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Home » People » Scott Therkalsen » Careers in Geography

Careers in Geography


Geography is an exciting and wide ranging field of study. Whether focusing on the human, physical or technical fields geography graduates go on to rewarding careers and enriched lives. While there aren't many job titles that are "geographer," there are many types of positions that fit well with a degree in geography.

Geography is a very attractive major for today's students. The field provides marketable skills and the broad perspectives on environment and society that enable graduates to move beyond entry-level positions. As a major geography builds a sound and unique foundation for students who plan to enter the world tackling issues ranging from climate change to international relations to computer assisted spatial analysis. Geographers also find their skills useful and sought after by employers from fields including business, law, medicine, politics and much more.

Read on to find out about the specific subfields of geography, a small sample of the job titles geographers may find themselves in, an explanation of the requirements of a geography degree at Grossmont College, and helpful links to further information.


Geography has a strong link to the natural sciences through physical geography. Courses that may be offered in this field include climatology, meteorology, oceanography, geomorphology (landforms), soils, biogeography (distribution and ecology of plants), zoogeography (distribution and ecology of animals), and natural resource management. Courses in physical geography importantly integrate earth processes with the human use of the earth. For instance, examining agriculture in relation to its dependence upon such physical processes as climate, weather, and the formation and erosion of soils.

Those with a good background in physical geography are well prepared to deal with issues of climatology, resources management, environmental regulation and research, emergency management and more. Physical geographers also study the impact of such natural hazards as hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes.


This concentration focuses on the aspects of geography that relate to different cultures, with an emphasis on cultural origins and movement and the cultural characteristics of regions (e.g., language, religion, ethnicity, politics, historical development, agricultural methods, settlement patterns, and quality of life). Cultural ecology--the ways in which humans have interacted with their cultural and natural environment at various times--is also included.
Cultural geographers often try to reconstruct past environments, and to do so they must be equally skilled in library research, field observation, and the interpretation of cultural artifacts. Historical geographers are interested in recreating the geography of past times.

Courses in this area include historical geography, cultural geography, cultural ecology, human geography, human use of the earth, and humanity and nature. Many cultural and human geographers are area specialists as well, which means that they focus their attention on a specific region, such as Latin America, Europe, or Asia. They become area experts and come to understand the way of life in particular countries. They often complement their major courses in a foreign language, anthropology, history, economics, or comparative political systems. Having done so, they bring real expertise and understanding to issues of U.S. foreign policy and to international business


Economic geography is concerned with the location and distribution of economic activity. It focuses on the location of industries and retail and wholesale businesses, on transportation and trade, and on the changing value of real estate. Courses in economic geography may cover such topics as transportation, agriculture, industrial location, world trade, and the spatial organization and function of business activity. Students who have a strong interest in economic geography will be likely to see global interdependence as a focus of their academic program.


Geographers often work as planners to ensure that communities develop in an orderly way, along with the services necessary to support them. Planners must be able to develop building plans for subdivisions and housing projects. They need to understand all factors that affect the value of land and real estate. Planning is a rapidly expanding field, and geographers are filling a great many jobs. Planning courses teach students how to prepare master plans that will benefit neighborhoods, communities, cities, and regions. Support courses include material on the geography of population, transportation, social services, utilities, and solid-waste disposal systems. Other topics include resource planning, land-use planning, and the delivery of municipal services (which involves the planning of police patrol routes, the location of firehouses and emergency medical services, and ways of making school bus routes shorter and more efficient).


Thousands of geographers have jobs involving maps. Maps are essential. They are used by planners, engineers, utility companies, state agencies, construction companies, surveyors, architects, and ordinary citizens. One of the greatest growth areas is the use of computers to generate maps and store map-related information. Geospatial technologies (geographic information systems, computer mapping, GPS, etc.). is a high-growth industry and reaching $35 billion in annual revenues in 2007, up from $5 billion in 2002. Geospatial technologies are one of the three biggest emerging fields identified by the Department of Labor, and they are providing 75,000 new job hires per year. A student with these unique technical skills is marketable in every field and industry.

