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Geographers need a bachelor’s degree for most entry-level positions and for positions within the federal government. Work experience and a master’s degree are typically required for more advanced positions.Education
Geographers with a bachelor’s degree qualify for most entry-level jobs and for positions with the federal government. Geographers outside of the federal government may need a master’s degree in geography or in geographic information systems (GIS). Some positions allow candidates to substitute work experience or GIS proficiency for an advanced degree. Top research positions usually require a Ph.D. or a master’s degree and several years of relevant work experience.
Most geography programs include courses in both physical and human geography, statistics or math, remote sensing, and GIS. In addition, courses in a specialized area of expertise are becoming increasingly important because the geography field is broad and interdisciplinary. For example, business, economics, or real estate courses are becoming increasingly important for geographers working in private industry.
Positions for geography professors require a Ph.D. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.Other Experience
Students and new graduates often gain experience through internships. This type of practical experience allows students to develop new skills, explore their interests, and become familiar with the industry. Internships can be useful for jobseekers, because some employers prefer workers who have practical experience.Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Although certification is not required, most positions require geographers to be proficient in GIS, and certification can demonstrate a level of professional expertise. The GIS Certification Institute offers the GIS professional (GISP) certification for geographers. Candidates may qualify for certification through a combination of education, professional experience, and contributions to the profession, such as publications or participation in conferences. The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing also offers certification in GIS. Candidates may qualify for certification with 3 years of experience in GIS, four references, and the completion of a written exam.Important Qualities
Analytical skills. Geographers commonly analyze information and spatial data from a variety of sources, such as maps, photographs, and censuses. They must then be able to draw conclusions from their analyses of different sets of data.
Communication skills. Geographers must be able to communicate with coworkers; present, explain, and defend their research; and work well on teams.
Computer skills. Geographers must be proficient in GIS programming and database management and should be comfortable creating and manipulating digital images in the software.
Critical-thinking skills. Geographers need critical-thinking skills when doing research because they must choose the appropriate data, methods, and scale of analysis for projects. For example, after reviewing a set of population data, they may determine the implications of a particular development plan.
Writing skills. Geographers often write reports or articles detailing their research findings. They also may need to write proposals so that they can receive funding for their research or projects.
Average Length of Employment
Top Careers Before Geographer
Top Careers After Geographer
Hispanic or Latino10.2%
Black or African American0.4%
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Texas State University11.9%
University of Washington9.5%
University of North Dakota7.1%
University of North Carolina at Greensboro4.8%
Indiana University Bloomington4.8%
University of Kansas4.8%
Appalachian State University4.8%
Kansas State University4.8%
North Dakota State University -4.8%
Florida Atlantic University4.8%
Pennsylvania State University4.8%
University of Virginia4.8%
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities4.8%
George Mason University4.8%
Western Michigan University4.8%
University of Florida4.8%
Montana State University - Bozeman2.4%
Central Washington University2.4%
University of Houston2.4%
West Texas A&M University2.4%
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|Job Title||Company||Location||Start Date||Salary|
|Geographer||Dataquick Information Systems, Inc.||San Diego, CA||Oct 01, 2014||$96,325|
|Geographer||Dataquick Information Systems, Inc.||San Diego, CA||Jan 10, 2014||$96,325|
|Geographers||Conservation International||Arlington, VA||Feb 28, 2014||$93,413|
|Geographer||Dataquick Information Systems, Inc.||San Diego, CA||Oct 01, 2011||$92,500|
|Geographers||CDM Smith Inc.||Philadelphia, PA||Sep 25, 2014||$90,376|
|Geographers||MDA Dataquick Information Systems, Inc.||San Diego, CA||Jul 14, 2010||$90,000|
|Geographer||Corelogic Solutions, LLC||San Diego, CA||May 03, 2015||$87,339 -
|Geographer||Corelogic Solutions, LLC||San Diego, CA||Mar 05, 2015||$87,339 -
|Geographer (Urban Planner)||Michael Baker Jr., Inc.||Jackson, MS||Apr 09, 2010||$85,000|
|Geographers||URS Corporation||Gaithersburg, MD||Apr 09, 2009||$83,616|
|Geographers||Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission||Laurel, MD||Oct 06, 2011||$82,514 -
|Geographers||MacRosys Research and Technology||Arlington, VA||Dec 10, 2010||$81,000|
|Geographers||Topcon Positioning Systems||Livermore, CA||Aug 14, 2012||$80,000|
|Geographers||Parsons Brinckerhoff, Inc.||New York, NY||Nov 01, 2011||$79,571|
|Geographers||Pima Association of Governments||Tucson, AZ||May 06, 2009||$69,784|
|Geographer||Galileo Group Inc.||Melbourne, FL||May 20, 2008||$69,500|
|Geographers||Applied Geospatial Technology Solutions, LLC||Hurst, TX||Aug 11, 2010||$68,100|
|Geographers||Woolpert, Inc.||Dayton, OH||Feb 17, 2010||$66,872|
|Geographers||CDM Smith Inc.||New York, NY||Mar 24, 2014||$66,040|
|Geographers||IHS Global Insight Inc.||Eddystone, PA||May 13, 2010||$65,000|
|Geographers||Northwestern University||Evanston, IL||Feb 17, 2010||$64,167|
|Geographers||Camp Dresser & McKee Inc.||Raleigh, NC||Jan 16, 2008||$62,920|
|Geographers||GIS Workshop, Inc.||Lincoln, NE||Sep 21, 2010||$55,494|
|Geographers||MDA Federal, Inc.||Rockville, MD||Feb 15, 2008||$55,453|
|Geographers||World Wildlife Fund||Washington, DC||Sep 17, 2008||$55,266 -
|Geographers||Jetta Operating Company, Inc.||Fort Worth, TX||Sep 02, 2014||$55,000|
|Geographers||City of Jacksonville||Jacksonville, NC||Mar 29, 2010||$54,517|
|Geographers||ESRI Inc.||Redlands, CA||Oct 11, 2012||$54,059|
|Geographers||Virtex Operating Company, Inc.||Corpus Christi, TX||Sep 17, 2012||$54,000|
|Geographers||Earth Resources Technology, Inc.||Silver Spring, MD||Jan 04, 2011||$53,664|
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