2017 Geographers
Median Pay: US$74,260
Entry Level: Bachelor's degree
Geographers study the Earth and its land, features, and inhabitants. They also examine phenomena such as political or cultural structures and study the physical and human geographic characteristics of regions ranging in scale from local to global.

Geographers typically do the following:

  • Gather geographic data through field observations, maps, photographs, satellite imagery, and censuses
  • Conduct research, using methods such as surveys, interviews, and focus groups
  • Create and modify maps, graphs, diagrams, or other visual representations of geographic data
  • Analyze the geographic distribution of physical and cultural characteristics and occurrences
  • Use geographic information systems (GIS) to collect, analyze, and display geographic data
  • Write reports and present research findings
  • Assist, advise, or lead others in using GIS and geographic data
  • Combine geographic data with data pertaining to a particular specialty, such as economics, the environment, health, or politics

Geographers use several technologies in their work, such as GIS, remote sensing, and global positioning systems (GPS). Geographers use GIS to find relationships and trends in geographic data. These systems allow geographers to present data visually as maps, reports, and charts. For example, geographers can overlay aerial or satellite images with GIS data, such as population density in a given region, and create computerized maps. They then use the maps to guide governments, businesses, and the general public on a variety of issues, such as developing marketing strategies; planning homes, roads, and landfills; and responding to disasters.

Many people who study geography and who use GIS in their work are employed as surveyors, cartographers and photogrammetrists, surveying and mapping technicians, urban and regional planners, and geoscientists.

The following are examples of types of geographers:

Physical geographers examine the physical aspects of a region and how those aspects relate to humans. They study features of the natural environment, such as landforms, climates, soils, natural hazards, water, and plants. For example, physical geographers may map where a natural resource occurs in a country or study the implications of proposed economic development on the surrounding natural environment.

Human geographers analyze the organization of human activity and its relationships with the physical environment. Human geographers often combine issues from other disciplines into their research, which may include economic, social, or political topics. In their research, some human geographers rely primarily on statistical techniques and others rely on non-statistical sources, such as field observations and interviews.

Human geographers are often further classified by their area of specialty:

  • Cultural geographers examine the relationship between geography and culture, studying how features such as religion, language, and ethnicity relate to location.
  • Economic geographers study economic activities and the distribution of resources. They may research subjects such as regional employment and the location of industries. 
  • Environmental geographers research the impact humans have on the environment and how human activities affect natural processes. They combine aspects of both physical and human geography and commonly study issues such as climate change, desertification, and deforestation. 
  • Medical geographers investigate the distribution of health issues, healthcare, and disease. For example, a medical geographer may examine the incidence of disease in a certain region. 
  • Political geographers study the relationship between geography and political structures and processes. 
  • Regional geographers focus on the geographic factors in a particular region that ranges in size from a neighborhood to an entire continent. 
  • Urban geographers study cities and metropolitan areas. They may examine how certain geographic factors, such as climate, affect population density in cities. 

Geographers often work on projects with people in related fields. For example, economic geographers may work with urban planners, civil engineers, legislators, and real estate professionals to determine the best location for new public transportation infrastructure.

Some people with a geography degree become postsecondary teachers.

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