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Significant Points

This series includes positions the duties of which involve professional work in the field of geography, including the compilation, synthesis, analysis, interpretation and presentation of information regarding the location, distribution, and interrelationships of and processes of change affecting such natural and human phenomena as the physical features of the earth, climate, plant and animal life, and man's settlements and institutions.

Nature of the Work

Positions in this series are predominantly engaged in either (1) taxonomic and descriptive work or (2) analytic and interpretive work.

1. Taxonomic and descriptive work involves the assembly and presentation of information concerning the location, nomenclature, and distribution of phenomena, including the differences that exist among things that seem to be alike. This information is used for geographic categorization and designation, for producing maps, charts, and gazetteers, for standardizing geographic nomenclature, and for determining and comparing the distribution of phenomena.

2. Analytic and interpretive work goes beyond scientific observation, collation and reporting of facts. It attempts to understand the relationships existing among various phenomena, to ascertain the significance of the location and distribution of things, and to understand and determine the reasons for geographic change.

Variety of geographic work

The variety of geographic work for which a position in this series may involve responsibility depends upon the features and events being investigated. Geography is divided into physical geography and human (or cultural) geography. Physical geography is concerned with the physical earth and its resources,: land forms, climate, vegetation, soils, minerals, and water resources. Human geography is concerned with population distribution, the geographic aspects of man's settlements and institutions, and man's use and adaptation of the physical earth and its resources. Given the wide range of both physical and human geography, and the fact that positions, to varying degrees, cut across physical and human geographic lines, neither term in itself is sufficiently definitive to warrant being used as a specialization. The division of geography into physical and human spheres does, however, involve some important basic differences in background and qualifications which are significant from the standpoint of selectively certifying applicants for some positions in this series.

Principal areas of geographic emphasis

The principal areas of geographic emphasis are topography, climatology, economic geography, regional geography, political geography, and the study of human settlements. Positions in this series may, and often do, involve working with more than one of these areas of emphasis.

Topography. -- Geographers in the Federal service may be interested in the land forms and terrain of the earth for reasons involving navigation, logistics, intelligence and geographic standardization. Such work involves determining the distribution of land, water, and vegetation; the configuration of the earth's surface including its relief and the location of streams, lakes, cities, roads, etc.; and the changes that take place and the processes involved in the evolution of land forms.

Climatology. -- Geographers may be concerned with the orderly organization and use of particular atmospheric data (temperature, pressure, wind velocity, precipitation, etc.) to describe overall climatic conditions, and to do research into the causes of climatic disturbances and the processes of climatic change, including determining the significance of climatic conditions to such activities as defense, conservation, agriculture, health preservation, transportation, marketing and supply.

Economic geography. -- Economic activities (e.g., mining, manufacturing, forestry, tourism, agriculture, fishing, transportation, commerce, etc.) are considered in the light of such geographic factors as land forms and terrain, land use, natural and human resources, climate, etc. Investigations in this area are done, for example, to determine whether the resources of an area, natural and human, are underdeveloped or underemployed; to determine whether certain economic activities should be continued or can be established on a viable basis; or to determine the most feasible way to put the existing resources of an area to use. Regional geography. -- Geographers divide the earth into regions and areas. Regions and areas may be designated arbitrarily, but are typically fixed by topographic, climatic, political, economic or socio-cultural conditions. There are two reasons for these divisions: (1) to have a boundary or specific frame of reference when investigating specific geographic features and events, and (2) to examine and understand particular regions and areas geographically. When a particular region or area is the chief topic, as distinguished from specific features and events, intimate knowledge of all significant geographic phenomena in the region or area is necessary. This includes some knowledge of the history, customs and language(s) of the region or area, and awareness of economic, political and social problems.

Political geography. -- Political conditions have an impact on geography and vice versa. Geographers may be concerned with defining and describing area and national boundaries, including political and administrative divisions; and with explaining and interpreting the relationships of geographic conditions to political situations and problems.

