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Geographer: Career Information

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Job Description:

A geographer studies the land, features, inhabitants and phenomena of a specific region or area of the earth. This social scientist may use what he or she learns through this research to help governments and businesses plan where to build homes and roads, respond to disasters and develop marketing strategies.

Geographers can specialize in several different areas of study, but most people who work in this field are physical or cultural geographers. A physical geographer studies the physical aspects of a particular region while a cultural geographer's focus is on the effect human activities, including economic activities, social characteristics and political organization, have on it.

Travel is a big part of geographers' lives as their research often takes them to the regions they are studying. If you don't like traveling, which might include internationally and sometimes to very remote places, this may not be the right career for you.

Employment Facts:

There were almost 2,000 geographers employed in the US in 2010. Most worked for the United States government. Others were employed by state and local governments; colleges and universities; and professional, scientific and technical service firms.

Educational Requirements:

If you want to work in this occupation, you will generally need a master's degree in geography. There are some positions available for geographers who have a bachelor's degree, but they will most likely be limited to government jobs. Someone who has his or her eye on a faculty position at a college or university will definitely need a PhD.

Your degree in geography does not limit you to working in this occupation. Your education will also prepare you for related careers including surveyor, urban or regional planner, geoscientist and cartographer.

Why Do You Need to Know About Educational Requirements?

Other Requirements:

Because a geographer must present research findings both in writing and at professional conferences and meetings, he or she should have excellent analytical skills, writing skills and presentation skills. He or she also needs to be able to think critically.

Advancement Opportunities:

With experience and a strong publication record, a geographer, like other social scientists, can advance to a top-level research or administrative position.

Why Do You Need to Know About Advancement?

Job Outlook:

The job outlook for this field is excellent. Geographers are projected to experience much faster job growth through 2020 than the average for all other occupations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts it will be one of the fastest growing occupations that requires a master's degree.

Why Do You Need to Know About Job Outlook?

Earnings:

Geographers earned a median annual salary of $74,760 and a median hourly salary of $35.94 in 2011.

Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much a geographer currently earns in your city.

A Day in Geographer's Life:

On a typical day geographer's tasks might include:

  • studying maps, satellite images, aerial photographs and making field observiations in order to gather data
  • using qualitative methods, including focus groups and interviews, and quantitative methods, such as statistical analysis, in their research
  • writing up and presenting research findings
  • using geographic information software to create and modify maps, graphs or diagrams

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Social Scientists, Other, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/geographers.htm (visited July 27, 2012).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Geographer, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/19-3092.00 (visited July 27, 2012).

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