Geography Program - Careers in Geographic Education

Now that more and more geography courses are being offered in high schools and colleges, the need for teachers of geography at all levels has risen dramatically. Most college geography departments offer comprehensive teacher certification programs either in geography or earth science or through a multidisciplinary program often called social studies composite. Courses are geared to state curriculum requirements in geography and earth science and normally include regional geography and a selection of physical science courses, such as climatology, oceanography, geomorphology (landforms), and environmental geography. In addition, those planning to be teachers might take courses in economic geography, natural resources, urban geography, and teaching methods. For those who wish to teach geography in a junior college, college, or university, graduate-level study is a necessity.

While teaching is not the highest-paid profession, there are numerous benefits, including time off for travel or professional development and the understanding that you are making a real difference in the lives of young people.

Elementary/Secondary School Teacher

A great many new teachers will be needed in the next ten to fifteen years to teach geography, at both the elementary and high school levels. For elementary school teachers, geography is just one component of what is taught; for secondary school teachers, geography may be taught by itself or as part of a larger social studies curriculum. Teaching geography at these early levels is very important, because it is here that students gain a basic understanding of the world and their place in it.

College Professor

As the number of geography courses in high schools expands, more and more students pursue geography in college, perhaps majoring or minoring in it. This keeps college geography departments busy, and these departments employ a number of geography professors. Professors have as many specialties as there are disciplines within geography. They teach courses--from introductory courses for freshmen to advanced seminars on a specialized subject for upperclass and graduate students--and conduct research.

To be a college professor, you definitely need a graduate degree, usually a Ph.D.

Overseas Teacher

There are lots of teaching jobs in foreign countries. In places where large numbers of American military personnel or businesspeople are based, there are also American children needing teachers at all grade levels. The Department of Defense maintains English-language schools in such places as Germany, Greece, the United Kingdom, Guam, South Korea, and Japan. As U.S. business becomes more international, large corporal ons are finding that they must offer educational opportunities to the dependents of employees working in foreign nations. There are also independent American schools in many large cities the world over.

Overseas teaching jobs may pay a little bit more than a comparable job in the United States, but what you will need to take into account is the relationship of salary to cost of living in a particular country. The benefit you will always receive from teaching overseas, of course, is the opportunity for travel and cultural exploration.

Source: Association of American Geographers (AAG)

Questions, Comments, Suggestions?

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

Dr. Robert Fuller (Chairperson)
Geography Department
Office: Hawkins 129 B
Phone: (518) 564-2404
Fax: (518) 564-4124
E-mail: robert.fuller@plattsburgh.edu