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How to Become a Geographer

Master's degree

Geographers rely on GPS or global positioning systems and maps to conduct their work. Entry-level jobs can be attained with a bachelor's degree; however, these jobs commonly require previous training in GIS or geographic information systems and additional geography experience. Most jobs outside of the federal government require a minimum of a master's degree.

Work Experience

New graduates and students typically gain experience through part-time jobs and internships. These positions enable workers to explore their interests, develop new skill sets and become familiar with how the industry works. Part-time jobs and internships can dramatically help future job prospects as employers prefer individuals with practical work experience.

Education & Training

Geographers seeking employment outside of the federal government often require a master's degree in geography. Individuals with a bachelor's degree can still gain employment in nonprofit organizations and some entry-level jobs. Certain positions enable candidates to substitute GIS proficiency or work experience for and advanced degree. A master's degree or a Ph.D. and numerous years of relevant work experience are typically required for top research positions.

The majority of geography programs include classes in human and physical geography, remote sensing, GIS, statistics and mathematics. Additionally, courses are available in a specialized area of expertise. This is becoming more vital since the field of geography is interdisciplinary and broad. For instance, geographers working in private industry may find real estate courses or business and economics courses very helpful.

Geography professors are often required to have their Ph.D.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

The majority of positions require geographers to be capable and proficient with GIS. The GIS Certification institute enables geographers to become certified as GISP or a GIS professional. Even though certification is not mandatory, it may demonstrate a level of professional expertise. Candidates may become certified through a combination of professional experience, education and making contributions to the profession through conference participation or publications. GISP certification can help individuals with a Ph.D.'s or master's degrees qualify for particular jobs.

Skills and Qualities that will Help

Analytical Skills: Geographers are responsible for analyzing information and spatial data from numerous resources including: censuses, photographs and maps. They are required to draw conclusions from analyzing various sets of data.

Communication Skills: Geographers commonly work with a variety of professionals in related fields. They need to communicate efficiently with coworkers and clearly present their research. Being able to explain and defend their research is an integral part of the process. Working on teams is a common aspect of this career.

Computer Skills: Geographers who rely on GIS technology need to be fluent in their computer skills. In order to be proficient in database management and GIS programming, they need to be comfortable manipulating and creating digital images in the software.

Critical-Thinking Skills: Geographers rely on their critical-thinking skills when conducting research as they must decide on the proper data, methods and scale of analysis to complete projects. For instance, a geographer may review some population data in order to determine the implications of a certain development plan.

Writing Skills: Writing skills are essential for geographers as they commonly write articles or reports detailing their research. Certain geographers may be responsible for writing proposals so they can receive grants or funding for their projects and upcoming research.