Career Opportunities in Geography
Geography is an interdisciplinary field that takes a spatial approach to studying phenomena. Geographers are interested in how physical or human-related phenomena are distributed across space (mapping), the underlying physical or social causes for the past or current distributions, how phenomena (i.e., resources, cultures, households, energy, ideas, etc.) are transferred from one place to another, and predicting or planning for future distributions of phenomena. Using a spatial point of view, a geographer can focus on any of a wide range of topics that include physical geography, human geography, and human-environment interactions. Because of this, geography pairs very well with many other fields of study from the physical sciences to the social sciences to the humanities to computer sciences.
The Geosciences Department offers three options for completing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography. Students may major in Geography with no declared concentration, or they may concentrate their coursework in either Environmental Studies or Urban & Regional Planning. General Geography provides the student with a broad understanding of geographical thought and practice. The Geography degree is a liberal arts degree that prepares the student for a wide variety of career opportunities as well as for graduate studies. Concentration in Environmental Studies is designed to promote competencies required to work with environmentally sensitive issues. Students are exposed to a natural science background sufficient to make them conversant on the fundamental scientific issues involved in a given controversy. Social science skills in planning and human interaction are also emphasized. Students concentrating in environmental studies may find employment at all levels of government (local, state, federal) as well as in the private sector. Concentration in Urban and Regional Planning prepares students for employment in the government sectors, the private sector, and by non-government organizations (NGOs). Urban and regional planners develop long- and short-term plans for the use of land and the growth and revitalization of urban and rural communities. Students become proficient in computer skills and are introduced to a number of discipline-specific software applications. They also complete courses in economics and government since most planning jobs are associated with some level of government.
There are a great many subdisciplines under the broad heading of geography. Our graduates typically pursue careers working with state and federal government agencies, as area specialists, cartographers / GIS specialists, environmental managers, conservation agents, environmental consultants, or urban and community planners. Geography and environmental studies are also good preparation for graduate study in a variety of fields such as law, business management, resource planning, and many different types of international careers. A high demand for spatial data management has arisen in both government and industry with applications in utilities, infrastructure, planning, agriculture, and ecology.
The following represents a small sampling of what our geography graduates are doing and where they are employed:
Zoning and Planning Officer, Fairview Township, PA
Project Environmental Specialist, GAI Consultants
Water Quality Specialist, PA Department of Environmental Protection, Warren, PA
Wildlife Rehabilitation Specialist and Clinic Manager - Sarvey Wildlife Care Center, Arlington, WA
GIS Specialist - McKenzie County, ND
Customer Service Representative - Arizona Department of Economic Security
Project Assistant - Environment Erie, Erie, PA
GIS Specialist - Kucera International
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of geographers is projected to grow 29 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition). Those with experience working with geographic technologies, such as GIS, should have the best job prospects. The median annual wage for geographers was $74,760 in May 2012 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition).
The following videos provide prospective students with an overview of geography and the many ways that geographical expertise is being applied to solve societal problems.