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Putting your Liberal Arts Degree to use: 5 jobs for Geography graduates

You’ve made it through the cram sessions, power naps at the library, and more cups of instant noodles than is probably safe for human consumption. With university in the rear view mirror, it’s time to start looking ahead and planning for your career. Unless you’re planning to make it up the ivory tower of academia, you’ll need to start thinking about how geography graduates can land a job out of school. Then you can become that productive member of society you’ve always wanted to be! No more cup noodles for you! Or maybe just not as many.

First things first…the value of geography graduates.

Graduating with a degree in the liberal arts is not as ‘worthless’ as your STEM friends would have you believe. There has always been a need for employees who can think critically and evaluate the relevance of critical information. Also, knowing how to conduct research and use secondary materials makes a difference. And, of course, being able to make connections with all the information that has been presented. All of these skills are typical characteristics of geography graduates. They’re also all qualities found in the employees of the jobs we’ve selected for your consideration. So start getting your CV in proper order and get ready to start looking for a position as a…

green spaces for geography graduates
Better than sitting in a cubicle all day.

Landscape Architect

Most geography graduates won’t be able to jump into landscape architecture with only a geography degree. However, after a few extra years of school and certification, this could be the fit you’re looking for. Not to mention it’s a high paying profession that comes with a certain level of prestige. Many universities offer two-year conversion master’s programmes for geography graduates, and you’ll have the benefit of having a postgraduate degree. If you’re looking for a field that combines art, science, and humanities, the extra studying is a great investment. This position focuses on balancing a local communities needs with the landscape the project is in. You could be re-purposing an old industrial park as a public space or helping small housing developments maximize their green space. You’ll need a passion for design and a creative vision for utilizing a site’s natural landscape to succeed in this field. You’ll also spend quite a bit of your time outside on-site and not stuck inside in a cubical all day. Not a bad perk at all!

Typically, an entry level landscape architect position will get you an annual salary around £22,000. However, once you become a Licentiate member of the Landscape Institute you can see your salary grow to nearly £30,000. After becoming a chartered member, your salary will continue to grow to the tune of £40,000 or more. And once you’ve been in the field for a while, a senior level position has salaries in excess of £100,000. Pretty pretty good.

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geography graduates canvas
Re-imagining our urban spaces.

Urban Designer

Design isn’t the first area that comes to mind when geography graduates start looking for professions, but urban designers take a lot into consideration when designing spaces that will solve the social and economic concerns of the community where the project is being built. If you’ve ever found yourself thinking about how much better a place in your city could look, or how to better use the natural landscape of an area, this might be a field to look a little more closely at. It’s a very unique and new profession that combines a lot of different fields from architecture and engineering to policy and politics. Projects can be anything from new highrise apartments to green spaces or shared community areas. Experience with using design software like AutoCAD and Adobe Creative Suite are essential for certain aspects of the job, and being creative with a vision of how urban space can be utilised are typical requirements for job listings in this field.

Without any design experience it’ll be hard to expect a salary comparable to the other jobs on this list. However, you can find entry level urban design jobs starting around £20,000 per year and once you’ve got your foot in the door with a few years in the field and a couple projects to show for your hard work, firms will pay somewhere closer to £40,000, with senior level positions paying the big money in the neighborhood of £65,000 or more.

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smartphone mapping applications created by geography graduates
Geography graduates love their maps!

GIS Technician

If you got into geography for the maps then a job in GIS will be right up your alley. There are many different areas in geographic information systems that range from extremely specialized software developer positions that require coding and programming experience, to cartography that will utilize the skills all geographers learn in their undergraduate programmes. You’ll need decent computer skills and the ability to use GPS equipment if you want to work in GIS. Knowledge of working with CAD or ArcGIS is also necessary to land a position. If you don’t have the experience or degree in GIS there are certification courses you can take in your desired field to bolster your chances of getting the position you’re after. And while a job as a technician unsurprisingly requires technical skills, the everyday tasks are rooted in the skills geography graduates possess. GIS has made its way into numerous fields recently. These include waste management, water and stormwater systems, and even historical geographic mapping. This means you’ll have plenty of options when looking for an area to specialise in.

You can find a lot of contracted work for companies offering hourly wages from £14-20 an hour, with projects lasting a few months to half a year. If you’re looking for salaried work, many postings are offering around  £25,000 per year with project completion bonuses. With some of the more specialised positions, you can expect to make up to £45,000 or even £55,000 per year.

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solar panels far and wide
Going green requires consultants to make it happen.

Environmental Consultant

There has been a lot of growth in the field of environmental consultancy in the past few years. This is due to the increased focus on environmental issues and concerns about the impact of urban sprawl on the environment. You could be working to help businesses become greener, studying the environmental effects of a new construction site, or securing government funding for various projects. You’ll need to brush up on your knowledge of environmental regulations, and while a graduate degree isn’t usually required, having an area of expertise in a specific environmental field will be invaluable when looking for jobs in renewables or positions in waste management. Having good communication and organizational skills will  be helpful when dealing with clients and companies. And you geography background will give you a unique viewpoint on the issues. Traveling will also be a part of the job. Getting to the work site or client’s office might be necessary. Sometimes you’ll need to secure a contract or advise and oversee the work being done there.

For your salary, most entry level positions are going to start around £30,000. This figure continues to climb with additional qualifications and work experience. After a few years in the field and a portfolio of client contracts and projects under you belt, it’s not out of the question to see positions with an annual salary of £45,000 or even £60,000 for more senior level positions. Pretty great for knowing your job is helping the impact we have on the environment.

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geography graduates deal with facts and figures
An office job you’ll actually enjoy!

Quantity Surveyor

While there are many types of surveyors, being a quantity surveyor doesn’t require a lot of work experience to get an entry level position on a work site or in an office. Overseeing and managing the costs associated with the project you’ve been assigned will be your main task. From building materials to maintenance work; cutting costs while maintaining quality and production goals is the name of the game. For anyone who likes to budget and follow their spending habits down to the last pence, this just might be your dream job. Having a postgraduate qualification through the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors will do a great deal to improve your prospects, and will be necessary once you have a few years of experience under your belt and start looking for a higher salary.

Speaking of salary, you can expect to earn somewhere in the neighborhood of £30,000. Give or take a few thousand pounds. Once you have your qualifications and relevant experience, you can find positions that start around £60,000 or even more. There’s also the issue of bonuses that depend on the costs you’re able to save for each project. These can be as little as a few hundred pounds, all the way up to thousands of pounds per project. Not a bad little cherry on top, is it?

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With all of that in mind…

Whichever path you decide to go down, there are plenty of options out there for geography graduates. Start thinking outside the box and market your skills and experience instead of the title of your degree. You might even be able to work your way into the tech sector if you play your cards right.