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.
Most geographers work full time.
Geographers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree to enter the occupation. Some jobs require a master’s or doctoral degree.
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.
Geographers typically have an interest in the Building, Thinking and Creating interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Creating interest area indicates a focus on being original and imaginative, and working with artistic media.
If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking or Creating interest which might fit with a career as a geographer, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Geographers should also possess the following specific qualities:
Analytical skills. Geographers commonly analyze information and spatial data from a variety of sources, such as maps, photographs, and censuses. They must then be able to draw conclusions from analysis of different sets of data.
Communication skills. Geographers often work closely with workers in related fields. They must be able to communicate with coworkers; present, explain, and defend their research; and work well on teams.
Computer skills. Geographers who use GIS technology need strong computer skills. They must be proficient in GIS programming and database management and should be comfortable creating and manipulating digital images in the software.
Critical-thinking skills. Geographers need critical-thinking skills when doing research because they must choose the appropriate data, methods, and scale of analysis for projects. For example, after reviewing a set of population data, they may determine the implications of a particular development plan.
Writing skills. Writing skills are important for geographers because they often write reports or articles detailing their research findings. Some geographers also must write proposals so that they can receive funding for their research or projects.
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.
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.
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.
For more information about geographers, visit
For more information about geographic information systems (GIS) certification, visit
To find vacancies for geographer positions in the federal government, visit