Geographers: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more

Education Required
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.
Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: 6% (As fast as average)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
Licenses/Certifications
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 passing of a written exam.
Median pay: How much do Geographers make?
$74,260 Annual Salary
$35.70 per hour

Geographers study the Earth and the distribution of its land, features, and inhabitants. They also examine political or cultural structures and study the physical and human geographic characteristics of regions ranging in scale from local to global.

What do Geographers do?

Geographers typically do the following:

  • Gather geographic data through field observations, maps, photographs, satellite imagery, and censuses
  • Conduct research via surveys, interviews, and focus groups
  • Create and modify maps or other visual representations of geographic data
  • Analyze the geographic distribution of physical and cultural characteristics and occurrences
  • Collect, analyze, and display geographic data with Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  • Write reports and present research findings
  • Assist, advise, or lead others in using GIS and geographic data
  • Link 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 digital maps. They then use the maps to inform 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.

The following are examples of types of geographers:

Careers for Geographers

  • Biogeographers
  • Cultural geographers
  • Economic geographers
  • Environmental geographers
  • GIS geographers
  • Geomorphologists
  • Glaciologists
  • Human geographers
  • Medical geographers
  • Physical geographers
  • Political geographers
  • Regional geographers
  • Urban and transportation geographers

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