Careers in Geography

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Careers Economic Geography

Economic geography is concerned with the location and distribution of economic activity. It focuses on the location of industries and retail and wholesale businesses, on transportation and trade, and on the changing value of real estate.

Courses in economic geography may cover such topics as transportation, agriculture, industrial location, world trade, and the spatial organization and function of business activity. Students who have a strong interest in economic geography will be likely to see global interdependence as a focus of their academic program. In America in Transition: The International Frontier, a recent report of the National Governor’s Association, the following statement was made:

Times have changed. Revolutionary advances in science, technology, communications, and transportation have brought nations and peoples together. World trade, and financial, economic, and political developments have transformed disparate economic systems into a highly interdependent global market place. Today the nations that inhabit the planet are often more closely linked than neighboring states or villages were at the turn of the century.

In the same vein, Geography: Making Sense of Where We Are says, “We can no longer afford to divide the world into things American and things non-American. We are as dependent on other nations as they are upon us.” The manufacture of a single pencil requires materials from eleven countries. “American” cars contain parts that originate overseas. We send many of our products to other countries for processing, packaging, and shipping to take advantage of lower labor costs. We truly live in a global community, and geography can help us understand this interdependent world as we rush toward the twenty-first century.

Location Expert

One of the most important ways a business or industry can enhance its chances of success is to find a good location. Convenience stores, automobile assembly plants, ice cream parlors, taverns, movie theaters, shopping malls, office complexes, banks — all have a common need to be in the best location. It is the job of the location expert to determine locations in which all types of businesses can be successful. Economic geography provides a good background for this, since geographers know about demographics (the statistical characteristics of populations, such as age and income), transportation, availability of labor, shopping habits, and how cities expand. Location experts are employed by firms that assess location needs for clients. Some large companies employ their own location experts.

Market Researcher

Businesses need to know which products will sell, where they will sell best, to whom they will sell, and why. Market researchers provide this information by studying buying habits, regional sales characteristics for certain products, and customer preferences. Their activities include such things as collecting information on where customers live and why they shop at a particular store or on what products and features appeal to which types of customers. If you've ever been part of a “consumer survey,” you’ve taken part in market research.

There is a large industry of market research firms employing many people. Marketing departments within companies also conduct market research. Along with courses in economics and geography, a knowledge of statistics and various business disciplines, such as marketing and advertising, is very helpful.

Traffic Manager (Shipper)/Route Delivery Manager

Large companies employ key people to arrange for the shipping of their products. Traffic managers or shippers must select the mode of transportation (usually rail, truck, or air) and arrange for all aspects of the delivery of goods. Sometimes shippers must arrange to export goods to other nations.

Route delivery managers are similar to traffic managers. They must plan very efficient routes for the delivery of goods and services. Imagine how much a large mail-order company like Sears would benefit if it could make its delivery system to customers more efficient by as little as 1 percent! In an era when fuel and labor costs are high, route delivery management is a crucial skill. For both these jobs, some business background in addition to economic geography can be helpful.

Real Estate Agent/Broker/Appraiser

Geographers are particularly well equipped to evaluate the price of land or real estate. They are aware of the impact on value of zoning, available municipal services, transportation, environmental features, and potential return on the investment. Geography students planning to work in real estate should supplement their major courses with others in economics, marketing, and finance.

Most real estate professionals need a special license to practice and may have to take special courses in the field to obtain it. Jobs are available in local and national real estate agencies, relocation companies, companies that relocate many of their own employees, appraisal firms, developers, and banks.

Source: Association of American Geographers (AAG)

Questions, Comments, Suggestions?

If you would like more information about geography at Plattsburgh State, please contact

Dr. Edwin Romanowicz, Director, Center for Earth and Environmental Science
Office: Hudson Hall 132
Phone: (518) 564-2028
Toll-Free Phone: (877) 554-1041