Careers in Geography

Canadian Association of Geographers career links

American Association of Geographers career guide Careers in Geography



What career can I get with a geography degree?!

Lots of ideas - YouTube -Going Places with Geography Part1

Lots more ideas - YouTube-Going Place with Geography Part 2

Even more ideas - YouTube-Investigating Geography!

Like we mentioned on our homepage, being both a physical and a social science, geography provides a unique opportunity to obtain a broad exposure to modes of analyzing the many environmental and situational problems of contemporary society.

Because of this, a geography degree is a fantastic opportunity to get a career in a diverse range of fields. Our students have gone on to become United Nations field researchers in Laos, environmental consultants in Toronto, science teachers in the US, geography professors in many parts of the world, UNHCR volunteers in Malaysia, policy analysts in Montreal, English teachers in Japan, firefighters in Ontario, health and social policy researchers in Montreal, and so on, and so on!

Here are some examples from our recent graduates of both the undergraduate and graduate degrees in Geography.

Also, if you're on FaceBook- there are some McGill Geography graduates talking about their careers there. Check out: McGill Geography Alumni and 'What to do with a Geography degree'.

McGill Geography Graduate statistics

McGill Geography alumni who are now Canada Research Chairs!

Zak Patterson (Concordia), Brian Branferiun (U of Western Ontario); April James (Nipissing University); Peter Dunfield (Calgary); Christian Blodau (Guelph).

McGill Geography Graduate profiles:

Karina Benessaiah (MSc, Geography, 2008)

While finishing my Master’s degree, I took up an internship with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in Ottawa researching local communities’ adaptations to climate change in Latin America as well as payments for ecosystem services under voluntary carbon markets. I was pleasantly surprised to see that geographers have a significant presence at IDRC and are greatly appreciated for their ability to combine social and natural sciences. It is a great position that allows me to meet really interesting people and understand better how development research and funding agencies function. I also have the opportunity to travel and spend time in the field. In my case I went to Dakar, Senegal and will be going to Central America for a few months. The best part of the experience so far has been the return to my ‘roots’ in west Africa.


Jan Brouwer (BA, Geography, 2004)

After I graduated I secured an internship with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). I worked in Malaysia as a Registration Officer assisting with registering newly arrived asylum seekers from Myanmar, Aceh, Nepal, and Sub Saharan Africa. I then went on do to a graduate degree in the UK, and I’m now working for the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. I’m a currently a Technical Officer assisting with Emergency Response and Operations support to humanitarian crises across the globe. Read more…


Kevin Brown (BA Geography 2004)

I worked on a health geography thesis project on neighbourhood factors influencing gambling habits. After graduating I worked in the Philippines for a year, doing community surveys. I spent the two years after that doing a Masters in biostatistics at UNC. Now I work with a team of epidemiologists in the nosocomial infections division of the Montreal Public Health Department. Our team works with hospital infection control staff to identify and respond to outbreaks of hospital acquired diseases like MRSA and clostridium difficile. When I'm not busy visiting hospitals or crunching numbers for the nosocomial team, I get to consult on other fun projects; right now I'm helping to estimate the prevalence of injection drug users in Montreal using a capture-recapture study design.


Stephanie Coen (BA Hons 2004, MA 2006)

I completed both my BA and MA in geography at McGill with a focus on urban social and health geography. After graduating from the Master’s program, I continued working at McGill in various research capacities, including at the Institute for Health and Social Policy, until I moved across the country to Vancouver, BC. There, I took up a position as the research manager for a multidisciplinary research unit called NEXUS based at the University of British Columbia. NEXUS brought together investigators and trainees from different universities in BC and a range of social and health science disciplines in research focused on the social contexts of health behaviour. This focus on “context” framed our work inherently geographical and I found it fascinating to see how different disciplines (sometimes unknowingly!) addressed geographical questions related to health. Since then, I have moved into the funding side of research, and am currently working at Institute of Gender and Health of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian government’s health research funding agency. In my role as knowledge translation manager I lead initiatives that help to move research evidence into areas of impact and engage the public on research in gender and health.


