Finding employment that is both lucrative and intellectually stimulating can be a challenge in the current job market.  Some industries are still experiencing a higher than average growth rate, however, and this provides ample opportunities for individuals to broaden their horizons.  Health care in general provides a number of new job opportunities, and public health is specifically responsible for many of these.

Careers in public health can provide a variety of opportunities for service to the community as well as good pay and stable positions.  The job of geographer is one of these career options, and can give you the chance to both travel and increase knowledge and understanding of environmental factors in community health.

What Is A Geographer?

Geographers apply their insight to both environmental and social factors.  They study natural formations and structures as well as the people and cultures that live in these places.  They may map the natural environment and catalogue resources, but may also study populations, including customs, interactions, and politics.

Geographers in the field of public health will usually work for the federal government, although they may also be employed by local or state agencies.  The information that they acquire may then be put to use in assessing health needs for communities, as well as safety concerns for the people of a region.   

Geographers are engaged in a number of tasks, some of which include the following:

  •   Collect information on the physical structures of a region.
  •   Utilize demographic data, imagery, and observation to create an area overview.
  •   Evaluate resource and population distribution.
  •   Report and present information to census boards and public health departments.
  •   Address concerns for the population that are extrapolated from this information.
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Geographers will also need to cultivate certain professional skills to excel in this line of work:

  •   Critical thinking:  Along with gathering information, you will also need to consider what the information means in regards to population welfare and future health and wellness of a community.
  •   Computer skills:  Much of the data that you collect will be presented through computer imagery.  Understanding technology and specific software applications is integral to data analysis and correlation. 
  •   Observation:  Details about environment and populations are important to your evaluation of conditions and reports on populations.  Being able to pay attention to all factors within the environment will offer you greater insights.
  •   Communication:  You will need to be able to interact with populations on a number of levels as you gather data.  You will also need to be able present this information both in a written and verbal format to other professionals and government officials. 
  •   Writing proficiency:  Beyond just needing to be able to disseminate information in a written format, you will also need to be clear, concise, and engaging.  Much of your research will be required for publication in both industry and public journals.

Nature Of The Work

Although many geographers are employed directly by the federal government, some work in local or regional departments.  As a geographer in federal career, you may be required to travel extensively and spend extended periods in other communities and environments in order to study social order and habitats.  The majority of this job will consist of fieldwork, and this may require you to live in remote as well as densely populated regions.

You will also need to spend much of the rest of your time in an office environment.  This will be necessary for collating and evaluating data.  You will also need to write reports and articles, and generate imagery of the environmental observations you have made.  Overviews and assessments of populations will be a part of the office work, as will updating databases as to current changes within the structures of the environment.  

Education And Training

In order to become a geographer, you will need to complete at least a four year degree for an entry level position.  Advancement is most likely with higher education, and many geographers hold at least a Master’s if not a PhD. as well.  Course work for this position should include biology, earth sciences, and chemistry.  Computer technology courses are also required, as much of the imaging and environmental measurements are conducted with computers and satellites.

You will need to become certified in geographic information systems (GIS), as this is the standard model for data record keeping and collecting.  The preparation for this credentialing may be covered by course work and completed with a board exam, although experience plays a large part in this process.  This may be done through separate classes or internships.

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Geographers play a large role in the allocation of public health resources and are in high demand both with the federal government and with municipalities.  As you will help to establish new laws and policies regarding healthcare and emergency funding, you will find that this career path not only offers good advancement but has a number of positions for entry level applicants as well.  Federal employees tend to average close to $90,000 a year in wages, while state and local geographers are closer to $60,000, but advancement is highly possible at any level. 

This field of work is seeing a much stronger increase in employment than many other industries, and it is expected to an almost 30% rise in employment over the next ten years.  If you are interested in exploring landscapes and community cultures while making your living, then a job as a geographer may be for you.   

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