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Career profile Geographer

Also known as Earth Observations Chief Scientist (NASA), GIS Geographer (Geographic Information Systems Geographer), GIS Physical Scientist (Geographic Information Systems Physical Scientist), Scientist, Supervisory Geographer

Geographer

Also known as Earth Observations Chief Scientist (NASA), GIS Geographer (Geographic Information Systems Geographer), GIS Physical Scientist (Geographic Information Systems Physical Scientist)

Interests Profile
  • Investigative
  • Realistic
  • Artistic
Pay Range
$53,630 - $117,100 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Speaking
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Writing
Knowledge Areas
  • Geography
  • Education and Training
  • Sociology and Anthropology
Core tasks
  • Create and modify maps, graphs, or diagrams, using geographical information software and related equipment, and principles of cartography, such as coordinate systems, longitude, latitude, elevation, topography, and map scales.
  • Analyze geographic distributions of physical and cultural phenomena on local, regional, continental, or global scales.
  • Write and present reports of research findings.
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What does a Geographer do?

Geographers study the nature and use of areas of the Earth's surface, relating and interpreting interactions of physical and cultural phenomena.

In addition, Geographers conduct research on physical aspects of a region, including land forms, climates, soils, plants, and animals, and conduct research on the spatial implications of human activities within a given area, including social characteristics, economic activities, and political organization, as well as researching interdependence between regions at scales ranging from local to global.

What kind of tasks does a Geographer perform regularly?

Geographers are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Create and modify maps, graphs, or diagrams, using geographical information software and related equipment, and principles of cartography, such as coordinate systems, longitude, latitude, elevation, topography, and map scales.
  • Analyze geographic distributions of physical and cultural phenomena on local, regional, continental, or global scales.
  • Write and present reports of research findings.
  • Gather and compile geographic data from sources such as censuses, field observations, satellite imagery, aerial photographs, and existing maps.
  • Study the economic, political, and cultural characteristics of a specific region's population.
  • Teach geography.
  • Collect data on physical characteristics of specified areas, such as geological formations, climates, and vegetation, using surveying or meteorological equipment.
  • Locate and obtain existing geographic information databases.
  • Conduct field work at outdoor sites.
  • Provide geographical information systems support to the private and public sectors.
  • Provide consulting services in fields such as resource development and management, business location and market area analysis, environmental hazards, regional cultural history, and urban social planning.
  • Develop, operate, and maintain geographical information computer systems, including hardware, software, plotters, digitizers, printers, and video cameras.

The above responsibilities are specific to Geographers. More generally, Geographers are involved in several broader types of activities:

Analyzing Data or Information
Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Working with Computers
Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
Processing Information
Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.

What is a Geographer salary?

The median salary for a Geographer is $85,430, and the average salary is $85,620. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Geographer salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Geographers earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Geographers earn less than $53,630 per year, 25% earn less than $66,130, 75% earn less than $102,660, and 90% earn less than $117,100.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Geographers is expected to change by 6.3%, and there should be roughly 100 open positions for Geographers every year.

Median annual salary
$85,430
Typical salary range
$53,630 - $117,100
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)
6.3%

What personality traits are common among Geographers?

Interests

Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Geographer are usually higher in their Investigative, Realistic, and Artistic interests.

Geographers typically have very strong Investigative interests. Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Also, Geographers typically have moderate Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Lastly, Geographers typically have moderate Artistic interests. Artistic occupations frequently involve working with forms, designs and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.

Values

People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Geographer tend to value Independence, Achievement, and Working Conditions.

Most importantly, Geographers very strongly value Independence. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.

Second, Geographers strongly value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Lastly, Geographers strongly value Working Conditions. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Geographers must consistently demonstrate qualities such as analytical thinking, attention to detail, and dependability.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Geographers, ranked by importance:

Analytical Thinking
Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Dependability
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Achievement/Effort
Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
Integrity
Job requires being honest and ethical.

What education and training do Geographers need?

Many Geographers have earned a graduate degree. For example, they may require a master's degree, and some require a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D..

Geographers may need some on-the-job training, but most candidates will already have the required skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.

Educational degrees among Geographers

  • 0.7% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 1.5% completed high school or secondary school
  • 6.0% completed some college coursework
  • 4.0% earned a Associate's degree
  • 32.8% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 38.8% earned a Master's degree
  • 16.1% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Geographers

Geographers may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as geography, education and training, or sociology and anthropology knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Geographers might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Geography
Knowledge of principles and methods for describing the features of land, sea, and air masses, including their physical characteristics, locations, interrelationships, and distribution of plant, animal, and human life.
Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Sociology and Anthropology
Knowledge of group behavior and dynamics, societal trends and influences, human migrations, ethnicity, cultures, and their history and origins.
Computers and Electronics
Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
Mathematics
Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.

Important Abilities needed by Geographers

Geographers must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Geographers need abilities such as oral expression, oral comprehension, and written comprehension in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Geographers, ranked by their relative importance.

Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Written Comprehension
The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
Inductive Reasoning
The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
Written Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.

Critical Skills needed by Geographers

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Geographers frequently use skills like speaking, reading comprehension, and writing to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Geographers, ranked by their relative importance.

Speaking
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
Writing
Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

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