Geography brings together the social and natural sciences and graduates have skills in mapping, data analysis and applied research.
Geography students study with an holistic, applied approach that bridges social and natural sciences to make a constructive difference to the world. They develop skills in quantitative and qualitative research methods, analysing and synthesising information, planning and communication.
Human Geography students examine human behaviour and resources and issues such as globalisation, migration and urban development. Physical Geography students examine the earth’s surface and forces that shape it such as climates, landforms and plant and animal distributions.
Students can also focus on Geographic Information Systems Science (GIScience) which combines digital technology to manage large data sets. The science draws on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) using computer mapping to collect, store, interpret and display spatial data and patterns or trends.
Roles and career pathways
Geography graduates work in a wide range of roles that have a focus on the environment or society using skills such as planning and research. Students with a focus on human geography may work as community liaison officers, volunteer coordinators, development officers, refugee support coordinators, advocates, immigration advisers, logistics coordinators, data or statistical analysts, emergency management officers or programme coordinators.
Physical geography students may work in these areas as well as in more scientific, technical or analytical roles such as environmental specialists, cartographers, supply chain analysts, compliance officers, land advisers, resource consent planners, transport analysts, urban planners or modelling or statistical analysts. Graduates who have studied Geographic Information Science and Systems may enter work in roles as GIS technicians or GIS analysts. Geography graduates may also enter these roles however relevant courses or specialist postgraduate study in GIScience is recommended.
Government ministries employ Geography graduates in policy, stakeholder relations, communications and research analyst or advisory roles. First roles for graduates with undergraduate degrees may be in administration or coordination before progressing to an adviser or senior adviser in a policy team.
Geography can be completed as part of a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science. Many students study another subject to complement their Geography major such as social sciences like Development Studies, Māori Studies, Tourism Management or any other science subject such as Environmental Science, Statistics, Information Systems, Computer Science or Data Science to broaden their employment options.
Postgraduate study in Geography such as an Honours or Master’s degree is recommended for most intermediate to senior policy and research roles where specialised, in-depth analysis is important.
Geography graduates, who also study a second teachable subject and complete a secondary school teaching qualification, can work as secondary school geography teachers or do postgraduate study to enter primary or early childhood teaching. For more information see Teaching or the Wellington Faculty of Education.
Where Geography graduates work
Geography graduates work across the private sector, including data mapping companies, power companies, global logistics and transport companies, public sector organisations, city and regional councils and science-based crown entities. Recent Geography graduates have worked in organisations such as:
- Wellington City Council
- Ministry for Primary Industries
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)
- GNS Science
- Stats NZ
- Critchlow Geospatial
Build relevant skills and experience
Part-time work and volunteering during study all help to increase your job prospects when you graduate. The WFHSS Internship course run by the Wellington Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences helps develop practical workplace experience. Programmes such as Wellington Plus and Wellington International Leadership Programme (WILP) offer opportunities to gain diverse volunteer and leadership experience. Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) runs the UniVol Programme, where students who are in their third or final year of study in geography, development studies, communications or a related area can apply to complete a 10 month community-based volunteer assignment in the Pacific.
Make career connections
Making connections with individuals and groups during your degree can help you learn more about career and networking opportunities.
The New Zealand Geographic Society (NZGS) offers student memberships, regional branches and special interests groups such as early career researchers. The Victoria Development Society is a student led club concerned with issues of development, sustainability and equality. They hold regular events around networking, and career development. The New Zealand Institute of International Affairs also runs a programme of events, including a Careers Without Borders event in collaboration with Victoria University of Wellington.
The Antarctic Research Centre (ARC) and the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute (CCRI) based at Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences can offer opportunities to network, learn and get involved in postgraduate research. The School also holds regular seminars to learn and network with staff and students. Wellington Chamber of Commerce and Wellington Young Professionals also offers various events and opportunities for networking. The Alumni as Mentors programme for final-year students also helps enhance your connections and employability while studying.