Pathways between geography and geoscience

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Although geography is traditionally classified as a social science, the sub-discipline of physical geography is unique in that it overlaps with geoscience disciplines. In the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), physical geographers are listed as “Other Social Scientists” whereas geoscientists have their own category. Despite this separation, the basic description of each occupation is very similar. Furthermore, GIS, which is commonly taught in geography departments, is listed as a recommended skill set for geoscientists in the OOH. Examination of degree backgrounds of geography and geoscience graduates reveals that 7 percent of geography degree recipients have an undergraduate degree in geoscience, while only one percent of geoscience degree recipients have an undergraduate degree in geography. Although degree trends indicate more geoscience bachelor-degree recipients flowing into geography graduate programs than vice verse, the opposite is true when examining occupational data. The percentage of geographers working in physical science occupations increases with degree level whereas the percentage of geoscientists working in social science occupations remains steady at one percent regardless of degree level. Understanding the connections between geography and geoscience is important in unraveling the flow of students and professionals between these two disciplines both within academia and industry. This talk explores the connection between geography and geoscience including the crossover of degree backgrounds of for geography and geoscience students, occupational pathways, and trends in joint geography/geoscience departments.

  • Leila Gonzales*
  • Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting 2010