Geographers: Salary Overview
Geographers study the distribution of land and other Earth features.
Their job responsibilities typically include gathering geographic data by making observations on the field or by using maps, photographs, censuses, and satellite imagery.
Geographers also create and modify maps, conduct research, analyze the geographic distribution of data, write reports and connect the geographic data with data from other fields of study, such as health, politics, or economy.
In their work geographers use GIS, remote sensing, and GPS (global positioning systems).
They use data obtained by overlaying aerial or satellite images to create maps that inform the government, organizations, and the public and help them make decisions regarding road building, planning homes, landfills, marketing strategies, and disaster response.
Many people who have studied geography may also start a career as surveyors, cartographers, or urban or regional planners.
Geographers may specialize in one particular field, such as physical geography or human geography.
Physical geographers study the physical aspects of a specific region- such as landforms, soils, natural hazards, climates, water, and plants- and how these physical aspects impact humans.
Human geographers examine the manner in which human activities impact the physical environment.
They may use information from other disciplines in their research and cover political, cultural, environmental topics.
Depending on the type of project, geographers may also work with other specialists, such as urban planners, real estate professionals, legislators, and civil engineers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for geographers was $81,540 in May 2019- this means that half the workers in this occupation earned less than this while half earned more.
This translates to a median hourly rate of $39.41.
However, salaries vary depending on the field of employment, the geographer’s level of experience, and education.
Some make less than $52,280 a year, while others earn more than $113,140 a year.
Geographer Salary by Industry
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, geographers held about 1,500 jobs in the United States in 2018, most of them (about 60%) working for federal agencies.
Other geographers work for the state government or for companies that provide architectural, engineering, and related services.
Geographers who work in the Federal Executive Branch earned a mean annual wage of $87,850 per year while those employed by Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools earned an average annual wage of $67,140.
The annual mean salary was $81,000 for geographers who worked for companies that provide architectural, engineering, and related services and $67,140 for geographers employed by Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools.
Average hourly wages vary between $29 and more than $42, depending on the industry of employment.
Higher hourly wages are typically earned by experienced geographers who work for the federal government or for companies that provide management, scientific, and technical consulting services but experience and level of education also play an important role in determining how much a geographer makes.
Geographers with less than one year of experience typically earn less than $50,000 a year but experienced geographers with more than 15-20 years of experience can make more than $110,000 per year.
Most geographers also receive health and dental insurance, paid vacation time, and other benefits.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of geographers is expected to grow 3 percent from 2018 to 2028.
They will continue to be needed by both governments and businesses that need to research topics such as natural hazards and the use of natural resources.
Because this is a relatively small occupation, job seekers should expect strong competition for jobs, especially in some regions.
Having some practical experience in the field by completing an internship will improve your job prospects.
* Based on information from the May 2019 salary report from the BLS. The figures represent accumulated data for all states of employment for Geographers. BLS data represents averages and medians for workers at all levels of education and experience. This data doesn't represent starting salaries.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.