There has never been a better or more important time to study geography
With the growing importance of issues such as climate change, migration, environmental degradation, spatial epidemiology and inequalities, geography is one of the most relevant courses you could choose to study. Geography courses are popular, demonstrated by strong completion rates and positive student feedback. Geographers are also highly employable and collectively receive competitive graduate salaries. Above all, geographers have potential to be well-informed global citizens, using their unique combinations of knowledge and skills to make a positive difference in the world.
Whatever your passion for the world – fascination with landscapes or concerns about sustainability – geography will provide you with knowledge and transferable skills that will reward you personally and advance you professionally.
Why study geography?
Geography helps us to explore and understand space and place - recognising the great differences in cultures, political systems, economies, landscapes and environments across the world, and exploring the links between them. Geography also provides an ideal framework for connecting and bringing together other fields of knowledge.
Geography is, in the broadest sense, an education for life and for living. Learning through geography – whether gained through formal learning or experientially through travel, fieldwork and expeditions – helps us all to be more socially and environmentally sensitive, better informed, and more responsible as citizens and employees.
There are many reasons you might decide to study geography at university:
You are interested in pressing global issues and enjoy learning about people and their societies, economies, cultures and the environment
You are keen to develop a wide range of skills and apply these to solve real-world problems
You are seeking a broad-based academic degree with options to specialise, offering good and varied employment prospects
Geographers find their courses enjoyable and interesting. The 2020 National Student Survey, which is completed by final year students in every UK university, revealed that 88% of the respondents studying geography were satisfied with the overall quality of their course; higher than the 83% nationwide average for all respondents. A recent analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) also noted that Geography students are more likely to complete their degree than students of most other subjects. The dropout rate among students is the third lowest across all subjects.
The benefits of a geography degree continue well beyond graduation. The same IFS report placed Geography among the top subjects for graduate earnings. The data, derived from Department for Education statistics, showed that female Geography graduates earn over 10% more than the average female graduate, while male Geographers are more than 2% above par. Geography graduate earnings outperform many other subjects, including Technology, Biosciences and History.
What will I learn?
Geography occupies a distinctive place in the world of learning, offering an integrated study of the complex relationships between people, places and the environment. Enhanced empathy and insight, an ability to work responsibly and ethically and a flexible and creative approach to problem solving are all attributes which geography students can expect to develop.
Understanding spatial and temporal variations is a key part of geographical learning. In presenting their work, geographers develop skills in the interpretation, analysis and communication of all types of data and are familiar with a range of statistical analysis techniques. Geographers develop expertise in using innovative technologies and data, including Geographic Information Systems (GIS). However, geography is also a field-based subject and experience of the real world is an essential part of geographical learning. Geography students have opportunities to plan, undertake and report on fieldwork in a wide range of environments.
Geography has strong links with other subjects across the natural and social sciences, as well as the humanities. These strong links mean that geography is well-placed to be studied in joint or combined degrees (for example, with anthropology, archaeology, biology, data science, earth science, economics, environmental science, geology, history, mathematics, sociology, planning, politics) or in modular programmes.
If you want to know more, the Subject Benchmark Statement for Geography provides more details of the content of geography degrees in the UK.
What skills will I gain?
Studying geography gives students an opportunity to develop a wide range of skills, some subject-specific, and others more general. Together, these skills provide a strong basis for employability, lifelong learning and making a positive difference in the world. Students learn ‘through’ geography in addition to learning ‘about’ geography.
Some of the subject-specific skills you may hone by studying geography include the ability to think ‘spatially’ across multiple scales, preparing effective maps, diagrams and visualisations, conducting fieldwork and field data collection. Your studies in geography will also develop some more general skills which will be useful in the future. These include developing a reasoned argument, critical thinking, the ability to think about moral and ethical issues, team work, communication, project management and problem solving.
Usually in the first year of a geography degree you will begin with more general courses, advancing to more specialised research-focussed courses in the following two or three years. Your skills will grow in parallel so that, by the end of your degree, you can shape your course to reflect your strengths and interests. On completion of your degree, you will have a wide range of skills in preparation for work and future life.