Geography Degrees

Geography is the study of the world in which we live. More specifically, it is the study of the earth's landscapes, environments, places, and peoples. The discipline is divided into physical and human geography; the former concerns earth's physical landscapes and the environment, while the latter is all about dynamics of societies, economies and cultures. Geography is a unique discipline which rests somewhere in the middle of natural sciences and social sciences.

Geography Degrees
Like other disciplines, geography is taught at various levels in colleges and universities. In addition to programs for geography degrees, non-degree programs in geography like certificates may also be offered to interested individuals. A bachelor's degree in geography may cover topics like:

  • Evolution of plant life
  • Origins of agriculture
  • Glaciers and climate change
  • Race, gender, and social movements
  • Dynamics of the global economy
  • Culture of cities

A bachelor's degree in geography is a four-year program, and in addition to class work, field work may be required to complete the degree program. Field trips may include visits to the nearby cities and mountains. Some of the classes offered at the undergraduate level may be titled as:

  • American Cultural Landscapes
  • Development & Underdevelopment
  • Local & Regional Transformation
  • Prehistoric Agriculture
  • The Southern Border
  • Multicultural Europe
  • Cartographic Representation
  • Geographic Information Science (GIS)
  • Physiography & Geomorphology
  • The American City

A master's degree in geography may be pursued by students with geography backgrounds or non-geography academic degrees. A graduate level program may focus exclusively on topics like:

  • Global Environmental Change
  • Local & Global Relations
  • Development & Environment

A master's degree may take as long as two years to earn, and a Ph.D. in geography may take an additional 3-4 years to complete. Some students may directly enroll in the doctoral program right after their undergraduate degree. 

What To Do With A Geography Degree?
The Association of American Geographers reports that the majority of geographers work as teachers, bureaucrats, and for various businesses. If you have an undergraduate degree in geography, you may pursue a graduate degree in forestry, international studies, public policy, law, landscape architecture, city and regional planning, geology, earth sciences and environmental science. A bachelor's degree in geography may qualify you for an entry-level geographer's job. You may start a career as a cartographer or photogrammetrist. They create maps and charts based on geographic data. You would need at least a master's degree to work independently or conduct independent research as a geographer. Proficiency in GIS (geographic information systems) would help.

Career Outlook
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for geographers are expected to grow at a rate of 29% between 2012 and 2022; faster than the average for all other professions. Geographers earned a yearly median salary of $74,760 in 2012. The job outlook for cartographers and photogrammetrists is good too; their jobs are expected to grow at a rate of 20%; faster than the average for all other occupations. They earned a yearly median salary of $57,440 in 2012.


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