Human settlement. -- Among the basic concerns of geographers are how and why people are distributed over the earth's surface. They study the numbers of people and their physical, social, behavioral and economic characteristics as spatially distributed, and the relationship of such distribution to other geographic features. Studies may be done in this area, for example, to determine the physical and human phenomena which comprise an urban area, including consideration of the patterns and density of the population, the functions, types, and distribution of buildings and other artifacts, the availability and use of natural resources, the implication of climate and topography, and the relationships and significance of other geographic factors.

Knowledges and abilities

All geographer positions require basic knowledge of (1) the principles of geography, (2) the general worldwide complexion of physical and human geography, and (3) familiarity with graphic representation of geographic facts. In addition, various knowledges and skills are required to perform work involving various areas of emphasis. These include, for example, (1) knowledge of conditions and developments in a variety of areas of emphasis, (2) intensive knowledge of specific geographic features and events, (3) the ability to read and interpret photographs (especially aerial photographs), and maps and charts of different scales and projections, (4) taxonomic and bibliographic skills, (5) skill in terrain analysis and in making analyses based upon location and distribution theory, (6) the ability to present and illustrate geographic information in written and graphic form, (7) the ability to integrate geographic information for presentation from an area or regional viewpoint, or from the viewpoint of an area of geographic emphasis, (8) the ability to use statistics and statistical methods, i.e., statistical tabulations, frequency studies, probability studies and quantitative analysis, and (9) the ability to use geographic field methods.

Geographer, GS-0150-05

GS-5 geographers perform a variety of tasks which are planned to provide experience and training in the application of basic professional knowledges in geography, and to develop their capacity for more responsible work.

Geographers at this level are usually engaged in the collection and identification of geographic information from specified source material in accordance with specific instructions and established procedures. These tasks are typically concerned with particular features or events and are not related one to the other. For example, information gathered may concern the exact location and place names of physical and cultural features, population changes during a specific time period in a given place or area, changes in topographic features, etc. This information is used by persons at higher grade levels in the completion of various projects or segments of projects, thereby freeing them from routine factfinding and data collection activities. Geographers at this level receive close guidance and their work is reviewed during, and after performance. However, as the geographer gains experience, the simpler assignments are not reviewed during performance.

Work at this level requires basic knowledge of the principles of geography, basic knowledge of world geography, and familiarity with various graphic methods of depicting the location and distribution of phenomena.

Geographer, GS-0150-07

Assignments at this level, while limited in coverage and complexity, are broader in scope and are performed with more independence than at GS-5. Work is typically performed in the capacity of an assistant, but greater experience, and the ability to function more independently within a narrow scope, allows the GS-7 geographer to perform a wider variety of tasks and thereby render greater assistance to incumbents of higher-grade positions than does the geographer at GS-5. Assignments are performed in accordance with specific instructions or established procedures. Work is subject to review upon completion, but is not reviewed during progress unless unexpected difficulties arise.

Typically, work at this level, whether concerned with geographic studies or research, involves compiling basic geographical facts, which the incumbent selects and evaluates, from a variety of specified sources. The particular geographic information required is drawn from specified maps, charts, and other source materials in accordance with established procedures and criteria. Discrepancies in data are ascertained, simpler discrepancies remedied; and information is presented in the most useful format, given the nature of the overall project.

Geographers at this level are familiar with a variety of basic geographic tools and sources.

Geographer, GS-0150-09

GS-9 geographers are engaged either in taxonomic and descriptive work of fairly substantial scope and complexity, or in analytic and interpretive work of relatively limited scope and complexity.

Research work at this level is typically performed under close supervision and involves responsibility for segments of the research process which are integrated into the overall project. This is distinguished from work involving the full scope of the research process as described at the GS-11 level.

Geographers doing taxonomic and descriptive work have independent responsibility for small projects or significant segments of larger projects. Their assignments have value as independent units of work, although they are often part of larger projects. This should be distinguished from assignments at the GS-7 level which do not typically represent complete projects or work units.

