What can you do with a geography degree?

December 27, 2022 · 4 min read · By ASU Online
Interested in a career in geography? Learn how geographers make an impact in politics and community health, different roles in the field, and the online degrees that can prepare you for them.

At its core, geography is the study of the diverse spaces and environments of Earth and their relationship to those who inhabit it. The field of geography offers a bridge between natural sciences and social sciences to better understand the differences in environmental, social and cultural contexts across the globe.


Careers in geography

There are a variety of careers in geography, including cartographers, climate change analysts, environmental protection specialists, environmental restoration planners, geographic information systems (GIS) analysts and soil scientists. Some traditional geography-centric positions include:

  • Cartographer

Cartographers collect, review and use geographic data to create maps. Depending on the types of maps being created, cartographers may compile data from sources such as aerial photographs, satellite images, surveys and population data. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the group that includes cartographers and photogrammetrists earned a median salary of $68,900 in 2021, and employment is projected to grow 3% between 2021 and 2031.

  • Photogrammetrist

Photogrammetrists create models based on the analysis of photos and imaging. Today's photogrammetrists must be well-versed in technology, as they heavily rely on Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping to fulfill their role.

  • Geographer

Geographers study the features and inhabitants of differing terrain. Some geographers also look at geographic impacts on culture and politics and engage in fieldwork in the locations they are studying. Many geographers work for government organizations, but some are employed by colleges or universities. The average median salary for geographers was $85,220 in 2021, according to the BLS.


The influence geographers can have on politics and society

Geographers bring a perspective that blends the analysis of economics, environment and culture. Their efforts provide insights into the connections between physical environments and key aspects of society. This context aids other professionals in making more informed decisions to support their goals.

Common geographical insights include the discouraging or encouraging of economic activities. Examples of geography influencing economic activities include implementing shipping activities near a natural harbor and the decision to mine in areas where specific minerals occur.

Geography can also influence the development and maintenance of cultures. For example, if the availability of natural resources is hindered due to environmental or political causes, traditional occupations and food supplies can be affected. Understanding and analyzing why geographical phenomena occur can aid other professionals in making the decisions needed to restore or benefit an affected region.

Geography also has a major impact on politics. For example, the presence or absence of environmental resources can improve or impair a local economy. And government regulations tied to natural resources can influence political priorities. Thus, politics is another field where geographers may find opportunities to leverage their expertise.

5 benefits of transferring to an online program

Whether you're a current college student seeking more flexibility, a parent hoping to fit school into your busy schedule, or an experienced professional seeking advancement, you can reach your education goals by earning a degree online.

Geography’s effects on individual and population health

Geography has an impactful connection to the health of the population. The National Cancer Institute reports that geography plays a key role in risk factors for cancer and other health outcomes. For example, geography can influence:

  • Access to health services: Certain areas may provide many or few choices for receiving care.
  • Availability of resources: An area may provide access to businesses and resources that affect the health of inhabitants, such as fresh, healthy foods, or a lack thereof.
  • Environmental exposure: Environmental factors, such as pollution from overpopulation and industrial use, can cause health issues.

Geographers can help identify issues that make access to health care more difficult. This information assists medical and public health workers, who can then devise specific strategies for better connecting with affected groups. Geography roles can also involve reviewing geographical risk factors, including considerations such as polluted lakes and rivers. These analyses related to physical environments lean on the core elements of geography.


Earn your online geography degree with Arizona State University

ASU Online provides two options for students interested in careers in geography. The School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning helps you pursue your passion for geography and develop the abilities you need to compete for relevant positions.

In the online Bachelor of Arts in geography, you’ll learn about people, places and cultures and be equipped to connect and analyze these varying geographical aspects. You’ll also build foreign language competencies that are crucial for international work.

Careers in geography for bachelor of arts graduates often focus on human geography, which describes the influence of humans on the physical landscape and vice versa. Degree holders may find roles in domestic or international organizations, such as in the U.S. State Department or with companies operating in foreign nations.

Understanding natural features and how humans can alter them offers valuable insight into:

  • Development of cultural practices.
  • Localized health issues.
  • Political priorities and leanings.
  • Transportation concerns and the flow of goods and services.

The online Bachelor of Science in geography develops your knowledge of Earth's physical features, and you’ll learn how social and environmental science play into geographic work. Upon graduation, you’ll be prepared to document and analyze core characteristics, such as climate, landforms, plants, water and weather, and understand these physical features’ impact on components, including transportation, economics, politics and more.

Graduates of this bachelor’s program can expect to find a variety of applicable careers in geography, such as:

  • Cartographer
  • Environmental impact analyst
  • GIS specialist and analyst
  • Hydrology and water resource specialist

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We’ve compiled what you need to know about online classes and degree programs at Arizona State University. Read on to learn all about what to expect from the ASU Online learning experience.


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