Explore environmental careers.
Geographers study the physical world and examine the connections between people, places, and the earth. They examine social aspects, such as human demography, and physical aspects, such as geomorphology, drawing on a number of other disciplines, for example biology, oceanography, and sociology. Geographers contribute to the understanding of social and environmental issues regarding land use and resource management by examining how different spatial elements are related to one another.
At a glanceImagine moving down a rocky beach toward a blue line of water. You check the virtual tour's altimeter and compass, then spin 360 degrees to take a good look around. You are a geographer and this virtual tour is part of a computer model replicating one of the small Arctic islands in the Foxe Basin. While the tour might be fun for armchair polar adventurers, you are more interested in the model as a demonstration tool. Your work as a geographer over the past few years has involved modelling the effects of climate change on Canada's Arctic coastlines and coastal communities. This model is the culmination of your research, demonstrating the catastrophic results of global warming on these northern islands. As a geographer, you model the effects of climate change on physical features such as Arctic coastlines. You began your research by consulting historical information, poring over old photos and maps to gather as much data as you could. You then compared the archival data to current information to begin mapping the evolution of these coastlines. Through this comparison process, you identified changes in coastal geomorphology, in particular areas susceptible to soil erosion. You then began incorporating meteorological records and correlating changing weather patterns to physical changes, for example the movement of sea-ice packs. You used remote sensing equipment to gather current meteorological data, such as temperatures and wind patterns, as well as topographic data, such as elevation. Using this information and your skills as a geographer, you constructed a computer model to predict the physical changes in Arctic coastlines if global warming continues at its current rate.
Job dutiesDuties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a geographer:
- Advise governments, developers, and other organizations on environmental, social, and economic issues.
- Prepare maps, graphs, and other visual tools for displaying geographical information.
- Develop information systems for storing, interpreting, and displaying geographical data.
- Consult with all levels of government on different site planning, for example designating heritage sites.
- Conduct research relating to climate, landforms, environmental conditions, transportation, urban development, population, welfare services, industry, or geographical regions, including writing reports and presenting research findings.
- Collect and analyze information on communities, people, and the environment.
- Interpret business patterns for real estate developers and retail companies and coordinate marketing plans.
- Assist other companies and researchers to identify, acquire, and use geographical information.
- Integrate data, both qualitative and quantitative, using geographical referencing techniques.
- Collaborate with community decision- and policy-makers on important local issues, for example water risks, oil and gas exploration, and land claims.
Work environmentGeographers work in a variety of locations, including, but not limited to: In the office:
- Collecting and analyzing qualitative and quantitative data for reporting
- Researching literature and drafting models
- Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, government departments, and the public
- Researching new technology and advancements in geography, and consulting with other geographers and professionals
- Conducting land- and community-based surveys
- Inspecting ongoing projects and conducting assessments
- Conducting key informant interviews, focus groups, and participant observation
- Processing field samples and generating data
- Analyzing archival material
Where to work
- Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
- Colleges, universities, and research institutes
- Environmental and engineering consulting firms
- Cartography labs, surveying, hydrographic, and computer mapping companies
- Museums, archives, and libraries
- Planning and economic development agencies
- Conservation authorities
- Not-for-profit, non-governmental, and international organizations
Education & requirementsIn most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as a geographer is a university undergraduate degree. Geography can be studied as a Bachelor of Arts program (human geography) or a Bachelor of Science program (physical geography). The following post secondary programs are most applicable to a career in this field:
- Environmental science
- Environmental earth science
- Geographical information systems
- Urban and regional planning
- Environmental planning
- Social studies