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Geographer: Educational Requirements to Start a Career in Geography

Geographers examine and document the physical and social properties of a location. Many conduct studies that examine how people use land for purposes such as urban development. Other geographers analyze how certain social factors relate to different physical locations. Some workers only focus on physical geography fields, such as ecology or climatology. Read on to learn the educational requirements to start a career in geography.

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Geographer Educational Requirements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies geographers as a type of social scientist because geographic studies often focus on societal populations within physical locations (www.bls.gov). BLS records indicate that most social scientist careers required a graduate degree, although some lower-level positions, such as assistant researchers or analysts, may only require a bachelor's degree. Since the two main fields of geography include cultural and physical geography, students may want to choose graduate programs that focus on one of these areas.

The BLS reported in 2012 that jobs for geographers are expected to increase 35% between 2010 and 2020. BLS data from May 2012 shows that the salary for all U.S geographers averaged to $74,020, with the highest-paid geographers working in scientific research and development.

Cultural Geographers

Workers in the field of cultural geography examine cultural factors within specific geographic locations, such as economic growth, transportation, political affiliations and urban development. Coursework related to the cultural side of geography includes social systems, cultural ecology, global studies and population statistics. Geography graduate students often choose a specific focus area within their programs. For example, a student who wants to specialize in cultural geography related to healthcare may choose classes like medical geography, ethnic populations or community development.

Physical Geographers

Individuals in the physical geography field often focus on topics related to environmental issues, land formations, water resources and animal habitats. Graduate degree programs cover courses, such as regional changes, land development, sustainability and cartography. Some institutions provide students with concentration options that focus on physical geography subfields, including climatology, natural resource studies and geomorphology.

Core Coursework

Although students can specialize in areas of physical and cultural geography, certain core classes are required by most geography graduate programs. Technology courses, for instance, have become more important for geography graduate students since most data is gathered remotely through global positioning systems and geographic information systems. Other core geography classes include qualitative research techniques, geographical statistics and geography analysis. Graduate-level programs in geography often require students to complete a thesis, project or dissertation, and some programs may require students to complete internships with experienced geography researchers.

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Career Information for a Degree in Geography and Cartography

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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    • Eligibility and relevancy of sample programs below will vary by article and program
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Arizona (3 campuses)
    • California (16)
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    • Virginia (3)
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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Undergraduate applicants must be a high school graduate or have completed GED; Graduate program applicants must have a master's degree or higher
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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be 18 years of age or older
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Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • Pennsylvania (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Pennsylvania include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Ethnic and Gender Studies
      • Geography and Cartography
        • Geography
      • Human and Social Services
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Public Administration
      • Religious Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
  • School locations:
    • Florida (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Florida include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Ethnic and Gender Studies
      • Geography and Cartography
        • Geography
      • Human and Social Services
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Parks, Recreation and Leisure Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Religious Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
  • School locations:
    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Boston University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Ethnic and Gender Studies
      • Geography and Cartography
        • Geography
      • Human and Social Services
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Public Administration
      • Religious Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
      • Theological, Religious, and Ministerial Studies
  • School locations:
    • Georgia (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Georgia include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Ethnic and Gender Studies
      • Geography and Cartography
        • Geography
      • Human and Consumer Sciences
      • Human and Social Services
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Public Administration
      • Religious Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics