Career pathways

Geography as Career Preparation

 Geographers describe and analyze the forces shaping the how goods, people and services are spatially distributed.  We examine people and their interconnections in an ever-more globalized world. This emphasis translates into many types of career opportunities: location and distribution analysis, mapmaking (GIS) and critical analysis, understanding health and well-being as socially created phenomena, environmental politics and sustainability studies, and an understanding of the roots of (in)equality and power imbalances, to name a few departmental skill sets with which our students graduate.

The Association of American Geographers (AAG) offers an in-depth  career guide for all Geography majors, including information on what geographers do after graduation, where they work, what their salaries are, and how to prepare for specific careers.

Geographers typically work in the following fields:

  • Civil service: planning (economic, environmental,  urban, transportation, health care)
  • Regional & economic development
  • Real estate
  • Geodemographics: marketing and the use of spatial data
  • Import/export, international trade, trade logistics
  • Demography–population analysts
  • Public health
  • Environmental justice
  • Sustainability
  • Non-governmental organizations or social mobilization
  • Resource specialists
  • Education
  • Geographic Information Systems.
    For an excellent overview of GIS uses and emerging GIS career pathways, see the ESRI sites, “What Is GIS?”, and “Top 10 Resources For New GIS Users”. (Note: ESRI is the dominant private vendor of GIS software, so their sites often promote their own products. They do, however, offer an excellent overview of what GIS can do and how widespread its use in society has become).

    The US Department of Labor’s Geospatial Competency Improvement Model offers a nice overview of the geospatial field’s core competencies.

    Other useful GIS sites include:

1. GIS News Websites

a. ESRI’s ArcNews: http://www.esri.com/news/arcnews/arcnews.html

b. SlashGeo: http://slashgeo.org/

c. GIS Cafe: http://www.giscafe.com/

d. Directions Magazine: http://www.directionsmag.com/ (heavy advertising)

2. Demonstrating GIS uses

a. O’Reilly Geo News: http://oreilly.com/archivetags.csp?tag=geo

b. ESRI’s ArcUser: http://www.esri.com/news/arcuser/index.html

c. GIS User: http://www.gisuser.com/ 

3. GIS Blogs

a. James Fee: http://www.spatiallyadjusted.com/

b. Very Spatial: http://veryspatial.com/

c. Bing Maps Blog: http://www.bing.com/community/blogs/maps/

d. Google Lat Long Blog: http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/

4. GIS Job Sites

a. GIS Jobs Clearinghouse: http://gjc.org/

b. GISJobs.com: http://www.gisjobs.com/

c. Monster: http://www.monster.com/

d. careerjet.com. 

5. GIS Salary Information

a. GISJobs.com Salary Survey: http://www.gisjobs.com/survey/

b. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://stats.bls.gov/oco/ocos040.htm

c. Salary and job search by area: http://www.indeed.com


For UW Geography faculty perspectives on GIS, as well as our GIS course syllabi, see the websites of Tim Nyerges and Sarah Elwood. For an overview of recent revisions in our GIS curriculum, see: http://faculty.washington.edu/nyerges/progdes.pdf.

Geographers are most marketable as liberal arts majors able to critically examine social phenomena and their surrounding world.  The ability to think, evaluate, and interrogate ideas is consistently referenced by our students as their most meaningful resource gained in the Geography major.  These skills include:

  • Effective communication
  • Analytical thinking and complex problem-solving
  • Keen awareness of local context and its implications
  • Ability to synthesize & interpret information
  • Visual presentation skills
  • Ability to write and speak clearly and directly
  • Conduct research
  • Summarize information
  • Knowledge of social structures and change processes
  • Sampling, gathering and organizing data
  • Spreadsheets and spatial databases
  • Use of maps, graphs, charts and tables
  • Working with US Census data and other large data sets
  • Data analysis
  • Plan and implement projectsMost recently, our our graduates have found work as: 

GIS Manager, Zillow, Inc.
Curriculum Specialist and Librarian, Tahoma School District
Realtor, Windermere Inc,  Seattle

GIS Specialist, King County Wastewater Division
GIS Analyst, City of Kirkland
Project Manager, Washington State Dept. of Commerce
founder, Spatial Development International
Vice President, Eng3 Corp
Founder, Mobspot, Inc., Portland, OR
Energy Analyst, Puget Sound Energy
attorney, Foster, Pepper
Senior VP, Integral GIS
Director of GIS Services, King County
Data and Mapping Director, Project Porchlight
technical sales, ESRI, Inc., Olympia
Enrollment Specialist, Bellevue School District, Seattle School District
Logistics Planner, Fedex, Inc, Federal Way
Imagery Production Tech Manager, Google Maps, Mt. View, CA
GIS Programmer/Analyst, Olympic Natural Resources Center, UW
Manager, Canadian Video Game Sales Team Amazon, Inc.
Urban Planner, City of Sea-Tac
Associate Director For Advancement, UW
transportation services manager for  Microsoft, Inc.
Marketing and Location Analyst, Starbucks, Inc.
Location Analyst, Coinstar, Inc.
Transportation Planner, Metropolitan Transportation Commission (San Francisco)
GIS Analyst, Seattle Public Schools
GIS Analyst, Seattle Public utilities
Financial Analyst, Seattle Public Utilities
Systems Analyst, Boeing Company
GIS Manager, City of Gresham, OR
Program Manager, Heifer International, Ellensburg
GIS Analysts, cities of Mercer Island, Kirkland, Redmond, Bellevue,  Seattle, Tacoma,  Renton,  Burien
GIS Analyst, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, NOAA
Manager & Planner, T-Mobile Corp, Seattle
GIS & IT Program Manager, King County Dept. of Transportation
GIS Manager, Herrera Environmental Consultants, Seattle
Workforce Assistant, US Geological Survey, Olympia
Director, IT Human Resources, King County