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Careers in Geography

Since the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the U.S. government has employed geographers to explore the earth and report on their findings. Today’s geographers are employed not only in government, but also in private industry, and they continue to engage in exploration and discovery to benefit society and the environment. Many supplement fieldwork with the use of modern technology to solve problems, ranging from determining the optimal locations for industrial sites to delivering food aid to people suffering from famine. Geographers are diplomats, peacemakers, warriors, planners, environmentalists, mapmakers and then some.

Lewis and Clark Expedition United States Postage Stamp


Indeed, Geographers are known to employ a global perspective. By possessing and applying knowledge of how people, places and regions are linked by global networks and processes (e.g., globalization, international trade, immigration, internet technology, global climate), they are able to engage in sound analysis critical for solving problems facing humanity and the environment.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Geographers earn an average of $74, 760 annually. Geography positions are expected to grow 29 percent by 2022, which is much faster than the average rate of growth of 11 percent for all occupations. The BLS estimated that 60 percent of geographers worked for federal government agencies in 2010, 15 percent for architectural or engineering firms and 9 percent for academic institutions. The remaining 16 percent worked for commercial research & development firms or state-government agencies.

Geographers are often placed in leadership roles and frequently tasked with integrating complex information from a variety of sources, analyzing it, and engaging in effectual decision-making. Many find that a strong background in fields such as history, anthropology, economics, international relations, ecology and computer science is advantageous. Although geography undergraduate and graduate programs are located in colleges and universities across the country, and the position of geographer is held by a number of federal government employees, most geographers hold positions with other job titles. Below is a list of occupations that are suitable for individuals with academic degrees in Geography in reference to specific fields. The list is not intended to be conclusive; it’s simply designed to show many of the opportunities that are available.


a lake surrounded by mountains

Environmental Geography

Knowing and applying information about the natural environment and the ways in which they are interconnected, as well as the manner in which humans create impacts on environmental phenomena.


  • Natural Resource Manager
  • Park Ranger
  • Water Resources Analyst
  • Environmental Scientist
  • Climatologist
  • Physical Scientist
  • Environmental Conservationist
  • Field Guide


Student in a hardhat surveying a dry-climate marsh

Natural Hazards

Knowing and applying geographic information about natural hazards (e.g., hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, fire).


  • Emergency Management Specialist
  • Forest Fire Inspector
  • Environmental Consultant
  • Ecological Risk Assessor
  • Geotechnical Engineer
  • Hazards Analyst


A student doing international work with community members and a baby

Regional Geography

Possessing and applying knowledge of the physical and human geography of a specific country or world region.


  • Military Intelligence Analyst
  • International Development Specialist
  • Foreign Service Officer
  • Urban and Regional Planner
  • Geointelligence Specialist
  • Tour Guide & Escort
  • Interpreter & Translator
  • Community Developer


A man with a walking stick in bright cultural garb

Cultural Geography

Knowing and applying geographic information about culture and cultural processes (e.g., religion, language, ethnicity, diffusion, meaning of landscapes, cultural significance of place).


  • Tour Guide and Escort
  • Area, Ethnic, and Cultural Studies Teacher
  • Interpreter & Translator
  • Historic Preservationist
  • Writer/Editor
  • Journalist
  • Cultural Resource Manager
  • Fine Arts Director
  • Regional Development Specialist


A man with walking stick in bright, cultural garb stands with free-roaming animals

Human Environmental Interaction

Knowing and applying geographic information about relationships between nature and society (e.g., pollution from industrial development, economic effects of drought).


  • Tour Guide and Travel Consultant
  • Accredited Land Consultant
  • Manager of Sustainability
  • Environmental Impact Assessment Specialist
  • Environmental Affairs Specialist
  • Agricultural Food Supply Analyst
  • Journalist
  • Humanitarian Relief Worker

A map of geographical energy consumption

Economic Geography

Knowing and applying geographic information about the economy and economic processes (e.g., labor, development, industry, agriculture, transportation, trade, resources, land use, technology change).


  • Transportation Manager
  • Location Analyst
  • Market Researcher
  • Business Development Consultant
  • Real Estate Appraiser
  • Environmental Economist
  • Commodities Investment Analyst

Map of countries separated by political geographies

Political Geography

Knowing and applying geographic information about political systems and processes (e.g., governments, political activism, nongovernmental organizations, nations, states, international relations, nationalism).


  • Lobbyist
  • Diplomat
  • Community Organizer
  • Policy Consultant
  • Policy Researcher
  • Political Strategist
  • Foreign Service Officer
  • Geopolitical Specialist


Three small children playing in the desert

Population Geography

Knowing and applying geographic information about population, demography, and demographic processes (e.g., population density, migration, birth and death rates, fertility rates).


  • Market Analyst
  • Population, Real Estate, Community Association Manager
  • Urban and Regional Planner
  • Demographer
  • Public Health Officer


Landforms of North America map


Designing and producing maps.


  • Cartographer and Photogrammetrist
  • Surveying and Mapping Technician
  • Civil Drafter
  • Graphics Editor
  • Digital Cartographer


Woman sitting at a computer analyzing spatial data

Geographic Information Systems

Using GIS to acquire, manage, display, and analyze spatial data in digital form.


  • Geospatial Information Scientist and Technologist
  • Geospatial Analyst
  • GIS Developer
  • Logistics Analyst
  • Transportation Planner
  • Public Utilities Analyst


Aerial satellite photo of Michigan

Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry

Recording, measuring and interpreting aerial photographs and remote sensing satellite images.


  • Defense Intelligence Analyst
  • Remote Sensing Scientist and Technologist
  • Geointelligence Specialist
  • Remote Sensing Analyst
  • Sensor Specialist
  • Radar and Sonar Technician
  • Surveyor


Two tornadoes appear to be forming in the distance

Weather and Climate

Knowing and applying geographic information about weather, climate, and atmospheric processes (e.g., temperature, precipitation, air quality).


  • Climate Change Analyst
  • Air Pollution Analyst
  • Atmospheric and Space Scientist
  • Climatologist
  • Broadcast Meteorologist


A lion sitting calmly in his natural habitat


Knowing and applying geographic information about ecosystems and ecological processes (e.g., vegetation, wildlife, natural habitats).


  • Soil and Plant Scientist
  • Natural Sciences Manager
  • Zoologist and Wildlife Biologist
  • Forester
  • Biological Science Technician
  • Environmental Conservation Officer
  • Ecologist
  • Field Guide
  • Park Ranger


Small animals migrating through verdant grasses beneath a pink, early morning sky


Knowing and applying geographic information about geology and the processes that shape physical landscapes (e.g. soils, hydrology, topography, erosion).


  • Soil and Plant Specialist
  • Water Resources Specialist
  • Environmental Scientist
  • Geophysicist
  • Topographic Analyst