Career Choice: Geographers

Career Choice: Geographers
  • Opening Intro -

    Geographers are sometimes known as scientists, individuals that study the earth's surface.

    These professionals perform research on physical terrain including climate, soil, land forms, animals and people, with an eye toward understanding the impact human activity has on the world.


Possessing an advanced degree is the norm for this field with approximately two-thirds of geographers holding at least a master’s degree.


Geographers gather information through satellite imagery, maps, photographs and observation, and use interviews, surveys and focus groups as part of their research. Statistical analysis is of great importance to geographers as quantitive methods are employed. Geographic information system technology is used to collect, analyze and to display data, with reports and presentations delivered to back up their findings.


A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for most jobs with employers desiring master’s or doctorate-level candidates for some positions. A degree in geography with courses in mathematics, statistics, GIS, remote sensing and human geography are required. Additional courses in real estate, economics and business can aid the geographer who is seeking work in the private sector. Geographers with a Ph.D. may qualify for teaching positions.


The average salary for geographers was $74,760 per year as of 2012 according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those in the 10th percentile earned $41,900 per year to $57,200 per year for geographers in the 25th percentile. The median wage for all geographers was $74,800. Professionals in the 75th percentile averaged $89,400 per year to $103,900 per year for geographers in the 90th percentile.

Just 14 states report data for geographers. Annual wages were highest in New York according to the BLS, with geographers making $92,500 per year. Salaries in Oklahoma averaged $88,400 per year followed by Maryland averaging $82,300 and Virginia coming in at $81,900. At the other end of the spectrum was Utah at $46,300 followed by Florida at $51,900 and Texas coming in at $57,400.

Most geographers are employed by the government with the federal government alone employing more than half that number. Architectural and engineering firms as well as management and scientific companies employ a small number of professionals. Approximately 200 geographers are self-employed workers.

Job Outlook

Work as a geographer is competitive with no more than 2,000 people employed as of 2010. The BLS, however, expects extraordinary grown with 1,300 job openings from 2010 to 2020. That represents a 29 percent increase in jobs including 600 additional positions.

GIS technology is behind the job growth as more businesses make use of geographic data for expansion. Indeed, with companies large and small concerned about what impact these businesses have on the environment, geographers can provide advice on the best land use, building or infrastructure arrangement and the impact such changes may have on the environment.


O*Net OnLine: Summary Report for: 19-3092.00 – Geographers

US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Geographers

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Categories: Career Planning