Alexandre Corriveau-Bourque (MA, Geography, 2011)

Following my MA, during which I studied local mechanisms used to resolve land conflicts in rural Liberia, I was keen to find some form of continuity between my thesis research and post-graduate work. A few months after graduation, I landed at a research and advocacy non-profit in Washington DC called Rights and Resources Initiative as the organization’s tenure analyst. The job consists of designing, implementing, and managing research initiatives (often done in collaboration with other locally-based organizations) on issues that directly affect rural communities’ land rights in nearly 20 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Based on this research, we coordinate advocacy initiatives targeted at key policy makers and private sector actors in an effort to strengthen local land rights in both law and practice.


Elsa Da Costa (BA, Minor in Geography, 2005)

Following my McGill undergraduate degree, I undertook a Masters Degree in Geography at Université de Montréal, where I worked on Québec farmers' adaptation to climate change. I now work as an international consultant for a small consulting firm in Gatineau Québec, focusing on monitoring and evaluation of environmental international development programs and projects funded by a variety of donors such as the UNDP, GEF, IADB and CIDA. I also work with the secretariats of the three main environmental international conventions (CBD, UNCCD, UNFCCC) on specific mandates that focus on the future needs and gaps of developing countries.


Wolfram Dressler (PhD, Geography, 2005)

Armed with a doctorate from the Department of Geography studying national park management, resource conflicts and indigenous peoples’ rights in the Philippines, I took up a post-doctoral fellowship with the World Conservation Union and the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. While in Southern Africa I researched the impacts of transfrontier conservation on the livelihoods of poor rural farmers.  I’m now a lecturer (Assistant Prof) at the University of Queensland, Australia, where I research and teach environment and development.  The best part of the job: beautiful jacarandas against the backdrop of a bright blue sky!


Madeline Franklin (BA Geography, 2011)

Post graduation I worked for a non-profit, Food Secure Canada. My time with this organization solidified an undergraduate interest in the human dimensions of agriculture and food systems. I took three months off of work to realize my dream of exploring the jungles and ancient cultures of Peru, and will now be returning to school. In the coming years I will be working on my masters degree at The Pennsylvania State University. As a research assistant within the Department of Rural Sociology, my thesis work will focus on women in agriculture.


Adina R. Gillespie (B.Sc. Geography, 2002)

Upon finishing my BSc in Geography at McGill, I completed a Master’s degree in remote sensing at the University of Waterloo and went on to teach Physical Climatology there. I am now working on my PhD in Geography at University College London, where I’m researching institutional capacity building for Earth observations. Concurrently, I work for the Science Directorate of the UK Department or Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), where I help with the Earth observations strategy at the departmental, national and international levels. I am also undertaking a project for the USGS evaluating the use of data provided by the International Charter: Space and Major Disasters and I occasionally teach for the International Space University summer program. My studies in the Department of Geography at McGill provided me with a solid foundation on which to build an international academic and professional career that I am tremendously pleased with.


Tim Haltigin (PhD Geography, 2010)

After finishing a PhD in Geography at McGill, I was hired by the Canadian Space Agency as a Planetary Scientist.  In my role as a researcher, I spend a lot of my time analyzing satellite photos of Mars trying to figure out why the landscape looks the way it does and looking for signs of ice under the ground.  It’s pretty amazing to know that geomorphology doesn’t always need to be done on Earth, and I’m lucky to be able to do it.


Benjamin W. Heumann (M.Sc. Geography, 2007)

For my undergraduate thesis in Geography at McGill I worked on the fluvial geomorphology of streams in logged basins in the Chic Choc mountains, Quebec. My Masters degree in Geography at McGill focused on changes in plant phenology in the Sahel region of Africa in collaboration with scientists in Sweden. I also worked on a project to map the Ecological Footprint of international trade with a research associate from the Global Footprint Network. After my M.Sc., I lecturered in GIS at McGill as well as working as a research consultant with the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Germany. I am currently a Geography PhD student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My research aims to integrate remote sensing with ground data to examine pattern and processes of land use / land cover change. I contribute to a number of projects at Carolina including agent based modeling of livelihoods and social networks in Nang Rong, Thailand and ecological change in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. I am also an avid cycle tourist!


