Most people are familiar with what geography is -the study of location and relationships on Earth -but not many could explain what geographers do. Of course, jobs in this field cover a broad spectrum of areas and specialties that are all somehow related to location.
However, geography careers can be much more rewarding and interesting than looking at maps all day. In fact, a lot of the people who study and work in the field started out doing something else before they stumbled into geography and realized there's more to it than memorizing random facts like state capitals mountain heights. Part of this common misconception about geography and geographers comes from they way education delivers geographic principles in elementary, middle, and high schools. The USA lags far behind geographic knowledge in their education system as compared to most other countries around the world.
Consequently, it is not until advanced high school or college classes that students first start appreciating the depth and breadth of what geography is all about and the many career opportunities for those who decide to pursue a "study of the earth and it's people" in a myriad of ways.
Geography jobs are out there for nearly all education levels. The most basic positions only ask for a high school degree or certification. Travel agents, for example, fall into the category of geography. In many states, an individual can become a surveyor with an associate's degree or related experience. Surveyors measure land, usually for planning purposes, or to find the exact location of a property line. Many other positions require a bachelor's degree, master's degree, or more. With higher education, there are a lot more doors opened for job opportunities in geography.
A wide variety of industries employ people in geography positions. They include education, manufacturing, meteorology, business, real estate, publishing, government, urban planning, science, forestry, engineering, and more. Because of this range, geographers may find themselves working in a classroom, an office building, or outside in the field. Some work directly in mapping, as most people would imagine when they picture a geographer. Others locate natural resources, find the ideal location for a company's headquarters or real estate development, work in the social sciences, or analyze data and write reports, among other things.
Geography also draws from a number of other academic disciplines. It is most closely related to politics, history, sociology, economics, environmental sciences, and history. That makes this a good field for someone who is interested in how these things are interrelated and influence one another. Oftentimes, geography also involves numbers and statistics. Cultural geography studies how people and lands or locations are related by utilizing the social sciences mentioned above. On the other hand, physical geography is concentrated on the physical features of the Earth. It is more related to things like cartography, geology, and climatology, for example. Conservation, environmental and ecological research and alternative energy/climate change is also a growing focus within geography.
A rapidly growing field of geography is in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Combining the rapid data processing and visualization tools of computers with the ever-increasing demand for current information yields an immensely powerful tool for all of the vocations above and many more. GIS is used in an incredible array of professions, from commercial businesses of all kinds to nearly every level of municipal, state, and federal government. Most people don;t even realize they are surrounded by GIS every day - in the navigation systems of their cars, on their cell phones, when looking for a place to live, when shopping, traveling, in their work, and at school. Google Earth, Microsoft's Virtual Earth, Mapquest, and many similar on-line services all are based on GIS - especially when various sets of data are available to be "draped"over the base map (weather, cities, tourist sites, statistical or demographic data, etc.) There is a huge demand for workers who are comfortable using a computer understand geography. Consider GIS - it has a very promising future...
Here are some Job Listings and Career Resources in Geography: