Where can Geography take you?

I often get asked by parents, students and well, anybody that knows me what the point is of studying geography.  Where can it take you?  What are the job prospects?  Is there any point in taking this course at GCSE, A Level or through to degree level and beyond?    As someone who would describe themselves as a ‘professional geographer’ for about 31 years or so – I am pleased to let you know that many of my students have actually gone on to fantastic careers in geography and few of them end up doing the same thing.  I have former students who have ended up as geography teachers, estate agents,  GIS analysts, financial advisers,  computer programmers,  PhD students and higher level researchers,  paramedics, epidemiologists and a variety of jobs in the civil service including water management, flood management, NISRA and TourismNI (and that’s just the ones I know about!)

I always feel guilty over-selling the appeal of going on to study Geography at university as with the expense that university now brings – this can be a difficult decision for a student (and their family) to take.  They need to be sure that this is the route they really want to take.  I don’t want them having regrets (or even for blaming me) for choosing the right course.   Also – university geography is really different from what is studied at both GCSE and A Level and I don’t want them to feel that I am steering them wrong.

That said, my daughter is currently coming to the end of here undergraduate degree and it is looking like my son will also follow a geographical path.   I don’t worry about it.  I know there are loads of really good job opportunities for someone who gains a geography degree.   It’s just as well as my 2 kids are really different people and will likely end up doing different things once they have completed university.

Today I was reading the August copy of Geographical magazine and came across the following graphic



The number of students who were doing A Level Geography has increased from 2016 (which is great news) but I thought it was interesting that so many (82%) ended up going to university.   The reality is that only 18% of these students end up in a directly geographical discipline but that geography A Level is also a really useful entrance course for people who go on to sciences (including medicine, dentistry, biological sciences,  agriculture and the physical sciences), but also Technology and Engineering courses and even more (31%) end up in Arts, Humanities and Social Science subjects (like law, business, languages, History, Art and Education).

It has often been argued that Geography is the subject that sits at the epicentre of choice for students in that it can be used as both a science and an art subject.  This is the same today as it was when I applied for my degree over 30 years ago.

However, within the academic discipline in schools – we need to realise that they still is a massive gap between what our students study for GCSE and A Level and what they will experience at university.  We need to keep freshening up our approach, and modifying the curriculum and specifications so that we are clearly picking up the best of geographical study and not just continuing to wheel out the same old greatest hits as we always have.


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