FAQ: What Is a Geography Degree and What Jobs Can You Get With One?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published December 14, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Geography is the study of environments and people's interactions with their surroundings. Students with a geography degree can pursue a variety of careers, both indoors and outdoors. If you have an interest in the physical aspects of the Earth and the people and animals who dwell in different locations, you might benefit from learning more about geography degrees and what you can do after graduating with one. In this article, we answer questions about what geography degrees are, what types of programs you can pursue and what jobs you can get after obtaining a degree.

Related: 20 Jobs You Can Get With a Geography Degree

What is a geography degree?

A geography degree is a college program that includes research of the Earth's surface, climate, atmosphere and the people who live on it. The degree provides students with valuable data collection, analytical and research skills. Students apply what they've learned to issues like climate change, disease outbreaks, natural resource degradation and urbanization. You can pursue this degree at different education levels depending on your career goals and needs. For example, to become an environmental specialist, you may pursue a bachelor's degree in geography.

What types of geography degrees can you pursue?

Here are the different geography degrees you can pursue and what you may learn in each one:

Associate degree

An associate degree in geography is typically a two-year program that teaches students the basic principles of physical and human geography. Mapping sciences, geographic information system (GIS) technology and geographic distribution are among the courses offered to students. The course also includes a broad education in other topics, such as mathematics and English.

Bachelor's degree

A geography bachelor's degree is a four-year program that emphasizes the Earth's topography and its animal, human and plant inhabitants. Learners gain an understanding of spatial patterns and the geographic tools used to visualize them, such as environmental monitoring, computer-based mapping, global positioning systems and geographic information systems. While each program is unique, the vast majority of them include a foundational curriculum that includes research, statistics and human and physical geography. Some courses provide opportunities for research projects, internships and fieldwork.

Master's degree

Graduate students in a master's degree in geography attend advanced general coursework and specialized courses in areas such as physical geography, GIS technology and human geography. Students learn about environmental change, environment and development, society, space and ecosystems as part of the course. To show knowledge of the discipline, most master's programs include exams or a master's thesis, and they typically take between one and two years to complete.

Doctoral degree

Learners accomplish coursework in their area of specialty during their Ph.D. in geography. This instruction helps doctorate candidates prepare for qualifying tests, which assess their ability to write a thesis. Doctoral candidates who progress to candidacy for a Ph.D. do research in their field of study under the guidance of a professor. Doctoral candidates then prepare a thesis and present that in front of their adviser and a faculty board. These degrees may take between four and six years to complete.

What jobs can you pursue with an associate degree in geography?

Here are a few jobs you can pursue after achieving a geography associate degree:

Surveying and mapping technician

Technicians who work in surveying and mapping gather data to create maps of the Earth's surface. Surveying technicians visit sites to collect measurements on the ground. Mapping technicians convert surveyed data into maps using computer programs.

Drafter

Drafters convert engineers' and architects' designs into technical drawings using digital programs. A drafter may specialize in civil, architectural, electrical or mechanical drafting. They produce goods depending on sketches provided by engineers, construct blueprints using computer-aided design tools and add details to architectural designs.

Geological technician

Geological technicians assist scientists and engineers in the exploration and extraction of natural resources, such as oil and gas. They collect samples for examination, keep lab and field equipment in good working order and execute scientific testing on samples. To locate natural resources, geological technicians record information from these experiments and develop reports and maps.

What jobs can you pursue with a bachelor's in geography?

Individuals with a bachelor's degree in geography work in a variety of disciplines, many of which are in high demand. Here are a few jobs you can consider after obtaining a geography bachelor's degree:

Cartographer

Cartographers construct maps by collecting, measuring and interpreting geographic data. They also keep current maps and charts to utilize them in regional planning and teaching. Cartographers construct maps and generate graphical images of geographic data using aerial photography, ground surveys and other technologies.

Related: What Is a Cartographer? Duties, Requirements and Outlook

Surveyor

A surveyor defines property borders by taking exact measurements. By collecting data about the form and contour of the Earth's surface, they aid map-making, engineering and building projects. Surveyors use a deep understanding of geography, map-making and GIS technology to develop layouts, maps and presentations based on their observations.

Environmental specialist

Geographers who concentrate on conservation can work as environmental specialists. These professionals investigate environmental issues, like the effects of environmental conditions on public health, and devise remedies for those problems. They also educate the general population about the dangers of smoking.

What jobs can you pursue with a master's in geography?

Graduates with a master's degree in geography might pursue specialized options in the area, such as managerial roles. Here are a few job options for professionals with a master's degree in geography:

Geographer

A geographer studies the distribution of people, land and features. They investigate political and cultural systems, human geographic traits in various places and geographical information. Many geographers create maps, perform research and analyze data related to geography.

Related: How To Become a Geographer

Urban planner

To build neighborhoods, rejuvenate towns and cities and handle population increase, urban planners construct land use plans. They assess site designs, perform field research and analyze data from surveys and studies. Urban planners also make recommendations and offer proposals to local governments and planning officers.

Related: How To Become a City Planner

Survey researcher

Survey researchers plan and conduct surveys and analyze the information gathered. In this profession, which entails summarizing and assessing survey data, geography students put their research skills to use. A master's degree, frequently in a social science discipline like geography, is necessary for many survey researcher roles.

What jobs can you pursue with a Ph.D. in geography?

A Ph.D. is an important requirement for a number of geography professions. Academics, particularly permanent professors, frequently have a Ph.D. in their subject. Candidates with a degree and experience as a professor are often preferable for administrative positions in academia as well. Here are a few jobs to consider after acquiring a Ph.D. in geography:

Geography professor

At four-year colleges, community colleges and universities, geography professors offer courses in their field. They create a geography syllabus for students, evaluate student performance and coach graduate and undergraduate students who have an interest in the subject. Many geography instructors are also researchers who publish their findings in academic publications.

Geographic information system (GIS) manager

GIS managers oversee the work of GIS specialists, who use specialized computer systems to create geographic data. They plan and administer computer programs for any GIS-related projects, and they develop GIS software. They're also responsible for providing employee training and managing timelines and budgets.

Dean

Deans are in charge of a college or university's academic affairs. By supervising the budget, formulating academic policy and approving faculty recruitment, they assist the school's president. Academic deans are frequently in charge of a specific division or college, supervising faculty members and overseeing academic budgets. Both roles normally need a Ph.D. and previous teaching experience.

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