Kids' Hangout

Budding Geographers

Q: What do geographers do? Can you get a job in geography?

A: In the early 20th Century, a geographer named Isaiah Bowman was appointed by President Woodrow Wilson to study the trouble zones of Europe and to propose new boundaries. That led to the Treaty of Versailles and the end of World War I. In the U.S. it led to the creation of the Office of the Geographer in the State Department. Pretty cushy job.

Ok, that was exceptional, and until recently there weren't many professional geographers except in universities. People often thought that geographers memorized the names of mountains and rivers, and walked around the parks of Africa in khaki shorts taking photographs of animals. That's an archaic view of geography. Geographers solve political problems, as we saw above. Geographers study the spread of diseases. They plan cities. They find good locations for schools and stores. Places to run new roads. They get called to help with major disasters like tsunamis and floods.

In the 1960s we started to use computers in geography. It was the beginning of a revolution. By the 1980s, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) had become one of the fastest growing areas in information technology. The U.S. Department of Labor recently declared that the three areas in greatest need of professionals over the next 20 years will be biotechnology, nanotechnology, and ... geospatial technology.

Being a geographer means being aware of places, how they differ and why. Why are property values higher here than there? Why does traffic pile up at this intersection but not that?

Practically everything is geographic in nature because it exists or happens at a place. Now that we have GPS, GIS and other techy toys to handle the data, it's much easier to be a geographer, and much easier to ask for a geographic viewpoint on something. So geography is going to be more and more attractive as a profession.

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