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Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWZxnXzhet0.
Quick Facts: Geographers
2021 Median Pay $85,220 per year
$40.97 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2021 1,600
Job Outlook, 2021-31 0% (Little or no change)
Employment Change, 2021-31 0

What Geographers Do

Geographers study the Earth and the distribution of its land, features, and inhabitants.

Work Environment

Most geographers work full time. Geographers who do fieldwork may travel to foreign countries or remote locations.

How to Become a Geographer

Geographers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree to enter the occupation. Some jobs require a master’s or doctoral degree.

Pay

The median annual wage for geographers was $85,220 in May 2021.

Job Outlook

Employment of geographers is projected to show little or no change from 2021 to 2031.

Despite limited employment growth, about 100 openings for geographers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for geographers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of geographers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about geographers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Geographers Do About this section

Geographers
Geographers use maps and global positioning systems in their work.

Geographers study the Earth and the distribution of its land, features, and inhabitants. They research the interactions between the physical aspects of a region and the human activities within it.

Duties

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 economic, health, or other data

Geographers use several technologies in their work, such as GIS, remote sensing, and global positioning systems (GPS), to find relationships and trends in geographic data. They then present the data visually as maps, reports, and charts. For example, geographers may 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 public on a variety of topics, including urban planning and disaster response.

The following are examples of types of geographers:

Physical geographers study features of the natural environment, such as landforms, climate, 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 often combine other disciplines with their research, which may include economic, environmental, medical, cultural, social, or political topics. Some human geographers rely primarily on quantitative research methods; others rely more heavily on qualitative methods, such as field observations and interviews.

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

People who study geography and who use GIS in their work also may be employed as surveyors, cartographers and photogrammetrists, surveying and mapping technicians, urban and regional planners, geoscientists, or hydrologists. People who earn a Ph.D. in geography may become postsecondary teachers.

Work Environment About this section

Geographers
Some geographers travel to do fieldwork.

Geographers held about 1,600 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of geographers were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service 63%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 9
Educational services; state, local, and private 9
Professional, scientific, and technical services 9

Geographers who do fieldwork may travel to foreign countries or remote locations to gather data and observe geographic features, such as the landscape and environment.

Work Schedules

Most geographers work full time.

How to Become a Geographer About this section

Geographers
Geographers may perform fieldwork as part of their education.

Geographers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree to enter the occupation. Some jobs require a master’s or doctoral degree.

Education

High school students interested in becoming geographers should take classes in physical sciences, computer programming, and geography.

Geographers with a bachelor’s degree may qualify for entry-level jobs and for positions with the federal government. Geographers working outside of the federal government may need a master’s degree in geography or in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Some employers allow candidates to substitute work experience or GIS proficiency for an advanced degree. Research positions may require a Ph.D. or a master’s degree and several years of relevant experience.

Geography programs may include courses in physical and human geography, statistics or math, remote sensing, and GIS. Because geography is an interdisciplinary field, courses in a variety of areas, such as business, economics, or real estate, may be helpful.

College students may benefit from participating in internships that put geography principles into practice.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although not required, certification may indicate professional expertise. For example, the GIS Certification Institute and the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing both offer certification in GIS. Candidates may qualify for certification by passing an exam and meeting other requirements, such as for education or experience.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Geographers study data and information from a variety of sources and must be able to draw conclusions about their usefulness and meaning.

Computer skills. Geographers must be proficient in GIS programming, database management, and data visualization techniques and should be comfortable creating and manipulating digital images with GIS software.

Communication skills. Geographers often need to write reports and funding proposals. They also present their research and findings to their peers and nontechnical audiences and must be able to convey the meaning of data in understandable ways.

Critical-thinking skills. Geographers must be able to choose the appropriate data, methods, and scale of analysis for projects.

Pay About this section

Geographers

Median annual wages, May 2021

Geographers

$85,220

Social scientists and related workers

$80,890

Total, all occupations

$45,760

 

The median annual wage for geographers was $85,220 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $53,410, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $118,380.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for geographers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service $93,640
Educational services; state, local, and private 64,760
Professional, scientific, and technical services 64,430
State government, excluding education and hospitals 64,250

Most geographers work full time.

Job Outlook About this section

Geographers

Percent change in employment, projected 2021-31

Social scientists and related workers

5%

Total, all occupations

5%

Geographers

0%

 

Employment of geographers is projected to show little or no change from 2021 to 2031.

Despite limited employment growth, about 100 openings for geographers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Budget constraints are expected to reduce employment for geographers in federal government. However, governments and businesses will still need geographers to research topics such as natural hazards and the use of resources. For example, geographers’ analyses on population distribution and land use are important for infrastructure planning and development by both governments and businesses.

Employment projections data for geographers, 2021-31
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Geographers

19-3092 1,600 1,600 0 0 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of geographers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2021 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Anthropologists and archeologists Anthropologists and Archeologists

Anthropologists and archeologists study the origin, development, and behavior of humans.

Master's degree $61,910
Cartographers and photogrammetrists Cartographers and Photogrammetrists

Cartographers and photogrammetrists collect, measure, and interpret geographic information in order to create and update maps and charts for regional planning, education, and other purposes.

Bachelor's degree $68,900
Economists Economists

Economists collect and analyze data, research trends, and evaluate economic issues for resources, goods, and services.

Master's degree $105,630
Geoscientists Geoscientists

Geoscientists study the physical aspects of the Earth.

Bachelor's degree $83,680
Market research analysts Market Research Analysts

Market research analysts study consumer preferences, business conditions, and other factors to assess potential sales of a product or service.

Bachelor's degree $63,920
Political scientists Political Scientists

Political scientists study the origin, development, and operation of political systems.

Master's degree $122,510
Postsecondary teachers Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a variety of academic subjects beyond the high school level.

See How to Become One $79,640
Surveying and mapping technicians Surveying and Mapping Technicians

Surveying and mapping technicians collect data and make maps of the Earth's surface.

High school diploma or equivalent $46,910
Surveyors Surveyors

Surveyors make precise measurements to determine property boundaries.

Bachelor's degree $61,600
Urban and regional planners Urban and Regional Planners

Urban and regional planners develop land use plans and programs that help create communities, accommodate population growth, and revitalize physical facilities.

Master's degree $78,500
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Geographers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/geographers.htm (visited November 25, 2022).

Last Modified Date: Monday, September 19, 2022

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2021 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2021, the median annual wage for all workers was $45,760.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2021

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2021, which is the base year of the 2021-31 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2021-31

The projected percent change in employment from 2021 to 2031. The average growth rate for all occupations is 5 percent.

Employment Change, 2021-31

The projected numeric change in employment from 2021 to 2031.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2021-31

The projected numeric change in employment from 2021 to 2031.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2021 to 2031.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2021 to 2031.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2021 to 2031.

2021 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2021, the median annual wage for all workers was $45,760.