Upon graduation with a major in geography, there are four options:
- Use your geographic knowledge and skills to enter a career directly related to geography. For example, town and transport planning, tourism/leisure, conservation and teaching. Students should be aware that further training at the Masters level is becoming increasingly important, and sometimes essential, for entry to these careers. Appropriate course selection from the earliest time of entry into the University is important in seeking a career using geography as a platform. Students are therefore encouraged to obtain advice from the Department’s academic staff on selecting courses that are related to their career plan.
- The many skills that students have learned may provide entry to more general careers both in the private and public sectors. Geographers increasingly choose careers in information technology, finance, marketing and administration. In addition, the Royal Geographic Society has observed that employers are looking for graduates who are spatially, environmentally and socially aware.
- Geographers, like students from many other disciplines, are increasingly entering postgraduate study and training to gain the professional qualifications necessary for entry into some professions. A major in Geography is appropriate for gaining admission into a variety of specialist postgraduate programmes ranging from environmental management, conservation, urban planning, transport/logistics, and teaching.
- Geography graduates can make use of their training and skills in geography to become teachers in local secondary schools. This career path may require additional postgraduate training in education.
Recent survey of geography graduates revealed that they obtained careers in a variety of areas such as marketing, administration, tourism/leisure, media, transport/logistics and teaching. Around 25% of graduates entered either taught masters or teacher training programmes.
Once lampooned as the last academic domain of the workshy and the unimaginative, geography has experienced a sharp revival of its street credentials as environmentalism has entered the mainstream. Following another unlikely boost when Prince William took it up while at university in the 1990s, courses are now often oversubscribed.
Geography comes in many forms – often including feminist, Marxist and post-structural approaches – but is most straightforwardly divided into human and physical strands. Most courses feature some combination of both, allowing students to understand how communities interact with their physical environments.
Careers are not confined to specialisms, and employers value the many portable skills gained. And as for geography students' supposed lack of imagination, Roger McGough, the well-known Liverpool poet (and geography graduate), might have something to say about that.
What skills have you gained?
You'll have developed strong analytical skills, knowing how to interpret conceptual and data-based information. In a rapidly changing world your understanding of how human environments function globally and locally is highly marketable. A knowledge of how to read future socio-economic trends and use computer modelling tools will be of interest to many employers.
To this end, your degree should have included a major piece of research, which will have allowed you to develop self-management skills, as well as important transferable attributes such as communication, presentation and team-working.
What jobs can you do?
Geography graduates are equipped to move in several career directions, often combining their knowledge of human and environmental activity to work in areas such as town planning, travel and tourism or aspects of environmental protection, says Margaret Holbrough, careers adviser with Graduate Prospects.
A high number of geography-related careers require further study. Within six months of graduating, 19% of 2008 geography students returned to specialise in areas such as meteorology, environmental management and oceanography. Popular careers such as urban planning, surveying and teaching require more study. Business and management courses are other options.
Catastrophes, such as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, not only serve as a reminder of how unpredictable the Earth can be, but also lead many to wonder why such natural disasters have become so prevalent. These are just some of questions that students of physical geography and environmental science will have grappled with.
Physical geography is the most scientific of the subject's strands. As the name suggests, it looks at physical changes to the planet. Students learn about the processes that structure the natural world, touching on topics such as volcanic activity and geographical information systems (GIS).
Environmental science graduates learn about the biological and chemical features of the natural world and the impact humans have on it, covering hot topics such as global warming.
What skills have you gained?
Through field and laboratory work – often a major component of both degrees – you gain practical skills, together with observational skills and an ability to analyse and interpret data.
Other transferable skills include numerical analysis, verbal and written communication, project management and being able to work as part of a team.
What jobs can you do?
"Many graduates who have studied environmental science or physical geography, want to work in a job protecting the environment or advising organisations, either directly or indirectly," says Margaret Holbrough, a careers adviser at Graduate Prospects. "Specific roles include environmental adviser/consultant, environmental manager, or nature conservation officer.
"Careers in recycling or waste management, water quality or toxicology analysis, as well as in environmental health, town or transport planning, logistics and transport management or surveying, may also be of interest." Both degrees offer opportunities in research, teaching or local or central government. "Physical geography graduates could look at careers in more specialised areas, such as cartography or GIS," Holbrough says, adding that gaining some form of environmental work experience will be advantageous.
Some careers, such as environmental health or teaching, need further study. Nearly 5% of 2009 graduates went on to a teaching qualification, while 15.6% went on to a master's or PhD.