The following illustrate taxonomic and descriptive work typical of the GS-9 geographer: (1) Locates, examines, evaluates and selects, from a variety of graphic, textual and other source material, information necessary for use in accurately depicting the location and standardizing the nomenclature of physical and human features on a map, chart or in a gazetteer. Such work generally covers an area the size and complexity of France, and involves a large variety of phenomena that are fairly easily differentiated from one another in accordance with established procedures and criteria. (2) Compiles and synthesizes geographic data as part of a study showing and/or comparing the distribution of various phenomena. Determines the distribution of like phenomena (e.g., deciduous vegetation or precipitation) over Eastern United States, or compares the distribution of two or three different kinds of phenomena, e.g., deciduous vegetation and precipitation, in an area the size of California. Distributive information is typically presented in a graphic or a statistical manner.

Problems may arise from discrepancies in source material. Although the most difficult problems are resolved at a higher level, the GS-9 geographer is expected to use his judgment in evaluation of the evidence to resolve such problems. Completed taxonomic and descriptive work is reviewed for thoroughness, accuracy, adequacy of planning, soundness of judgment in establishment and organization of geographic facts and for conformance to established procedures.

Analytical and interpretive work at the GS-9 level is characteristically that of assistance to a higher-graded researcher whose assignment is broad enough in scope to allow the segmenting of the research into small, self-contained studies. The GS-9 geographer doing such work will normally receive extensive and precise instructions, and the project leader will be readily available for consultation and guidance. Finished work will be thoroughly checked for reliability, reasoning, and technique.

The following kinds of knowledge and skills are considered as being within the purview of the GS-9 level: (1) the ability to read and interpret maps, charts, photographs and statistical tabulations; (2) the ability to integrate geographical information for presentation from a regional or topical viewpoint; (3) the ability to present and illustrate geographic information in narrative and graphic form; (4) the ability to use basic statistical methods; and (5) the ability to carry out basic field research including the mapping of phenomena.

Geographer, GS-0150-11

Geographers at this level may be responsible for descriptive and/or taxonomic studies which involve greater coverage and complexity than those described at the GS-9 level, or they may be engaged in responsible analytic and interpretive work.

Taxonomic and descriptive work

Taxonomic and descriptive assignments typical of this level require a high degree of independent planning and performance. They are difficult, but usually involve established methodology and conventional technique. Assignments are broad in scope in that they involve working with a large geographic area, a wide variety of geographic facts, or a combination of both. The nature of the work tends to circumscribe the amount of discretion used regarding method of attack, the techniques to be used and the manner of presentation. However, departure from standard procedures occurs frequently and the exercise of judgment is required in making factual determinations and technical presentation determinations. The supervision received consists of assignment of work, instructions in new or revised policies or procedures, and advice, as requested, with respect to such problems as the applicability of modified or new methods and techniques to unusual cases.

Typical descriptive and taxonomic assignments are as follows:

(1) Assembles information concerning the location and nomenclature of physical and cultural phenomena covering an area the size of Canada, and makes determinations in the more difficult cases regarding location and nomenclature to appear on a map, chart or in a gazetteer to insure standardization of such information for logistic, navigation, intelligence, or other purposes. Geographers engaged in this work are not typically concerned with relationships existing among phenomena. However, the phenomena must be differentiated from one another for the purpose of categorization and designation. This often involves features that are very similar, but capable of being distinguished. Procedures and precedents are of little use in such cases. Geographers at this level assist in, or may be partly responsible for, changing and modifying established procedures and precedents. Also, determinations regarding location and nomenclature must often be made despite conflicting information or a lack of dependable information.

