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.


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

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.

Education and Training

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.

Personality and Interests

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.

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. 


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

For more information about geographers, visit

Association of American Geographers

For more information about geographic information systems (GIS) certification, visit

American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing

GIS Certification Institute

To find vacancies for geographer positions in the federal government, visit





Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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I am not sure if this career is right for me. How can I decide?

There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. On this site, you can take the Career Personality Profiler assessment, the Holland Code assessment, or the Photo Career Quiz.

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