Have you ever read engaging tales of men (and the occasional woman) long ago, who left their land in search of discovery? Spending months at sea or trekking through pristine wilderness to discover... of whatever may lay at the end of their path and along it?
Magellan, Livingstone; Sir Francis Drake and Captain Cook: armed only with compasses and astrolabes, a keen eye for observation and artistic talent, they mapped the world as they saw it and, in the process, claimed lands and reaped treasure for their home country.
As exciting and romanticised as they are, those days are gone, sad to say, but that doesn’t mean there are no new realms for the modern-day geographer to explore and record!
For anyone who has ever wished they were born a few centuries earlier so that they might set off on a ship to discover and catalogue faraway lands...
Superprof now lights your path, proving that earning a geography degree can be a gateway to exciting and lucrative work.
Minus the dysentery, malaria and cholera you might have succumbed to back then.
What Can You Do with a Geography Degree?
First, you should be aware that geography is so much more than ‘earth description’ - the word’s literal translation from Greek; it is not all about maps and topography – studying the shape of land features such as mountains and rivers.
Geography is divided into two broad, complementary fields of study: human geography and physical geography.
Areas of specialisation in the field of human geography include:
cultural geography: a subfield of human geography, it analyses cultural mores and material aspects of human life across regions
economic geography: the organisation and distribution of economic activity around the world.
regional geography focuses on humans’ interplay with natural aspects of a region.
urban geography studies the built environment and urban lifestyle
social geography: here, an emphasis is placed on social factors in context with the environment
Political geography is the study of countries – their borders, boundaries and possessions
On the other branch of the discipline, physical geographers study:
world regional geography: the study of world regions from a geographical perspective
biogeography: the study of organisms and ecosystems in specific locations and geological eras
Phytogeography studies the distribution of plants!
environmental geography: the relationship of people to their environments
As you can see, the choice of careers is far-reaching, all the more so because most of the disciplines are interrelated.
For example, you may set off to study social geography in Africa, but perhaps you should partner with an environmental geographer in order to get a more complete picture of your subject matter.
What if you don’t like to travel?
That does not mean that a geography major is not for you.
Consider street layouts in major metropoli: London, Paris, Berlin or New York. Guess what type of degree urban planners may hold?
Pursuing a program of study in geography does not mean you must necessarily set off for distant shores; you may well work in a government office, right in your hometown, if you so choose!
Find a good geography class for yourself here.
The Point of a Human Geography Degree
Today’s focus is decidedly on climate change. As we slide into our coldest months and as we agonise over the future of our planet, meteorologists and climatologists are our go-to source for information.
Who do climatologists turn to for evidence of global warming?
Glaciologists are scientists who study, track measure and record ice sheet and glacier activity: how much melt, how much movement and their impact on the surrounding environment.
Climatologists also rely on pedologists to analyse soil and its interaction with climate – how rainfall and temperature affect organisms and minerals within the soil.
Completing the geographic information relating to climate are two more disciplines you are most likely familiar with: oceanography and coastal geography.
Alarming rises in sea level, seawater temperature as well as the amount of ice melt from the polar caps give climatologists a clear picture of warming effects.
Besides furnishing those data, coastal geographers track and map humans’ interaction with coastal waters: building retaining walls, measuring sea level rises and sediment movement.
Each one of these interdisciplinary branches of science, so urgent today, is an aspect of physical geography.
If you are passionate about the future of our planet and wish to engage in some sort of conservation effort, even an undergraduate degree in geography will help you fulfil your desire to preserve earth systems for future generations.
Do you need more reasons to study geography?
Other Jobs with a Geography Degree
Once again you aver that you have no desire to head out into the wilderness and catalogue everything. You want to stay right where you’re at... there is nothing at all wrong with that!
So, you must be looking for a specialization that you could use in urban development, right?
Fortunately for you, there are plenty of geography courses through which you could earn a bachelor, which will put you where you want to be!
Consider urban and regional planning: you may work for the government or as a private contractor but, either way, your job would be to help cities make the best use of land and resources.
You may also be called upon to help tackle environmental problems your city faces and plan where to build new schools or where to put new roads.
If you are of a conservation and sustainability mindset, you will be happy to know that the trend of urban studies is toward those very concepts!
What if your geography curriculum includes a course in cartography?
This career field is what most people see as the primary function of a geographer - probably a throwback to those early explorer days those with wanderlust dream about! Indeed, as a cartographer, you may produce maps for the government, for atlases and for travel information systems.
Should this type of work call to you, you would likely travel quite a bit, possibly with a surveyor.
Let’s say you have been commissioned to draw a map of northern England. Surveying the demarcation line between England and Scotland would be necessary for an accurate rendering; thus you would need someone qualified to do so.
Oh, wait: you don’t want to leave home!
How about becoming a GIS specialist?
Geographic information systems use technology to collect, manage and model geographic data.
Upon completion of your undergraduates’ degree, you may choose to find a position with such a concern. There, you would primarily work in an office, building databases of coordinates and compiling satellite imagery.
You may further be called on to conduct spatial analysis or create maps for general education courses.
If, down the road, you wanted to try your hand at field work, as a geographical information systems specialist, it would be entirely within your job description to do so.
How much would geography tuition cost to excel in this discipline?
UK schools are facing dire shortages of teachers for non-core subjects, including geography.
If you are or you have a student near GCSE level, you surely are aware of the dearth of earth science teachers in schools across our country.
That being the case, perhaps you’ve set your sights on teaching natural science in the classroom.
Education requirements are slightly higher for humanities teachers than for, say, anyone who works in natural resource management. Not only must you undertake coursework for your major in geography but you must also acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to be a teacher.
Where can you find geography courses tailored to future classroom leadership?
It may sound like qualifying to teach geography is onerous but, should you teach, say, at postgraduate level, you would have a further opportunity to lead a research project and possibly even publish your findings.
Speaking of writing...
There is such a wealth of opportunity just now for anyone with a science degree to write authoritative articles, be they about environmental science or even about travel!
Science publications, online and in print, always welcome well-researched contributions; they encourage analytical reporting of distant locations’ natural environmental change!
To wit, those reporting on Krakatoa’s explosion and the impacts of plastic in the oceans...
Whether you choose the highly visible fields of meteorology and climatology as your future career or the more invisible field of geographic information science...
Whether you are still working on your general education requirements, an undergraduate student or anywhere on the post-secondary spectrum, one thing is clear: to pursue your passion and find employment in this social science, you must study geography!
Now calling all explorers: get a jump on your studies: find out where you can connect with a geography tutor!