Scott Hong (BA Geography, Urban Systems, 2004)

After I graduated from McGill, I completed a Master's in urban planning at New York University, specializing in economic development and housing policy. For my final "capstone" project at NYU, I, along with a group of other planning students, prepared a redevelopment plan for a contaminated brownfield site in a rapidly gentrifying section of Brooklyn. Armed with the GIS skills I gained from my classes at McGill, I assisted one of my professors with his research on the locational decisions of firms in Manhattan, and I was also a teaching assistant for an undergraduate GIS class called Mapping for Social Change. Two years out of my Master's, I am now a senior consultant for an economic development consulting firm in New York City that specializes in economic impact analysis for universities and real estate developers, as well as economic development planning for local governments.


Jennifer Huntley (BA Hons, Geography, 2005)

After completing my B.A. Honours in Geography I went on to Trent University where I received a Bachelor of Education. I began working immediately after graduation as a High School Geography teacher. I work in a school for students who have struggled in the mainstream education system, many of whom have always hated school. I loved learning about Geography at McGill and I am fortunate to be able to teach it to a new generation of Geographers and help them find excitement in understanding the world around them on a new level.


Peter Johnson (PhD, Geography, 2010)

After finishing my PhD at McGill in 2010, I was fortunate enough to be able to stick around and spent two years as a post doc at McGill. For my post doc I switched gears to work on developing and evaluating the use of geospatial technology in municipal governments in Quebec.  My Phd and post doc experiences have prepared me well for my future career in academia as an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo. I very much enjoyed my time at McGill, especially the opportunity to work with so many fantastic profs both formally and informally over the years. I hope that I can now provide similar mentoring and support to undergrad and graduate students at Waterloo.


Lindsay Long (MA, Geography, 2009)

After completing my Masters, I have moved to Washington, DC to work with Handicap International, a French-based nonprofit that works with vulnerable populations, including people with disabilities, in 63 developing countries across the globe. My role is to raise awareness of and funding to support the field programs of the organization – a group that has been highly recognized as a co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize and the 2011 Conrad Hilton Humanitarian Prize. Our programs are wide reaching, from health and rehabilitation work, to our leading role in the effort to ban landmines and cluster munitions. My experiences at McGill and in my fieldwork in Vietnam have been invaluable to this new role – enabling me to understand international development at a deeper level and translate issues in development in a way that is accessible to a broader public.


David Mills (BA, Geography, 2009)

After completing a B.A. in Geography in 2009 and briefly flirting with a career in fast-food, I entered an internship program in local government management.  This took me out to the Village of Slocan, pop. 369, in the Kootenay region of BC.  I was able to sink my teeth into many different projects, including: an overhaul of the Village’s Official Community Plan, local and regional economic-development, a community-based renewable energy project, water conservation, energy-efficient building retrofits, First Nations consultation, tourism development, physician recruitment, and trying to prevent bears from getting into garbage bins (with limited success).  Working for a municipality is a great way to gain hands-on experience in a wide variety of areas while also making a direct impact on your community.  The cross-disciplinary focus of McGill Geography was great preparation for work in this field, although you’ll have to learn how to deal with bears on the job!


Katie Pickles (PhD, Geography, 1996)

My McGill PhD geography thesis was a case study of the construction of twentieth century Canadian colonial identity (published as Female Imperialism and National Identity: Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire: Manchester University Press Studies in Imperialism, 2002). In 1996 I went straight from PhD study to lecturing in New Zealand women's/ feminist history at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. My latest monograph is a transnational study of the death and commemoration of Edith Cavell that has much to say about the historical geography of landscape and memory. I have also edited three collections (on women's life stories, women and migration in New Zealand history, and Aboriginal and Settler women in Canada's colonial past), and have published scholarly articles and chapters in books on a variety of topics.


