Geography Teacher

Explore the requirements for becoming a geography teacher at the elementary, middle, secondary or postsecondary level. Read about degree options for aspiring geography teachers, and review the licensure requirements for this position.

Is Geography Education Right for Me?

Career Overview

The study of geography is primarily concerned with spatial relationships and can be divided into two main branches. Physical geography covers topics like climate, hydrology and landforms, while human geography focuses on social aspects of societies, such as culture. Geography teachers instruct students in all areas of the field, including methods used to analyze spatial data, such as geographic information systems software, map interpretation and field techniques. A visual inclination combined with an ability to motivate, inspire and mentor others is desirable in this line of work.

Job Options

Geography teachers are commonly employed in public and private schools as middle school teachers and high school teachers. At the postsecondary level, you could become a faculty member at a 2-year community college or 4-year college or university. You may start out as an assistant professor or associate professor and eventually work your way up to tenure status.

Salaries and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that jobs for middle school and secondary school teachers were expected to grow at a rate at 12% and 6%, respectively, between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). As of May 2012, middle school teachers earned a median annual salary of $53,430 and secondary school teachers earned a median of $55,050, according to the BLS.

The BLS predicted that jobs for postsecondary teachers in general would grow faster than average at 19% for the 2012-2022 period, although competition is expected for tenure-track teaching positions. As of May 2012, the median annual salary for geography teachers at the postsecondary level was $67,820, per the BLS.

How Can I Become a Geography Teacher?

Education Programs

Requirements for becoming a geography teacher typically involve earning a bachelor's degree in geography and completing a teacher education program. Some schools offer geography teaching programs that already integrate studies in geography with education preparation. In the teacher education part of the program, you'll likely complete an internship to gain experience as a student teacher in a classroom setting. You may consider earning a master's degree or voluntary certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards for career advancement.

Graduate Studies

Teaching at the postsecondary level requires an advanced degree in the field. A master's degree in geography can qualify you for some part-time positions or for teaching at a 2-year college. However, you'll need a doctoral degree in geography for most full-time and tenure-track teaching positions. Professional career development and networking opportunities are available as well through professional organizations, like the Association of American Geographers.

Licensing

To teach in a public school, you'll need to obtain state licensure. While specific licensing requirements vary by state, completing a teacher education program accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council may make licensure easier, according to the BLS.

Alternative licensure options are available if you have a bachelor's degree in geography but lack the teacher education courses needed for licensure. You may also consider an online teaching program. State licensure is typically optional for jobs in private schools.

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