Do you love reading stories of men (and sometimes women) who many years ago left their country to go on a long expedition to discover new lands? The famous explorers who made history travelling and mapping the world with compass in hand? 

As romanticised as these stories may be, and while those days are long over, modern-day geographers still have the opportunity to explore and record the world around them. 

So if you have an innate curiosity about the world we live in, a keen sense of observation, and a desire for discovery, you should consider studying geography. 

What Can You Specialise In With A Geography Degree?

Geographers love to discover new places.
Geography is a great choice for explorers and nature lovers. Source: Pixabay Credit: Rawpixel

The word “Geography” comes from ancient Greece, and was used to describe the writings and maps that helped people understand the world in which they lived. In Greek, “Geo” means “earth” and “graphy” means “to write”. The ancient Greek people used Geography to gain a sense of where their homeland was located in relation to other places, what these places were like, and how people and environments were spread out.

Geography is the study of place, space and the environment, and how people interact with these. It is often defined in terms of two branches: physical geography and human geography.

Physical geographers are largely interested in the natural environment, including the planet’s seasons, climate, atmosphere, soil, landforms, water systems and oceans. Areas of specialisation in the field of physical geography include:

  • Geomorphology is the study landforms and how they are shaped.
  • Glaciologists examine ice fields and their effect on the planet’s climate. 
  • Pedologists focus on soil and how it is formed, altered, and categorised. 
  • Hydrologists explore the properties, distribution, and effects of the planet’s water.
  • Climatologists look at the climate system and its effects on the planet’s surface.
  • Biogeography is the study of the environment’s effect on the distribution of plants and animals. 
  • Oceanographers explore the creatures and environments in the planet’s oceans.

Human geographers on the other than are interested in the distribution and networks of people and cultures on the planet’s surface, how people use and modify their environments, and how political, social, and economic systems are organised across geographical space. Specialisations within the field of human geography include:

  • Historical geographers focus on the geographic patterns and processes in the past.
  • Behavioural geographers study how people understand maps and geographic space.
  • Cultural geography is the study how the natural environment impacts the development of human culture. 
  • Political geographers examine the effect of political circumstances on the relationship between people and their environment, as well as environmental conflicts. 
  • Health geographers explore the link between human health and geography, and the effect of the environment on human health. 
  • Economic geography is the study of the local, regional, and global impact of rising economic powers, how consumers adapt to new markets, and how markets react to the consumer base.

But there are other branches of geography that are often forgotten. For example, regional geography. Regional geographers focus on the general geographic characteristics of a region. “Region” can be defined in a few different ways: climate zones, cultural regions, political regions, or smaller regions like urban areas. Regional geographers will often also have a specialisation in physical or human geography. 

There’s also environmental geography (otherwise known as integrated geography). This branch focuses on how the physical environment impacts human beings and how human beings impact the physical environment. Like regional geography, environmental studies also combines physical and human geography. 

As you can see, there is a certainly an interrelationship between disciplines when you learn geography.

The days of long sea expeditions to discover new lands are long gone.
Historical geographers look at the geographic patterns and processes in the past. Source: Pixabay Credit: Comfreak

The Importance Of A Geography Degree

One of the biggest issues in the world right now is climate change. As the earth gets warmer and warmer, and we worry about the future of our planet, meteorologists and climatologists are vital sources of information. 

But climatologists often need the expertise from other specialists for evidence of climate change. For example, glaciologists can tell them how much the glaciers are melting and moving, and resulting in environmental change. 

Pedologists can shed light on how rainfall and temperature is effecting the organisms and minerals within the soil. Oceanographers can inform climatologists about rises in sea levels, temperature, and the amount of ice melt from the polar caps. 

Coastal geographers study the constantly changing region between the ocean and land, incorporating both physical and human geography. They analyse weathering processes, sediment movement, changes in sea and land levels, and the manner in which humans interact with the coast, for example by building retaining walls. 

All of this combined knowledge offers climatologists a clear picture of the impact of global warming. 

If you want to help find a solution to the problem of climate change, a geography major will give you the opportunity to really make a difference to the world we live in.

Do you want more reasons why you should study geography?

What Other Geography Careers Are There?

You don’t have to be an explorer or love nature to be a geographer. While some geographers may focus on climate change and natural disasters, you might want to specialise in urban geography. In this case you would undertake urban studies, looking at urban development and the impact of globalisation.

For example, you could work in urban planning or regional planning. You might work for the government or as a private contractor to assist cities in land use and how to make the most of natural resources. You might plan where to build new roads or schools. You can also assist in addressing any environmental issues the city might have. 

It's important to remember that those interested in conservation and sustainability can work in urban settings too.

You could also become a cartographer. Mapmaking, or cartography, is the career most people associate with geographers. As a cartographer, you might create maps for the government, atlases and travel information systems.

This is a great job for anyone who likes to travel, as cartographers often do. Sometimes they are accompanied by a surveyor, which is another potential career. Surveyors measure and describe the details of an area of land. 

There are also those who specialise in geographic information systems (GIS). These specialists use GIS to collect spatial data and geographic data (such as surveys, demographic data, satellite imagery, aerial photographs, and remote sensing). Each piece of data is then connected to a geographic reference point, such as geographic coordinates.

This data, called geospatial information or geospatial data, can then be managed, analysed and modelled. It might be visually represented in the form of maps, graphs or charts. This shows the spatial relationship and geographic relationship between the various types of data.

The popularity and significance of GIS has resulted in the development of a new science known as geographic information science (GISci). Geographic information scientists study patterns in nature as well as human development. 

GIS specialists work primarily in an office, collecting data, creating databases of coordinates, undertaking spatial analysis or geospatial analysis, and producing cartographic maps. But you might also do occasional fieldwork. 

Are you wondering how much geography tuition costs?

Geography is perfect for those interested in conservation and sustainability
If you want to make a difference to the world we live in, you should study a geography degree. Source: Pixabay Credit: Mystics Art Design

Australian schools are facing serious shortages of high quality teachers, particularly in regional and low socioeconomic ares. The government are even reducing the fees of teaching degrees. Considering that, you might see teaching natural science in the classroom as a lucrative opportunity.

Education requirements are slightly different for humanities teachers than for other geography careers. If you want to become a geography teacher, in addition to completing your major in geography, you must also obtain the knowledge and skills required to become a teacher.

Which geography courses will suit a future in the classroom?

It might seem like becoming qualified to teach geography is arduous but it’s certainly worthwhile. For example, if you teach at postgraduate level, you could have the chance to lead a research project and potentially even publish your findings.

If you’re interested in writing, there are many opportunities for anyone with a science degree to write authoritative articles, whether they’re about environmental science or travel. Science publications, both online and in print, will always be looking for well-researched and analytical reporting.

It is evident that the interdisciplinary nature of a geography course can open many doors. You might go down the path of meteorology and climatology, or you might go down the path of geographic information systems. But if you have a passion for this social science and you wish to make it your career, become a geography student today! 

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A student by trade, Daniel spends most of his time working on that essay that's due in a couple of days' time. When he's not working, he can be found working on his salsa steps, or in bed.