While geography may not seem like the most vocational of degrees, it does prepare you for a few related careers that build on your passion for the subject. Far more important, though, it’s an excellent all-round degree giving you key research, analysis and critical thinking skills employers will value. Around 70% of graduate jobs don’t require a specific degree, and all of them are open to you. Even the big financial and consulting routes are a very real possibility – employers are looking for a diversity of thinking, not just business and economy graduates. Here are just some popular destinations for geography graduates.
If you want to do your small part towards saving the world, you can have an impact with an environmental career. This is ideal for those who specialised in physical and environmental geography. Environmental consultants work with companies, local authorities and many other organisations to help them reduce or reverse harm to the environment. For example, if a new stadium was in the works, you might be called in to help select a piece of land and to ensure that the construction has the minimum environmental impact.
While you can move into environmental consultancy directly after university by taking on an entry-level role, you’ll be more attractive to employers if you take a related masters programme.
Policy and government
Particularly if you specialise in human geography, your degree will give you a natural insight into politics. You could find yourself well-suited to a role within international development, environmental affairs or agriculture, to name a few.
An excellent way of getting started in politics and government is to apply to the Civil Service Fast Stream. This competitive graduate programme leads to an almost guaranteed job in a specialist area, anything from finance to the diplomatic service. It’s a solid career with a starting graduate salary of £25-27K, and a first step towards exerting real influence on the direction this country takes.
Banking and finance
You might be surprised to learn that investment banking and other finance careers are very much open to humanities graduates. In fact, banks will appreciate your ability to look at the big picture, such as the sociological or geopolitical context of a particular deal.
The key to becoming an investment banker is showing your enthusiasm early and gathering as much experience and as many contacts as you can. You should start in your very first year, by going to careers fairs and applying to spring weeks. This is the build-up to obtaining an internship in the summer of your penultimate year – an absolute must for getting onto a graduate programme.
Consulting means taking a look at an organisation from an outside perspective and giving expert advice – perhaps in management, HR, strategy, or even IT. Big management consultancy firms employ smart, motivated graduates who have excellent problem-solving skills and work well under pressure. The right personality is much more important than the right degree, so your geography background will fit in just fine.
A huge perk of a consulting career is the salary. You’ll start at £30-40k and could be earning £60k within just a few years.
It’s one of the most competitive sectors out there, so you’ll need to work hard to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Consultancy firms have fewer internship schemes than investment banks, so you’ll need to work to gather relevant experience in your own way.
Accountancy isn’t all about numbers – while you do need to be comfortable with maths, being a good accountant is more about information, analytical thinking and attention to detail. If you’re the right kind of person, your geography degree will have built up a lot of the skills you need.
To become a qualified accountant you’ll have to pass a series of exams, which usually means taking a training contract with an accountancy firm. You’ll be signing up for an intense 3-5 years of work and study. You’ll be thrown into work straight away, starting out by performing tasks as simple as logging invoices, and moving up to managing projects and leading teams.
Though competition for places isn’t as fierce as it is for consultancy and investment banking, you’ll still need to demonstrate real interest and enthusiasm, and preferably gather some relevant work experience while at university.
As a trainee accountant you can expect to earn around £30k, increasing significantly when you qualify.
You might be tired of people thinking that geography is all about drawing maps and learning place names, but cartography is actually a valid, varied and interesting career for a geographer. You could be involved in making maps and charts for publication, analysing photographs, designing information systems, and much more.
It’s a high tech field, and you’ll need to be computer literate. You’ll also need a good eye for design. Further study, such as a masters in geographic information systems (GIS) will develop relevant skills, prove your interest and increase your employability.
There are two types of geography graduate – those who enjoy learning and picked geography as an interesting challenge, and those who are absolutely passionate about the subject. If you’re the latter, teaching geography might be an ideal route for you.
To become a qualified teacher you can either do a one-year PGCE course (PGDE in Scotland), or a take school based training route.
Geography teachers are currently highly in demand, and you’ll be offered strong financial incentives to train. If you graduate with at least a 2:2 you can receive a bursary of £25,000 or a scholarship of £27,500 during your PGCE.
It’s all down to you
As we said earlier, geography graduates can be found in a vast range of careers. Other popular choices include marketing, tourism, social work and communications. If so much choice seems a little overwhelming, remember that some will suit you better than others.
Once you’ve identified your particular skills and talents and thought about what you want to get out of your career, the answer may just drop into your lap.
Whether you're ready to apply for graduate jobs, or you simply want to see what's out there. Use our trusty application list and browse graduate jobs to discover where your degree can take you.