Employment Trends in Geography, Part 1: Enrollment and Degree Patterns *

Patricia Gober

Arizona State University

Amy K. Glasmeier

Pennsylvania State University

James M. Goodman

National Geographic Society

David A. Plane

University of Arizona

Howard A. Stafford

University of Cincinnati

Joseph S. Wood

George Mason University

This paper is the first in a series of three papers dealing with the current and future labor market for geographers. It is based on a report prepared by the Association of American Geographers' (AAG) Employment Forecasting Committee to the National Research Council's (NRC) Rediscovering Geography Committee. This report provides a data-based analysis of the past and future supply of geographers, the current labor market conditions in the field, and the factors likely to influence the future demand for geographers (faculty hiring, geographic education initiatives, trends in private sector jobs, etc.).

Each year some 4,000 individuals receive degrees in geography from America's institutions of higher education. They, or some portion of them, make up the new supply of geographers entering the labor market. In the near future (up to five years), the availability of new geographers is related to the number of geography students now in the educational pipeline. Their current specialties, and the specialties of the programs from which they come, tell us about the types of skills and the kinds of interests to be held by future labor force entrants. In the longer term (five to ten years), the number of new geographers will be influenced by geographic education initiatives at the precollegiate level. More and better geographic instruction in elementary and secondary schools will expose more students to geography as a field of study and as a potential career path. The purposes of this paper are to (1) review degree and enrollment trends in geography, (2) assess the "trickle-up" effects of geographic education initiatives at the precollegiate level, and (3) investigate the characteristics of future supply as evidenced by the types of occupations for which geography departments are now preparing students.


Previous attempts to examine employment trends in geography focused on the academic job market (Hart 1966, 1972; Hausladen and Wyckoff 1985; Suckling 1994; Miyares and McGlade 1994) or relied exclusively on AAG membership data (Goodchild and Janelle 1988; Janelle 1992). Early "manpower" studies by John Fraser Hart matched predictions of the future supply of new doctorates in geography with estimates of new teaching jobs in colleges and universities and developed scenarios of surplus and deficit in the academic labor market. Hausladen and Wyckoff examined age profiles of topical and areal specialties from the 1982 AAG Directory with an eye toward predicting the effects of future retirements on the field. More recent investigations by Suckling and by Miyares and McGlade focused on the demand side of the employment equation and examined changes in the number, rank, location, and specialties of jobs advertised in Jobs in Geography.

Michael Goodchild and Donald Janelle analyzed trends in the intellectual structure of the discipline as manifest in AAG specialty group membership and topical proficiencies. Goodchild and Janelle's findings provided valuable insights into changes in the nature of geographic thought and training. Technical expertise and interest in geographic information systems (GIS) were burgeoning, especially among young geographers, while regionally oriented


This article is excerpted from the appendix of the report of the National Research Council's Rediscovering Geography Committee. The authors wish to thank John Harner, Mark Patterson, and Will Mitchell for their technical support, Barbara Trapido for figure preparation, and the NRC Rediscovering Geography Committee for their many helpful suggestions. Special thanks go to Kevin Crowley, Program Officer at the National Research Council, for his constructive comments, for serving as our liaison with the NRC Committee, and for his moral support of this research.

Professional Geographer, 47(3) 1995, pages 317-328 © Copyright 1995 by Association of American Geographers.

Initial submission, November 1994; final acceptance, January 1995.

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