Careers in Geography Videos from the Royal Geographic Society

Grossmont College Department of Earth Science

Geography Major Requirements at Grossmont College

Geography at SDSU

AAG logo

Visit the AAG website to explore what geography is, job descriptions, advice and explanations from working geographers, future contacts, internships and positions

The potential for practicing geography in private enterprise and government has grown considerably in recent years, although often such positions are not designated with the title of geographer. Many geographers work in the private and public sectors, below is a list of positions held by geographers:

Air Pollution Specialist

Air Quality Analyst

Air/water quality control

Airline Marketing Executive

Airlines Researcher

Appraiser for a real estate

Archives Manager

Area Specialist

Avalanche Specialist

National Forest Service

Biography Creator

Biologist (consulting )

Budget Planning and City Policy Manager

Business Analyst


CAD Operator

Career Counselor



Cartographic Technician

City Manager



Coastal Zone Manager

College Administrator

College Professor

Colonel in the U.S. Army

Community developer

Computer mapper

Computer programmer

Computer Specialist for a U.S. National Park

Conservation Education Coordinator

Customs Port Investigator

Insurance Data Analyst

Data Processor


Department of Agriculture

Departmental Historian

U.S. National Science Foundation

Computer Assisted News

Director of Industrial Development

Planning and Zoning

Earth Scientist


Economic Developer


Energy Analyst

Engineer, Civil

Engineer, Consulting

Environment Planner

Environmental Impact Analyst

Environmental Manager

Environmental Scientist

Exhibit Artist

Field Data Specialist

Foreign Service Officer


U.S. Defense Mapping Agency

Geographer at the Smithsonian Institution U.S. Bureau of the Census

Geographer at the U.S. Department of Agriculture

U.S. Economic Dev. Adm.



Water management

Army Corps of Engineers

Army Topographic

Forest Service

Geographer Park Ranger

Geographer, Consulting

U.S. Department of State


National Biological Service

Geophysicist Petrologist

Geopolitical Specialist for a software corporation

GIS Analyst in a corporation

GIS county Coordinator

GIS Environmental Coordinator

GIS Database Management

GIS Implementation


Government Agency

Hazardous waste planner

Health Services planner


Hotel Concierge

Housing Planner

Human Service Positions:


Soil and water conservation

Industrial developer

Industrial planner

Insurance Agent

Insurance Analyst

Intelligence agent

Intelligence Analyst Interpretation Center

International Business Representative

International Economist

International Investment Analyst

International Law and Relations Researcher


Land developer

Land Economist

Land Scientist (Consulting)

Land Surveyor

Land Use Planner for a city

Landscape Architect


Legislative Aide


Loan Administrator

Location Analyst

Management Trainee

Manpower Planner

Map Analyst

Map Creator

Map Curator

Market Development

Market Research Analyst

Meteorologist at the U.S. National Weather Service

Meteorologist, Television

Museum Curator

Natural Historian, U.S. Soil Conservation Service

Natural Resource Manager

Naturalist Surveyor

Organizational Planner

Peace Corps Volunteer

Personnel Officer

Physical Scientist at USGS

Physical Scientist U.S. Defense

Planner, Community

Planner, County

Planner, Resources

Planner, Transportation

Planner, Urban

Planning, Social,

Planning, economic, Planning, environmental
Public health
Environmental justice

Social mobilization Community-building
Resource specialists
Global justice initiatives

Planning Info. Director

Policy Evaluator

Policy Researcher

Political Analyst

Political Scientist


Pollution Control Specialist

Preservation Specialist

Property manager

Public Info. Coordinator

Public Opinion Pollster

Public Relations

Ranger- U.S. National Park

Real Estate Agent/Broker

Real Estate Research

Recycling Coordinator Redevelopment Coordinator

Regional Environmentalist Regional Planner

Remote Sensing Analyst

Research Meteorologist, U.S. Climatic Data Center

Research Scientist

National Weather Service

Research/Technical Advisor (Film/TV)

Bureau of Indian Affairs

Resource Economist

Risk Analyst

Sales Campaign Planner



Site Researcher

Social Services

Soil Conservationist


Stereo Plotter

Topographic Engineer


Systems Analyst


Technical Sales Rep.

Technical Writer

Terrain/Land Use Planner

Tour Guide

Tourism Developer

Traffic Management

Transportation analyst

Travel agent/specialist

Travel Consultant

Department of Ag.

Urban Planner

Urban Regional planner

Water & Natural Resources

Water Conservation

Water Quality Spec

Weather forecaster

Wetlands Conservation Reclamation authority

Zoning Administrator

Inspector for a township

Zoning Inspector for a city

The following list is an assemblage of jobs from many sources within the geographic world.

The Association of American Geographers Jobs in Geography (AAG members only)
Careers in Geography (The Association of American Geographers)
GIS Jobs Clearinghouse
GeoSearch GIS, Global Positioning Systems, Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing, Image Processing, Computer Science.
Earthworks- Jobs in geoscience, geography, environmental, agriculture, forestry, ecology, meteorology, oceanography, hydrology, soil, GIS and related subjects.
GeoWeb Interactive
Earth Science and Other Job Information
GISjobs classifieds, resumes, mailing list, advertising, survey, resources.
Job-Hunt. Or World Wide Web Employment Office

Last Updated: 12/05/2014
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