How to Become a Geographer
Geographer Careers & Degrees

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Individuals who want to become a Geographer may already know that they have a fondness for the earth, its land and its inhabitants.

Using their skills and knowledge on the earth, Geographers will work with other individuals to research and analyze the land to create a plethora of resources for us to use.

A Geographer’s line of work often helps with the development of new and updated maps and is heavily relied upon when a new infrastructure project is in its beginning stages.

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Education Requirements to Become a Geographer

Individuals who want to become a Geographer are able to pursue an undergraduate degree in Geography to apply for entry level positions.

In addition, individuals who want to become a Geographer will need to seek certification for the best job prospects at the entry level in this field.

However, for advancement opportunities, individuals will need to seek a graduate Master’s degree if interested in positions outside of the federal government.

Individuals seeking research positions must acquire a PhD or a Master’s with several years of experience.

Individuals with a bachelor’s degree in Geography may qualify for entry level positions at government agencies or nonprofits.

Some employers may hire candidates who don’t have a graduate degree, but are certified and experienced in using geographical information systems (GIS).

The typical Geography program will involve courses and lectures in statistics, mathematics, geographical information systems, remote sensing and physical and human geography.

Individuals interested in becoming a Geographer in the private sector will find it beneficial to seek an interdisciplinary background.

Real estate, business or Economics are some recommended courses and areas of study.

Because competition may be stiff for this profession, individuals who become certified in geographical systems (GIS) have the best opportunities.

For more information on this certification, visit the GIS Certification Institute website.

Geographer Job Description

Geographers are experienced professionals who study the land and features of the earth.

Most Geographers work full time with some of these professionals doing fieldwork that involves travel to foreign countries or remote work.

A Geographer must first gather information and data by performing field observations and collecting satellite imagery, maps and photos of the land and features of the earth.

In doing so, Geographers will use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to gather, analyze and present geographical information.

Because working in teams is common, a Geographer may also assist, advise or lead other individuals with the use of GIS and other geographical data.

Geographers use qualitative and quantitative methods to collect information.

After the collection of samples, photos and other data, Geographers must then analyze the information and convert it to write reports and present their findings and research.

Additional duties may include the creation and modification of maps, diagrams, graphs and other visual representations of the collected geographical information.

Geographers may also analyze the geographical distribution of the physical and cultural characteristics of a certain group.

For example, this information can be used to determine migration patterns of a certain group.

It is also very common for a Geographer to work with other professionals in a related field.

For example, Geographers may work with professionals such as Civil Engineers , Urban Planners and Legislators.

For example, a project that may need the collaboration of these professionals, may be determining a convenient location to create a new infrastructure for public transportation.

Geographer Salary and Career Path

In 2012, the median income for Geographers was approximately $74,760 per year.

Exact wages will depend on level of experience as well as the industry an individual works in.

For example, Geographers working for the Federal government earned an annual median wage of $78,720 in 2012 while lower earnings were expected for Geographers who worked in the Educational services who earned approximately $53,150 that same year.

Job projections for this profession look strong and are expected to increase by 29 percent through the year 2022.

This rate is considered faster than average and is caused by the advancements in geographical technology which includes geographical information systems (GIS).

This type of technology has recently helped government agencies with city development or related growth.

Although the growth is fast, individuals should expect competition because of the relatively small amount of job openings.

However, this obstacle can be overcome by acquiring a higher level of education, gaining experience using geographical information systems (GIS) or focusing on a specialized subject matter.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$81,970
$52K
$63K
$81K
$97K
$113K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Arizona$69,250
California$92,700
Colorado$87,940
Georgia$73,110
Illinois$86,120
Louisiana$80,960
Maryland$87,530
Minnesota$68,160
Missouri$78,900
Texas$64,740
Virginia- NA -
Washington$81,970

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $92,700.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $92,700
Colorado - $87,940
Maryland - $87,530
Illinois - $86,120
Washington - $81,970
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Geographers, OCC Code 19-3092, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat does a geographer do?

Geographers are specialists who study our planet and its land, inhabitants, and features.

A geographer can be focusing on the physical or the human geographic characteristics, on a local or global scale (or both).

The typical duties of a geographer usually include using quantitative methods in his or her research; gathering geographic data (through photographs, maps, field observations, satellite imagery, censuses…); using qualitative methods (focus groups and interviews, for example) in research; analyzing the geographic distribution of physical and cultural characteristics; writing reports and presenting research findings, and so on.

Geographers can work in a wide range of spheres – federal, state, and local government; in scientific, technical, and professional services; professional schools, colleges, and universities.

QuestionHow much do geographers make?

On average, a geographer can make a little more than $80.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to follow this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $51.000 and $110.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the employer, the location and so on.

Geographers that work in California, Colorado, and Georgia, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level geographer can expect to earn $24 per hour, while specialists with years of experience can make $53 per hour.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a geographer?

You would certainly need a bachelor’s degree in geography or a related field, in order to qualify for an entry-level position.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

To improve job perspectives, you should go for a master’s degree ($6.000-$22.000 per year).

Those who want to become a university professor should have a doctorate degree ($36.000-$49.000).

QuestionWhat is the demand for geographers?

Between 2016 and 2026, the geographer job market is expected to grow by 13.3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is a lot faster than the national average for all occupations in the United States.

Due to the fact that it is a small occupation, there will be only around 200-500 new jobs created in the next decade.

Different businesses would need mathematicians to analyze the increasing volume of electronic and digital data.

Developers, government departments, and businesses that are responsible for regional and urban planning will need geographers to advise on land use and environmental impacts.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a geographer?

It will take you 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

A bachelor’s degree should be enough to qualify for entry-level jobs in non-profits and government.

A master’s degree will typically take you 2 years to obtain, while a doctorate degree will require 3-7 years.

You would need these degrees if you want to become a professor of geography, conduct independent research, or work in the private industry.

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