(2) Compiles and synthesizes geographic data to show and compare the distribution of various features and events over an area about the size of Argentina. While work at GS-9 is likely to be characterized by a distribution study of like phenomena, at GS-11 the scope of assignment typically involves comparing the distribution of a variety of features and/or events, although determining the distribution of like phenomena is generally a first step. Typically, the distribution of three or four different kinds of phenomena (e.g., precipitation, temperature, vegetation, and settlements) are compared and presented in an easy to read graphic and statistical form.

(3) Compiles and synthesizes a wide variety of geographic data as part of a comprehensive study of all significant physical and human phenomena in an area or region the size and complexity of Uruguay. The study typically involves descriptive writing and the use of maps and statistics for presenting and emphasizing location and distribution data plus geographic relationships that are known or easily discerned from available data. The most difficult aspects of such an assignment are choice of available and reliable source material, and meaningful synthesis and presentation of information.

Analytic and interpretive work

GS-11 is the first level at which responsibility occurs for analytic and interpretive work representing the full scope of the research process, including defining the problem, making hypotheses, planning the investigative methods; initiating and carrying out the investigation, getting vital information in order, interpreting the findings and preparing final reports. Analytic and interpretive assignments are oriented toward discovering new geographic information and putting existing information in a new perspective. Such knowledge may be for use in effectively carrying out programs having economic, defense, intelligence, political and demographic implications. Such assignments are specifically assigned and the full scope of the research process is independently executed, except for conferring with supervisors at intermediate stages to assure that the approaches taken are effective and sound. Incumbents engaged in the full scope of the research process may be part of a small team which includes persons at higher grade levels. Although involving the full scope of the research process, work at this level is distinguished from analytic and interpretive work at GS-12 in that it is concerned with fewer kinds of geographic fact and is performed with less independence. The size of the area with which geographers are concerned may vary from small to large depending upon how exhaustive is the research and the specific reliability desired.

Incumbents at GS-11 will typically be concerned with determining and explaining the interrelationships existing between or among two or three varieties of phenomena. Although interested in the significance of the geographic interrelationship or changes they are studying, GS-11 geographers do not generally make determinations with respect to the significance of geographic interrelationships and processes of change to agency activities. The following are examples of the interrelationships and the varieties of phenomena which may concern incumbents doing analytic and interpretive work:

(1) The relationship to a trade area of population distribution and land use.
(2) The relationship in a locality of vertical and horizontal wind velocity, and air and soil temperature.
(3) The impact on an area's natural landscape of land tenure, land use, and settlement patterns.

As at GS-12, incumbents of positions at this level maintain personal work contacts with geographers and persons in other disciplines and areas of endeavor whose findings they use. Personal work contacts are made within and outside the Federal service to resolve problems, to provide a free flow of information in their area of competence, to acquire information in a related geographic program, and to keep abreast of geographic developments.

Geographer, GS-0150-12

Typical of this level is responsibility for comprehensive and definitive taxonomic and descriptive work, or for performance of analytical and interpretive assignments of considerable significance and complexity. GS-12 geographers have a high degree of competence in a topical or program area enabling them to perform difficult, and sometimes highly specialized, work with considerable authority. This is frequently evidenced by the publication of papers dealing with problems, findings, or determinations which are recognized as having considerable significance in the field.

Incumbents collaborate with their superiors in planning future projects, either for accomplishment within the organization or on a contract basis, and make recommendations as to the feasibility of proposed projects and the necessity for new phases of existing projects. Apart from program policy, formal guidelines do not exist at this level. Good judgment, widely recognized and acknowledged study and research procedures, geographical and related publications, and insights obtained from exchanging ideas with other geographers and persons in related fields comprise the only guidelines.

Taxonomic and descriptive work

The difficulty of descriptive and taxonomic studies at this level is typified by the following examples:

(1) Responsibility for determining location and nomenclature of geographic features and assembling such information for use on maps, charts, or in gazetteers. GS-12 geographers engaged in this kind of work are recognized experts on the location and nomenclature of all physical and human features regarded as significant for navigational, intelligence, logistic and general geographical use. Their competence generally extends to an entire continent or an area of similar scope. Increased complexity results from responsibility for coordinating operational aspects of the studies involved and responsibility, subject only to supervisory approval, for developing procedures and precedents to be used by geographers or others at lower grades.

