Careers in Geography
Geography students graduate with a broad skillset in both the Arts and Sciences, and this positions them for a wide and exciting diversity of career opportunities. Many geography students choose to continue their education into more specialized fields, e.g. Planning or Education, while most move directly into the workforce. Areas for employment includes:
Many geography students continue on to prepare for careers in education, either through entering a teacher education program or by directly entering the workforce. While many of these careers are within the K-12 education sector, others are not, and involve public outreach and education, placements with private companies that require teachers (e.g. cruise ships), and working with local and national park systems in education program development. Geography students may also seek work with private firms who develop educational materials, either in geography or in a related field (e.g. forestry).
Environmental and development organizations hire geography students who are well-prepared for work on specific issues or causes. These often include conservation organizations, international aid organizations, or community development associations. Specific skills, e.g. communications, GIS, team-building, cultural sensitivity, are needed for many of these careers.
Geography students are commonly employed by the public sector at all levels, from local government on up to international organizations (e.g. the UN). The skills and knowledge that geographers bring to the workforce are often most highly utilized in fields that fall within the mandate of government agencies. These include:
- Planning (urban, rural, recreation, transportation, heritage)
- K-12 education
- Environmental and social program development and management
- Natural resource management and regulation (fisheries, forestry, mining, energy, etc.)
- National, provinicial, and regional park management and planning
- Data collection, management, and anlaysis, e.g. Statistics Canada
- Sustainability coordinator
- Environmental stewardship initiatives
- Water quality, soil science, and environmental health
- Public health initiatives
- Real estate assessment
- Public transportation management and planning
- Customs and immigration
- Development specialist
- GIS technician/ cartography for natural resources, policing, planning, etc.
- Heritage mapping and interpretation
The private sector is the richest source of employment opportunities for geographers, in part because of the many different industries that geographers can enter. These include jobs utilizing both Arts and Sciences skillsets and knowledge. Employment can include:
- Market research and analysis, e.g. helping firms find the best place to locate
- Logistics and transportation analysis
- Supply chain management, e.g. working with a company to find the ideal sources for key inputs, based on geographic and other variables
- Environmental consulting
- Tourism and recreation firms
- Architecture firms
- GIS technicians and cartographers, e.g. for newspapers, developers, and retail firms
- Geotechnicians, e.g. assessing slope stability for new development
- Sustainability managers
- Forecasters, esp. in agriculture and finance
- Development of educational and outreach materials for firms
Many of the jobs above can work in multiple sectors. For instance, planners are hired by both government agencies and by private developers. Students often need to complete additional credentials and education for many of these jobs, although entry-level equivalents are available for students with Bachelor's level education--e.g. planning technician. The key is to think broadly, and to be flexible when considering career fields. Many of the 'best' jobs are not ones that are conventional or well-known, but are nonetheless in high demand.
Check out some of the following resources for more information on geography careers, salaries (US data), and how to best prepare for different fields:
Association of American Geographers Careers Guide.