Phil Potter (BA Hons. Geography, 2008)

I work for EA Engineering, Science and Technology in Baltimore MD. My responsibilities so far have included GIS mapping / analysis / modelling for a variety of projects, mostly involving government (Department of Defense, EPA) and private sector (energy, infrastructure, waste management) clients. An example of my day to day work would be providing environmental permitting assistance for a large energy company that is trying to build a new nuclear power plant. For example, if the power plant would be drawing from an adjacent lake, what impact would that have on lake levels, downstream flow requirements, etc. Inherently geographic problems, thus my role. I'm also involved in field efforts to monitor benthic macroinvertebrates to see if an upstream waste water treatment plant (which discharges occasionally into the river) is having a detrimental effect. It's a very multidisciplinary and fast-paced environment here. McGill Geography has definitely prepared me for the work I'm doing, which is great.


Simon Strauss (MA Geography, 2006)

A few months after finishing my M.A. in Geography, I was hired by Golder Associates Ltd., an environmental consulting company, to work as an Environmental Assessment (EA) Specialist in their Environmental Sciences Division. Since I was hired, I've been working at Golder's Mississauga office, and have been a project manager and technical writer for comprehensive EAs of nuclear projects in Ontario. Recently, I moved to the Mine Waste and Environment Division, and will be continuing my work project managing and technical writing, though will now focus more on the socio-economic impacts of mines in developing countries, which is really in line with my career aspirations and experience. I've also become the chair of the office's Sustainability Committee, whose mandate is to administer corporate donations to charities as well as finding ways to green the office.


Sutida Marie Turcot (BA, Minor in Geography, 2005)

I completed my undergraduate at McGill with a minor in geography. I then decided that I really wanted to teach, and am now completing my B.Ed at the U of Ottawa, and will be qualified to teach intermediate and senior Geography and Science (Biology). In the meantime I also worked at the International School in Bangkok where I taught English as a second language.


Kate Turner (MSc Geography, 2007)

After finishing my masters degree in geography at McGill, I began work with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment in the drinking water management division. I am a "liaison officer" with the source protection programs branch, and attend meetings of source protection committees all over Ontario. These committees incorporate stakeholders from multiple sectors into a science-based planning process to protect sources of municipal residential drinking water. It’s a really great job. I have learned so much about watershed science, hydrogeology, issues management, and land use planning.


Gillian Walker (B.Sc. Geography 2006)

After graduating from McGill with a B.Sc. in Geography I was offered a job with Environment Canada in my hometown of Ottawa. I have been working there ever since, focusing mainly on the analysis and administration of a Municipal Water and Wastewater Survey as well as the development of a Water Availability Indicator using Geographic Information Science (GIS). Where I work, in the Sustainable Water Management Division, I am able to apply a broad variety of skills I learned at McGill. I love working in the burgeoning field of water resource management and find Canada’s geography and hydrology fascinating. I have had the opportunity to travel to a number of water conferences around Canada and the US including the Canadian Water Resources Association conference in Gimli, Manitoba on the shores of Lake Winnipeg. I am very pleased to have found a job in which I am supported very strongly by my educational background and I am hoping to continue my studies someday soon by doing a Master’s degree, also in Geography.


Michael Wironen (B.Sc.Geography 2005)

After leaving McGill I pursued an M.Sc. in Sustainability Studies at Lunds Universitet in Sweden.  Upon graduating I returned to North America and am now employed as a sustainability consultant in New York City.  I work with corporate and government clients to reduce carbon emissions and other environmental and social impacts associated with their operations.  Additionally, I work on environmental remediation projects and site assessments, assist with green design projects, and develop long-term sustainability plans for corporations and major public institutions.

45º 30' 16" N, 73º 34' 29" W

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Department of Geography
McGill University
805 Sherbrooke Street West
Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 0B9
phone: (514) 398-4111 fax: (514) 398-7437
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Last updated 2/6/12
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