(2) Responsibility for a comprehensive descriptive study of the significant geographical aspects of a major nation state, e.g., Brazil, involving the bringing together of numerous available facts and their presentation in narrative, graphic and statistical form. Such studies may report existing knowledge about the interrelationships and significance of geographic fact to the natural and cultural landscape but are not involved in determining their interrelationships and significance, as would be characteristic of analytic and interpretive work. Such an assignment differs from GS-11 by reason of the increased size and complexity, including the number and variety of phenomena involved in the area studied.

Analytic and interpretive work

Characteristically, analytic and interpretive work at this level consists of the collection, evaluation, analysis, interpolation and correlation of data (a) to ascertain and interpret the interrelationships existing among various physical and/or human phenomena or the processes of geographic change, and (b) to determine the significance of the interrelationships or processes of change to agency activities.

Work differs from that described at GS-11 in that (1) it is more extensive in scope and importance, (2) it involves a greater variety of geographic phenomena, or (3) it involves making determinations regarding the significance of geographic interrelationships and the processes of change to agency activities. For example:

(a) At GS-11, an analysis may involve the relationships to a trade area of population distribution and land use; at this level the analysis will incorporate additional factors, such as resources, productivity, and patterns of consumption.

(b) At GS-11, an analysis may involve the relationship in a locality of vertical and horizontal wind velocity and air soil temperature; at this level the analysis will incorporate the additional relationships of these factors to vegetation or land use.

(c) At GS-11, an analysis may involve the impact on an area's natural landscape of land tenure and land use patterns; at this level the analysis will incorporate additional factors such as climate and settlement patterns, and the interrelationships of all the above factors on the area's economy.

GS-12 incumbents are responsible not only for the factual accuracy of their results but for the thoroughness of their research and the validity of their interpretations. GS-11 geographers engaged in analytic and interpretive work, on the other hand, do not bear such responsibility, but confer with their supervisors at intermediate stages to assure that the approaches taken are effective and sound.

Personal work relationships are substantially the same as those at the GS-11 level.

Geographer, GS-0150-13

Assignments at GS-13 involve the initiation, formulation, planning, and control of major research projects or geographical programs which are critical to the organization. Geographers at this level typically receive their assignments in terms of general objectives; their technical decisions are authoritative; and they are generally recognized as the organization's experts in their field. Supervision received at this level is administrative in nature and work is received usually only for timeliness and appropriateness.

Geographers at the GS-13 level normally do not engage in simple description or in the classification of geographic observations by established systems, except insofar as such work is part of a larger and more complex project requiring the analysis and interpretation of the data. The development of a new taxonomic system or the extensive alteration of an existing system would, of course, represent such a large and complex effort. Such an assignment, however, would be a rare, one-of-a-kind sort of project.

Typically, GS-13 geographers evolve and test hypotheses to clarify complex and often obscure causal relationships and examine geographic processes to understand their nature and assess their impact upon agency programs. They prepare authoritative and comprehensive reports based upon personal observations as well as upon the synthesis and analysis of a wide variety of established geographic data drawn from related studies and research. The guidelines are similar to those at GS-12. Work at this level often involves novel problems of research, investigations involving a subject in which little work has been done, or difficulties of a similar complexity.

The following are examples of assignments characteristic of the GS-13 level:

(1) The examination and analysis of long-period weather patterns prior to periods of extreme cold or amounts of precipitation, in areas where this is not the normal climatic condition, to establish causal relationships leading to predictability criteria beneficial to commerce, agriculture or defense.

(2) Analytic and comparative studies to define geographic areas throughout the nation which can be used as accurate, representative samples in enumerating and comparing statistical data reflecting a variety of current demographic, economic and social conditions. Such areas are likely to cut across political and administrative lines; the problem is to identify areas which are truly representative of the nation as a whole with respect to the matters under study.

