understand the relationship between natural organisms and the world around them, but a master’s degree in conservation science will be essential in this role. A doctorate degree will help you understand how to craft scientific reports relating to conservation, too.
What they earn: $68,230
4. Range manager
What they do: Range managers are responsible for the health and upkeep of forests. They will work outside in forests, developing new areas of growth and ensuring that existing woodland is looked after, and protecting the general area from human factors and adverse weather. The role works very closely with conservationists to ensure the long-term wellbeing of forestry areas.
How to become: Range managers need to have an excellent understanding of a wide variety of ecosystems before taking on the role. Geography graduates might gain this from doing work experience or an apprenticeship under an existing range manager. Vocational colleges will offer education related to forestry, and some experience or education in conservation will be useful as well.
What they earn: $68,230
5. Environmental scientist
What they do: Environmental scientists have deep expertise in geographical knowledge as well as other areas of the environment and will use this knowledge and practical techniques, such as remote sensing, to protect the environment and those that live in local areas, whether they are humans, plants, or animals. This is a complex role that serves to inform companies and governments of correct courses of action.
How to become: After completing a geography degree, a master’s or doctorate degree in environmental science is essential for you to succeed in this role. Some work experience in conversation or environmental management will also be advantageous for you to understand the context behind the job.
What they earn: $81,240
What they do: Teachers have one of the most responsible jobs of all, educating young people on various subjects. Geography teachers will cover many elements of the subject, ranging from simple topics such as volcanoes, to more detailed scientific information like geographical models and theory, depending on the age of the class.
How to become: After graduating, prospective teachers need to enroll in a student teacher program, where they will learn the skills behind creating lessons, interacting with children, and providing a quality education. Teachers in the US need to be licensed. This can vary from state to state but will often follow Educational Testing Service (ETS) standards.
What they earn: $62,140
What they do: There’s more to being a librarian than just sorting books. Librarians look after information and can be involved in archiving online articles, information management, or specializing in a certain subject in depth. Librarians can work for private companies, local organizations, or even for the federal government.
How to become: Librarians will need to have a postgraduate degree, ideally in a subject like Library Science (MLS), although the American Library Association (ALA) can provide a list of accredited degrees. Work experience or an apprenticeship as a trainee librarian is also advantageous. Given the complexity of the role and the different types of librarians, picking your desired career path will also be very important!
What they earn: $64,180
What they do: Cartographers study land to create maps of terrain or urban areas. They will also analyze data (such as population, weather, biodiversity and so on) to develop specialist maps that outline this information. Another important duty for cartographers is to study existing maps and update or correct them as needed. Some cartographers will only specialize in the analysis of older or ancient maps.
How to become: Whereas a geography degree (preferably a master’s as well as a bachelor’s) is important, the role of cartographer is changing as the profession becomes increasingly digital. Therefore, some experience and education in web design, online tools and information technology will be extremely important to have as well.
What they earn: $73,510
What they do: Surveyors are typically employed by companies or governments to undertake in-depth and technical analysis of ground, locations, and buildings to ascertain if they need modifying or if they fit to build on or inhabit. The role fulfills an important financial purpose in terms of property risk assessment but is chiefly concerned with the geography of the area being surveyed.
How to become: Surveyors need to have a license in the US, but this can be achieved through spending several years undertaking work experience under a surveyor who is already licensed. Otherwise, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying will award licenses but require that your state’s minimum educational requirements are met, that you pass the Fundamentals of Surveying (FS) and Principles and Practice of Surveying (PS) exams, and that you gain work experience.
What they earn: $68,880
10. Urban planner
What they do: Urban planners typically work for city governments but can be employed privately. Their role is to plan cities and towns, through understanding the geographical complexities of the locations being earmarked for development. They will typically work with developers, governments, and architects to critique what can and cannot be done with urban space.
How to become: Urban planners will typically have higher education experience in a field such as architecture, social science, or environmental management, as well as geography. In addition to this, work experience in a city planning department will be advantageous.
What they earn: $81,310
A degree in geography is not only versatile, but it can also give you an awesome job title that forms part of some truly incredible career paths. These geography careers are linked through working in nature and with natural resources. Therefore, these jobs have big impacts and can get you working in the great outdoors. And let’s face it, if you are planning to undertake a geography degree, you will have at least a passing interest in this lifestyle. Having a passion for geography, as well as a degree in the subject, will stand you in great stead for a career that is truly aligned to what you care about.
Are you looking for a career after completing your geography degree? Which career are you looking into? Let us know in the comments!