If you want to be a geographer, one of the highest-paying social science careers, you will need an array of skills in different areas. Your abilities in critical thinking and analysis, the use of technological systems and equipment, and the application of geographic perspectives and concepts are vital. Some essential skills for a geographer, like communication skills, transfer seamlessly to other job roles in the social sciences and beyond, while others are more specialized.
Critical Thinking and Analytical Skills
As a social science occupation, geographer is a role that emphasizes the scientific study of a region, often performed by conducting research. Skills in thinking critically and analyzing information are important for succeeding in this work. Without the ability to think critically, you would have a difficult time planning and designing the research, including identifying and using the qualitative and quantitative methods of research that best fit your goals. This skill is also integral to being able to draw conclusions from the data you collect, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Your analytical skills are just as important to this field as your critical thinking skills. For geographers, there is not only a vast amount of information to synthesize and analyze but also a broad assortment of types of data to consider. You need to be equally competent in analyzing maps, models, photographs, numerical data contained in graphs and tables and qualitative information conveyed through written records and descriptions.
Students of geography should develop skills in numerous aspects of statistical analysis, including descriptive statistics, inferential statistics and statistical software. These techniques allow you to analyze migration patterns, land use and census data.
If you don’t think of the social sciences as being particularly technical, studying to be a geographer may change your mind. Computer skills are some of the most important qualities for geographers to have, according to the BLS. A type of computer software known as Geographical Information System (GIS) software is widely and heavily used in the field of geography, and employers look for candidates who have experience and proficiency using this technology. Ideally, you should be competent in GIS design, programming, analysis and digital image manipulation.
Geographers also need to use a variety of highly technical tools, such as sonic anemometers, laboratory sifting equipment, scanners, social core sampling apparatus, water and sediment samplers and microscopes, O*NET reported.
Applications of Geographic Perspectives and Techniques
Geography is more than a career path. It’s a field of scientific research and inquiry with its own unique perspectives and techniques. Developing the foundational knowledge of geography and the ability to apply these perspectives and techniques to real problems and questions is a skill you need to succeed in this field.
For geographers, especially human geographers, being able to see issues through the lens of geographic perspectives can help you better plan appropriate research methods and handle interactions with the locals you encounter while doing fieldwork. Having a full understanding of this perspective is important for turning your geographical knowledge to practical matters like the impact of changes in public policy, the environment and urban and economic development.
As the many subfields of geography can attest, this broad field can often contribute to the discourse that surrounds matters that you may not associate with maps – things like economic inequality and the intersection between gender and geography.
In the field of geography, communication is about more than the style with which you convey matters of substance. The strength of your research findings and your input on matters affecting geography depends on your communication skills. If you struggle to communicate effectively, you may have a difficult time getting your research efforts funded, making notes that are detailed enough to add value to the study of a geographical site or presenting your findings and conclusions. Because you need to convey both qualitative and quantitative information and draw upon the concepts and theories of both natural and social sciences, clear expression of ideas is especially important for geographers.
Geographers have to communicate with different audiences in different environments and through different means of expression. Geographers do everything from presenting at a conference for the general public to writing articles for a peer-reviewed academic journal.