(3) Determining the frequency and intensity of distribution of dust at a particular area of the earth, including the size of dust particles, the material composition of dust and the abrasiveness of dust, for use in the development of design and use criteria for military or other material and equipment.

Individually, or as leaders of small teams, GS-13 geographers develop and carry out assigned projects with broad discretion to act within the limitation of available funds and major program goals. They analyze and evaluate studies and research proposals of complexity similar to that described at this level and make recommendations for contracting research. They monitor studies and research done under contract to insure that agency needs are fulfilled.

Characteristically, supervisors are not available for consultation and advice and may not be directly concerned with the immediate project. Completed work is accepted as technically accurate and is reviewed only in terms of policy conformance and the accomplishment of objectives.

Personal investigation is sometimes a prerequisite if exhaustive and highly reliable work is to be done. Although field studies may be conducted by geographers at lower levels, they are not concerned with so large or novel an area of the field of geography, are not involved with interrelations where the impact of one or more varieties of geographic fact on other geographic or closely related fact is difficult to measure and understand, and do not require an extensive knowledge of related social and/or physical sciences to understand the interrelationships or ascertain the processes of geographic change.

GS-13 geographers establish and maintain liaison with persons in and outside the Government service. They typically attend formal and informal meetings and conferences as representatives of their agencies to present authoritative geographical information, to explain agency programs and to exchange mutually beneficial information. Although more typical at higher levels, geographers at this level may initiate, plan, organize and conduct such meetings.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

The educational attainment of social scientists is among the highest of all occupations, with most positions requiring a master's or Ph.D. degree. Some entry-level positions are available to those with a bachelor's degree. All social scientists need good analytical skills.

Education and training. Graduates with master's degrees in applied specialties usually are qualified for positions outside of colleges and universities, although requirements vary by field. A Ph.D. degree may be required for higher level teaching positions. Bachelor's degree holders have limited opportunities; however, a bachelor's degree does provide a suitable background for many different kinds of entry-level jobs in related occupations, such as research assistant, writer, management trainee, and market analyst. In addition, bachelor’s degree holders in history often qualify for elementary, middle, and high school teaching positions.

Training in statistics and mathematics is essential for many social scientists, most of whom increasingly are using mathematical and quantitative research methods. The ability to use computers for research purposes is mandatory in most disciplines. Social scientists also must keep up to date on the latest technological advances that affect their discipline and research. For example, most geographers use GIS technology extensively, and a growing number of archaeologists are beginning to incorporate the technology into their work.

Many social science students also benefit from internships or field experience. Numerous local museums, historical societies, government agencies, and nonprofit and other organizations offer internships or volunteer research opportunities. Archaeological field schools instruct future anthropologists, archaeologists, and historians in how to excavate, record, and interpret historical sites.

Other qualifications. Social scientists need excellent written and oral communication skills to report research findings and to collaborate on research. The ability to think logically and methodically also is essential in analyzing complicated issues. Objectivity, an open mind, and systematic work habits are important in all kinds of social science research. Perseverance, too, often is necessary, as when an anthropologist spends years studying artifacts from an ancient civilization before making a final analysis and interpretation.

Certification and advancement. The GIS Certification Institute (GISCI) has voluntary certification programs for geography professionals in GIS. To qualify for professional distinction, individuals must meet education and experience requirements and pass a written examination. The professional recognition these certifications bestow can often help geographers find employment—especially those who do not have a master’s or Ph.D. degree. Workers in these jobs, however, may not be called "geographers," but instead may be referred to by a different title, such as "GIS analyst" or "GIS specialist."

Some social scientists advance to top-level research and administrative positions. Advancement often depends on the number and quality of reports that social scientists publish or their ability to design studies.


Anthropologists and archaeologists, geographers, and historians held about 11,100 jobs in 2008. Professional, scientific, and technical services employed 37 percent of all workers. A small amount—about 2 percent—was self-employed.

