I'm a Geographer: Your Path to a Career in Geography

By Gardner, Rita | Geographical, September 2010 | Go to article overview

I'm a Geographer: Your Path to a Career in Geography


Gardner, Rita, Geographical


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Why study geography?

Whether researching a volcano that stops air travel in its tracks, deciding where to locate a wind farm, or using geographical information systems (GIS) to help locate a business, the work of geographers across the world is as diverse as it is compelling.

Often the top media stories of the day are underpinned by geography--whether it's crime statistics, the spread of disease, development (both local and international) or sustainability, to name just a few. Geographers' specialist knowledge and ability to understand issues from a breadth of different perspectives means they are highly sought after in the workplace. And in a world where much of our information technology is location-based, from postcodes to satnavs, GIS has grown rapidly to become an essential tool in business organisations and government. The result has been more opportunities for geographers at a time when competition for jobs is higher than ever before.

Across the UK, more than 90 universities offer degree courses in geography at undergraduate, Masters and PhD levels. Among these are some of the leading geography departments in the world, which attract students from around the globe. Students from a wide variety of backgrounds and qualifications study geography, both full- and part-time, with courses lasting three years in England and Wales, and four in Scotland. The latest National Student Survey confirms the benefits of studying geography in the UK, with courses in the subject achieving some of the highest results for student satisfaction.

The range of options in geography is large and constantly developing. Single honours degrees in geography stress different dimensions of the natural and social sciences and humanities. Joint degrees allow the subject to be combined with, for example, economics, business, chemistry or tourism. Finally, there's a range of more specialised degrees from which to choose, including climate change, international development, geohazards, and computer-based mapping and GIS.

Most programmes offer opportunities for students to get out in the field and collect their own data. You might want to explore the role of tourism in a developing economy or how lake sediments provide evidence for previous changes to our climate. Each course has a slightly different emphasis, and it's worth taking the time to explore the full programme of each potential course to make sure that it's right for you.

The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) can help you to make your choices, and we are constantly updating and developing resources that support anyone with an interest in studying for a degree in geography. Whether you're still deciding if it's the subject for you, or choosing where best to study once you've made that decision, go to our website to learn more. There you'll find the following:

* The careers brochure Going Places with Geography (www.rgs.org/goingplaceswithgeography) highlights a range of careers and opportunities in which geography graduates flourish, whether using subject-based or transferable skills. From working in the City to conservation, geographers are highly employable, and the diversity of employment opportunities is reassuring in times of economic uncertainty;

* The Study Geography web resource (www.rgs.org/studygeography) provides information on university courses, how to apply, guidance on key issues to think through when choosing your programme, and advice on writing a strong application;

* And information about becoming one of our Young Geographers (www.rgs. org/younggeographer). Join up, and you'll receive your own monthly copy of Geographical, free entry to our lectures, discounts and special access to online learning resources.

Whatever your passion in the world, fascination with the environment or concerns about inequality, geography can provide you with the knowledge, experience and transferable skills that will reward you personally and advance you professionally. …

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