Geography is the study of the peoples, places, and physical makeup of the earth. It isn’t just a class you have to take in middle school; it’s one of those subjects that you don’t realize you use every day. If you’re wondering just what you can do with a degree in geography, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for a deeper look at geography, some higher education facilities that offer noteworthy geography programs, and just a select few types of jobs you may qualify for when you earn your geography degree.
Branches of Geography
There are two main branches of geography: physical geography and human geography. A brief definition of each is provided below.
Physical geography encompasses the natural sciences in an attempt to understand the tangible makeup of the planet’s environment. It is the study of the many layers of the earth and the part that is most visible to the human eye, the environment that rests on the top layer.
Human geography uses the social sciences to study human cultures and their economies. People who study human geography focus on how the human species affects and is affected by the earth, including how natural disasters affect cultures.
How to Get a Geography Degree
If you plan to study geography in college, then you should ask your guidance counselor what other electives you can take in high school to better prepare you for a higher education in geography. Doing well in your natural science courses–earth science, biology, chemistry, physics–will also help your chances of getting accepted to a school with an exceptional geography program. You should begin looking at universities and colleges early in your senior year of high school so you can apply to schools right away.
The Department of Geography and the Environment at the University of Texas at Austin offers three separate bachelor degrees. Students who major in geography can choose to earn a Bachelor of Science in Geography, a Bachelor of Science in Urban Studies, or a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science. With opportunities for studying abroad, taking on an internship to gain in-field experience, and even participating in research studies, this research university is an excellent place to earn your degree in geography. The school even has graduate programs in which you can earn a Master of Arts in Geography as well as a PhD in Geography.
The Department of Geography at the University of Florida offers undergraduate students a Bachelor of Arts in Geography, a Bachelor of Science in Geography, and a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Geoscience, choosing whether they want to focus their studies more on human geography or physical geography. Lab assignments are computer-based so that students gain experience with the technological aspect of geography and learn how to analyze and interpret data necessary for creating geographic models and solving problems. Graduate students can earn their masters degree and doctoral degree in geography, as well. And don’t forget about the campus Geography Club! If you want to get down and dirty with your peers, check out what the Geography Club has to offer.
The Department of Geography and Regional Studies at the University of Miami offers students opportunities to study abroad in countries like Africa to gain geographical experience in an entirely different region to build their chances of getting jobs in their field right out of college. While undergraduates are earning their bachelors degree in geography, they can choose to specialize in one of many topics directly related to geography including Global Urban Geography, Applied Climatology, Environmental Change, and more in order to better prepare themselves for the career paths of their choice. Graduate students can earn a masters degree in geography, as well.
If you’re constantly on the go or if you don’t have the means to get to the college or university of your choice, you can always consider earning a geography degree online. The World Wide Web is packed with online schools waiting to help you reach your goals while not interrupting your day-to-day responsibilities.
Careers in Geography
Before graduating from a college or university with a degree in geography, you should decide what career path you plan to take upon graduating. This section provides just a few ideas of positions you may qualify for once you earn your geography degree.
Entry Level Careers in Geography
Upon earning your bachelors degree in geography, you may qualify for one or more of the positions described here.
Geographic Information System Specialist
A geographic information system (GIS) specialist creates maps and updates data with specialized software specifically designed for GIS specialists so that they may supply companies they work for with maps to assist in construction projects or government planning. GIS specialists typically possess a bachelors degree in geography with background knowledge in business or political science and are skilled at analyzing data.
GIS specialists can earn around $40,000 annually, depending on experience and education levels.
Simply put, a photogrammetrist is someone who creates maps with the use of photography. These maps are meant to better show the earth’s surface–mountains, rivers, and everything in between–for companies and organizations that have plans to utilize specific geographical areas. A bachelors degree in geography is highly impressive to those who are hiring photogrammetrists.
Photogrammetrists can earn around $52,000 annually, based on education and talent levels.
Advanced Careers in Geography
Once you earn your advanced degree in geography, whether it’s a masters degree or doctoral degree, you may qualify for one or more of the positions elaborated on here.
An urban planner looks for ways to improve a certain area within a city for a specific purpose. Urban planners often focus their work on one particular characteristic of a city, such as improving transportation or better utilizing natural resources within a city. They meet with city officials and community members in order to gain a general feel for the project at hand, and they often work with the government and architectural firms in order to assist the implementation of projects. Urban planners typically have background knowledge, or a bachelors degree, in geography with a masters degree in urban planning.
Urban planners can earn over $53,000 annually, based on education and experience levels.
Climatologists study how climate affects human activities like construction projects and crop growth. In studying the climate, they are able to create maps that predict forthcoming weather conditions. It is often preferred by hiring companies that those applying for climatologist positions possess a degree in meteorology, but it is not uncommon for individuals experienced in the field of geography with a masters degree in geography to also become climatologists.
Climatologists with a masters degree or higher can earn around $79,000 a year, based on education and experience levels.
Companies that Hire People with Geography Degrees
Once you’ve figured out your career path and you’ve earned your degree, it’s time to go job hunting. The job market is a vicious territory, and geography isn’t necessarily the most highly sought after degree by employers. However, there are some out there who have job openings available that you should apply for. A brief list of companies that hire people with geography degrees is provided below.
Vision Services Group, LLC – formed in 2013 and located in Norcross, GA; provides aerial imaging solutions; hires positions for photogrammetrists, imagery analysts, etc.
Surveying And Mapping, Inc. – locations in TX; surveying, aerial mapping, and engineering company; hires positions for survey technicians, construction inspectors, survey officers, etc.
Homer Electric Association – located in Homer, AK; hires positions for GIS specialists, engineers, etc.
Rio Tinto – located in London, England; British-Austrailian metals and mining corporation; hires positions for GIS specialists, electrical supervisors, power engineers, etc.
SRF Consulting Group, Inc. – located in Minneapolis, MN; hires positions for transportation planners, construction administrators, engineers, survey technicians, etc.
Once you earn a geography degree, you’ll find you qualify for significantly more jobs. Since the world is constantly changing, geographers are needed on a constant basis. Do your research on schools with excellent geography programs as well as jobs related to geography in order to help better guide you on your academic journey.