Job Outlook

Overall employment is projected to grow much faster than average, but varies by detailed occupation. For anthropologists and archaeologists, opportunities will be best with management, scientific, and technical consulting services companies. For geographers, opportunities will be best for those who have GIS experience or knowledge. Keen competition is expected for historian jobs because the number of applicants typically outnumbers the number of positions available.

Employment change. Overall employment of anthropologists and archaeologists, geographers, and historians is expected to grow by 22 percent from 2008 to 2018, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Anthropologists and archaeologists, the largest specialty, is expected to grow by 28 percent, driven by growth in the management, scientific, and technical consulting services industry. Anthropologists who work as consultants will be needed to apply their analytical skills and knowledge to problems ranging from economic development to forensics. A growing number of anthropologists also will be needed in specific segments of the Federal Government, such as the U.S. Department of Defense, to assess the regional customs and values—or “cultural terrain”—of a particular society in specific parts of the world. Employment growth of archaeologists will be driven by higher levels of overall construction, including large-scale transportation projects and upgrades to the Nation’s infrastructure. As construction projects increase, more archaeologists will be needed to ensure that Federal laws related to the preservation of archaeological and historical sites and artifacts are met.

Employment of geographers is expected to increase by 26 percent because the Federal Government—the largest employer—is projected to grow faster than in the past. Outside of the Federal Government, geographers will be needed to advise businesses, local municipalities, real estate developers, utilities, and telecommunications firms regarding where to build new roads, buildings, powerplants, and cable lines. Geographers also will be needed to advise about environmental matters, such as where to build a landfill and where to preserve wetland habitats.

Job prospects. In addition to opportunities arising from employment growth, some job openings for social scientists will come from the need to replace those who retire or who leave the occupation for other reasons. Some social scientists leave the occupation to become professors, but competition for tenured teaching positions will be keen.

Overall, people seeking social science positions are likely to face competition for jobs. Candidates who have a master's or Ph.D. degree in a social science, who are skilled in quantitative research methods, and who also have good written and communications skills are likely to have the best job opportunities. In addition, many jobs in policy, research, or marketing, for which social scientists qualify, are not advertised exclusively as social scientist positions.

Geographers with a background in GIS will find numerous job opportunities applying GIS technology in nontraditional areas, such as emergency assistance, where GISs can track the locations of ambulances, police, and fire rescue units and their proximity to the emergency. Workers in these jobs may not be called "geographers," but instead may be referred to by a different title, such as "GIS analyst" or "GIS specialist."



Wages of anthropologists and archaeologists, geographers, and historians vary. Median annual wages for anthropologists and archaeologists were $53,910 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $39,200 and $70,980. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,150, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $89,490.

Median annual wages of geographers were $66,600 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $51,390 and $82,590. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,780, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $97,540.

For historians, median annual wages were $54,530 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $33,570 and $77,290. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,670, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $96,530.

In March 2009, the Federal Government’s average annual salary for anthropologists was $88,302; for archaeologists, $70,606; for geographers, $79,223; and for historians, $87,730. Beginning salaries were higher in selected areas of the country where the prevailing local pay level was higher.

Related Occupations

The duties and training of anthropologists and archaeologists, geographers, and historians are similar to those of other social scientists, including the following:

Sources of Additional Information

For information about careers in geography, contact:

Information on obtaining Geographer positions with the Federal Government is available from the Office of Personnel Management through USAJOBS, the Federal Government's official employment information system. This resource for locating and applying for job opportunities can be accessed through the Internet at or through an interactive voice response telephone system at (703) 724–1850 or  (703) 724–1850  or TDD (978) 461–8404 and   (978) 461–8404. These numbers are not toll free, and charges may result. For advice on how to find and apply for Federal jobs, download the Insider's Guide to the Federal Hiring Process” online here.


  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition; and
  • Office of Personnel Management, Position Classification Standards.

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