Students in geography degree programs get to know how to study the earth and its land, features, and inhabitants. They also learn to create or modify maps, diagrams or other visual representations of geographic data. In addition, these programs instruct learners about collecting geographic data through photographs, field observations or maps. These programs prepare students to become geographers, teacher or professors. Geography careers also include jobs such as cartographers, forecasters, and urban and regional planners. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of geographers is expected to grow 35% from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of cartographers is also expected to grow by 22% during the same timeline. Job outlook for urban and regional planners also looks good with 16% expected job growth (2010-2020).
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Geographers analyze the geographic distribution of physical and cultural characteristics and occurrences. Using geographic information system technology to collect, analyze, and display data and assist, or leading others in using GIS and geographic data are also among the tasks these professionals are required to carry out. Cartographers compile data from multiple sources and use principles of cartographic design to make maps while urban and regional planners develop plans and programs for the use of land.
Students who want to become geographers or the ones who want to teach or find research positions can work towards a number of degree programs. Students who want to find entry- level positions can pursue the bachelor’s degree. This degree can help students qualify for positions in businesses, government or nonprofits. Geographers must have a master’s degree for most jobs outside of the federal government. Those who want to research positions should work towards the master’s or PhD programs.
Students in the geography degree programs can pursue their courses in physical, human, or regional geography. The curriculum also includes topics such as GIS, physical and human geography, mathematics and remote sensing. Students can also pursue classes in economics, business, or real estate.
Aspiring geographers should have expertise in GIS technology. Certification is not mandatory, but it can demonstrate a level of proficiency. Students can become certified as a GIS professional through the GIS Certification Institute. To qualify for this certification, candidates may need to have certain college credentials and professional experience. Mostly GISP certification can be useful for the ones with a master’s degree or PhD qualify for positions.
Students with degrees in geography can work in various industries such as federal executive branch, professional, scientific and technical services or colleges, universities, and professional schools. Many of these professionals work full time. Some are involved in fieldwork and may have to travel to remote locations and foreign countries.
Growth is expected to be fastest in the professional, scientific, and technical services industry while opportunities in the federal government should be limited as this sector is expected to decline. The ones with advanced degrees and experience working with GIS should have the best job prospects, the BLS noted. The median annual wage of geographers in 2010 was $72,800.