College of Liberal and Fine Arts

Geography Careers

Why major in Geography?
Geography is a subject for our times. It is multidisciplinary in a world that needs people who have the skills to work across the physical andsocial sciences. Geographers can turn maps from a two-dimensional representation of a place’s physical contours into a tool that illustrates social attributes or attitudes: not just where people live, but how, what they think and how they vote. They learn about the physics of climate change, or the interaction of weather events and flood risk, or the way people’s behavior is influenced by the space around them. This is not just intrinsically interesting and valuable, but encourages ways of seeing and thinking that make geographers eminently employable, which is why, according to the latest information from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit, only 5.8% of geography graduates were still job-hunting six months after they graduated, against an average of 7.3%.

 
What is Geography?

Geography is unique in bridging the social and natural sciences. There are two main branches of geography: human geography and physical geography. Human geography is concerned with the spatial aspects of human existence. Physical geographers study patterns of climates, landforms, vegetation, soils, and water. Geographers use many tools and techniques in their work, and geographic technologies are increasingly important for understanding our complex world. They include Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Remote Sensing, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and online mapping such as Google Earth. Specific geographic fields include:

  • GIS and Remote Sensing
  • Spatial Analysis
  • Urban Planning
  • Business and Economic Geography
  • Physical Geography
    • Weather and Climate
    • Biogeography
    • Natural Hazards
  • Political Geography
  • Cultural Geography
  • Population Geography
  • Human-Environmental Interaction
  • Globalism
  • Diversity and Gender Studies

 

Why major in Geography at UTSA?

A major in geography teaches you concepts, theories and methods that provide a unique set of skills applicable to a wide range of social and environmental issues. Geography students can choose from a variety of areas. The potential for practicing geography in the private and public sectors has grown considerably in recent years.  

 

Because of the broad nature of Geography, majors develop a desirable skill set that is attractive to employers in a wide variety of fields:

  • Oral and written communication skills
  • Critical and logical thinking skills, strong analytical abilities
  • Insight into human behavior and organizational dynamics
  • Ability to identify community needs and solutions for them
  • Knowledge of the earth’s physical environments and their interrelationship
  • Understanding of the interrelationship of social, economic, political, and cultural factors
  • Skills in operating computer equipment and the latest professional tools
  • Skills in the spatial analysis of socioeconomic patterns, problem solving.

What do geographers do? Get a job you enjoy and that means something!

The potential for practicing geography in the private and public sector has grown considerably in recent years. Most people who are attracted to geography are motivated by much larger aspirations than good salaries.  The opportunity to make a difference in the world, in whatever expression that takes, is one of the most frequently cited reasons why current geography students, researchers, and practitioners explain their career choice.  Given the breadth and depth of this rich discipline, this desire to make a difference by using the intellectual approaches and conceptual tools of the discipline may be, in fact, one of the clearest characteristics that geographers as a community have in common.

 

GIS: Geospatial Information Scientist and Technologist, Geospatial Analyst, GIS Developer

Logistics Analyst, Transportation Planner, Environmental Consultant

Spatial Thinking: Urban and Regional Planner, Surveyor, Geophysical Data Technician, Spatial Analysis Consultant, Environmental Specialist
Business/Economics: Real Estate Developer, Transportation Manager, Market Researcher, Business Development, Environmental Economist, Location Expert
Weather and Climate: Climate Change Analyst, Weatherization Installers and Technicians,

Atmospheric and Space Scientist, Climatologist

Natural Hazards: Emergency Management Specialist, Forest Fire Inspector, Environmental Consultant, Ecological Risk Assessor, Geotechnical Engineer, Hazards Analyst
Political Geography: Community Organizer, Policy Consultant/Researcher, Lobbyist
Biogeography: Soil and plant scientist, Natural Sciences Manager, Zoologist and Wildlife Biologist, Forester, Biological Science Technician
Cultural Geographer: Tour Guide and Expert; Area, Ethnic, and Cultural Studies Teacher; Interpreter and Translator; Historic Preservationist, Writer/Editor
Population Geography: Market Analyst, Real Estate, Regional Planner, Demographer
Human/Environment: Accredited Land Consultant, Manager of Sustainability, Environmental Specialist, Tour Guide, Park Ranger
Diversity Perspective: Human Resources Manager, Academic Advisor, Travel Guide,  Market Researcher
Global Perspective: International Development Specialist, Logistics Manager, Foreign Services Officer 
Remote Sensing: Remote Sensing Scientist and Technologist, Geointelligence Specialist, Sensor Specialist, Radar and Sonar Technician
Physical Geography: Soil and Plant Specialist, Water Resources Specialist, Environmental Scientist, Geophysicist, Surveyor, Soil Scientist, Water Quality Scientist, Environmental health Specialist

Trends in Geography

  • The US Department of Labor projects “much faster than average” growth, in excess of 20% or more, in jobs for geographers, geoscientists, cartographers, urban and regional planners, and other geographic professionals, with projected needs of upwards of 15,000 additional employees in each of these career fields between 2008-2018 (US Department of Labor 2010). 
  • In 2004 the US Department of Labor released a statement highlighting geospatial technology as one of the most important emerging and evolving fields in the technology industry (Gewin 2004).
  • Since members of underrepresented groups exit in large numbers at different transition points (NSF 2000; Jones 2002; Leggon 2003), the opportunity that geography offers for employment at multiple pathways—from technical positions with a GIS certificate, to professional posts for associates, bachelor’s and beyond —makes it an attractive choice for job-conscious youth and minorities in particular.
  • Undergraduate degrees in geography at U.S. institutions of higher education grew by about 49 percent (from approximately 2,900 to 4,320) between 1987-1988 and 2007-2008.  During that same time period, master’s degrees in geography grew by over 50 percent (from approximately 580 to 882) and doctoral degrees grew by about 71 percent (from approximately 150 to 257).  These rates of growth outpace most other disciplines (Pandit 2004; Murphy 2007; AAG 2008).  
  • Geography is experiencing a resurgence as an academic discipline for tackling issues of local, national, and global significance (e.g., climate change, immigration, economic trade) by attracting scholars drawn to its conceptual frameworks for interdisciplinary and integrative research (Pfirman and the AC-ERE 2003); 
  • At least three recent global trends can be identified as contributing to a renaissance of geography and its potential for making a difference in society and the world, when we now find ourselves “confronted by insurmountable opportunities” (Richardson & Solís 2004).  These include globalization at an increasing pace and scale, phenomena that compel greater understanding of the world, places, people, and natural systems that affect us as a planet and as global citizens and consumers.  It includes a recent proliferation of geographic technologies, once fairly obscure and now pervasive in our daily lives, such as GPS in cell phones and cars, online mapping at your fingertips, cable news reports using spatial visualizations, and many more applications in modern business and government services that underlie operations, planning, and progress in all sectors everywhere we live and work.  It also includes an academic trend toward greater interdisciplinarity, especially a renewed focus on big questions that matter but that require a breadth of knowledge and multiple fields to tackle. Geography’s long-standing intellectual traditions in crossing those usual disciplinary boundaries are now better understood, increasingly seen as relevant and more widely respected in scholarly circles.

 

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World map created by Abraham Ortelius in 1570.

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Department of Political Science and Geography

University of Texas at San Antonio

College of Liberal and Fine Arts

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