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Earth at night, taken from space.

Four reasons why you should study geography

If you are interested in pursuing a career in an area that genuinely makes a difference to the world we live in, you should consider geography.

From understanding everything from how and why volcanos are formed to the impact of overcrowding in urban areas, geographers are integral to help find solutions to some of the biggest issues in the world, such as climate change, urban over-development and natural disasters.

Drawing on many other related disciplines geography offers a broad range of career outcomes and, with the increasing global focus on the issues geographers are equipped to address, employment opportunities are growing exponentially.

Here, Professor Louise Johnson from Deakin University’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences outlines four reasons why studying geography can lead to a rewarding and successful career.

There’s more to geography than you think

‘Contemporary geography is much less about where places are – though this is useful knowledge – but the ways in which physical and social processes differentiate the earth. It therefore splits into physical geography where you learn about geo-physical processes (such as plate tectonics, soil formation and climate) and human geography where you would consider the ways economies, cultures and societies create very different places. Geography is more than a study of people in their environments, but engages with contemporary problems and issues using an array of skills and a unique spatial perspective. These skills and perspectives therefore allow new understandings and solutions to be found. For example, in working on how to build better fringe suburbs, a critical insight would be to take what is best about inner suburban areas – their higher density, walkable neighbourhoods, concentration of employment and easy public transport access – and extend these to the design of new areas.’

Put your geography general knowledge to the test by completing this quiz.

Geography is experiencing somewhat of a boom

‘For a while geography was seen as somewhat “daggy”, to be overtaken by studies of the environment and sustainability however, these studies are now regarded as somewhat narrow. For example, you cannot understand or ameliorate climate change unless you have a strong understanding of the human dimensions of where and how people live. It is not enough to, for example, put in a third pipe for recycled water or install solar panels if the residents of the same area proceed to use far more energy and water resources than elsewhere, leading to extra runoff and greater drain on the grid to make up the shortfall. It is not just a physical set of problems but social ones that need broadly conceived solutions. It is this broader perspective that a geographer offers to those who care about, for example, climate change and how to address its challenges. So, across Australia, geography (environmental/land/planning etc.) departments are increasingly being renamed with the “G” word in the title again and both elements of the discipline are being taught.’

'Geography is more than a study of people in their environments, but engages with contemporary problems and issues using an array of skills and a unique spatial perspective.'

Professor Louise Johnson,
School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University

The employment prospects for geography graduates are vast

‘Geography graduates can go into a range of occupations and areas of further study. In particular, human geography leads directly into urban and regional planning, which can occur within governments but also in the private sector. Skills acquired in geography can also be marketed on their own – such as cartographic (maps), Geographic Information Systems (Google maps) and data presentation skills – into these same organisations. Many geographers are employed in major consulting firms, conducting innovative social research. They are also training further in urban and regional planning. There is also of course teaching, as the discipline is taught once more in primary and secondary schools. Physical geographers, who are also often involved in environmental management/consulting, can and do go into parks and other forms of nature management, as well as advise on climate change adaption in the public and private sectors.’

Geographers can truly make a difference to the world

‘Geography is enormously important because it teaches a spatial perspective that is not available in any other discipline. It is also uniquely synthetic, bringing together the physical dimensions of the environment with the human side of things and, in this exercise, can offer unique and vital solutions to many of the local and more global problems – of uneven development, socio-spatial inequality, building sustainable environments, and so on. There are also tools that are unique to the discipline, such as Geographic Information Systems and cartography, as well as others around “reading” landscapes and data presentation, which make it uniquely placed to assist in analysing and addressing local, regional and global problems.’

If you’re interested in learning more about geography, consider studying it at Deakin. Geography is offered as a major or minor within a number of courses.

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Professor Louise Johnson
Professor Louise Johnson

Professor of Australian Studies, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University
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