Careers and employability

Overview

One of the greatest characteristics of pursuing a degree in Geography is the flexibility it provides, extending into disciplines you would not associate with the subject.

Robert Wise, BA Geography with European Study.

Achieve your ambitions

No matter what your ambitions, aspirations or career choice may be there has never been a better, or more significant, time to study Geography.

Key global issues such as climate change, migration, environmental degradation and social cohesion are not only at the forefront of socio-political philosophies and attitudes, but are also deep-rooted within geography, making it one of the most relevant courses that you could choose to study.

A Geography degree from the University of Exeter will equip you with the experience and skills to help you progress into further study or employment. The breadth of career opportunities open to geography graduates is vast, with recent graduates starting careers in planning, environmental and sustainability projects, water analysis, insurance, teaching and more – both in the UK and overseas.

Whatever path you want to follow after graduation, we’re here to help and support you with all your career and employability needs. Further information about career destinations of graduates can be found on the programme pages for the Penryn and Streatham campuses.

Skills development

Employers are looking for you to demonstrate numerous key skills, most of which fall into two categories: subject knowledge and exceptional communication skills. The skills acquired in any degree – for example, being literate and articulate, well organised, clear headed and with plenty of initiative – are clearly desirable. The particular skills acquired in geography programmes are also highly sought after by employers, for example:

  • the ability to gather and synthesize disparate types of data: manipulating data encourages clarity and develops your ability to identify key information from large and complex data sources
  • the ability to plan and manage research projects: posing questions and investigating the answers helps you in complex decision making and managing research projects develops your time management and planning skills
  • the ability to write and present reports: preparing reports encourages preciseness in use of language and presenting them develops your confidence in articulating concepts and communicating with others
  • the ability to work as part of a team: fieldwork, an essential part of our geography programmes, develops your team work and leadership skills
  • numerical and analytical capacity: geographical investigations test hypotheses and utilise your data analysis skills
  • IT literacy: you will utilise a variety of IT throughout our programmes, including databases, spreadsheets, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and mapping software
  • spatial, social and environmental awareness: our programmes nurture a sense of place, an awareness of the world and your ability to link ideas together

Work experience

Working with Radio Exe was a fantastic opportunity for me to develop my understanding of radio programming and broadcasting. I had the opportunity to compile news bulletins and produce radio jingles but a highlight for me was editing together a 1 hour radio programme for the Christmas broadcasting schedule - my first editing credit on commercial radio! I’ve definitely enjoyed my time working with them and would love the opportunity to take part in a similar placement in the future.

Gregg Hartfleet, BA Geography student.

As a part of the GEO2315 Learning from Experience module, I completed a work placement with Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust. My placement was invaluable, allowing me to fully comprehend and explore the themes discussed within the course, whilst learning more about the working environment. I was able to build on my communicative and technological skills, expanding my application of GIS software and surveying methodologies. For me my personal highlight however, was the hands-on work with animals and rangers.

Elen Stahl, BSc Geography student.

In today’s competitive job market, employers look much more favourably on graduates with relevant work experience. Our Employability team works with the careers service, alumni and academic staff on our campuses in both Cornwall and Exeter to build networks with local, regional, national and international organisations to establish avenues for student experience.

In your second year you may choose to take a work experience module: 'Workplace Learning' in Cornwall or 'Learning from Experience’ in Exeter. This will help you to make connections between your academic studies and the worlds of work in which a degree in Geography, Environmental Science or Human Sciences could help you forge a fascinating and worthwhile career.

Enhancing your employability

Becoming a Geography Ambassador has been a great experience for me. From my initial training and events held at the RGS I have been able to meet other Geography students from around the country, which has been a valuable experience in itself when it comes to sharing course experiences.

The training gives you the confidence to go into schools and talk to young people about the subject that you feel passionate about.  Whilst in school it is also a great chance to share your experiences of University with kids that might not know anything of such an environment and the independence it provides.

The best part is of course the interaction with the students, you can really motivate them to want to carry on their study of geography by showing how interesting and relevant it can be. Being a part of the scheme you can also develop your own skills, becoming more creative by thinking up ideas for your talks, becoming confident in interacting with people of all ages (teachers and students).

Those involved with the ambassador scheme at the RGS are also very approachable, and give you all the support you need, as well as organising social events for ambassadors.

Jenny Rusk, Geography undergraduate

I’ve enjoyed being able to develop my communication and teamwork skills through working with the [Geography Employability] group to put on informative events for Geographers

Ellie Holderness, BSc Geography student

Creating the guide enabled me to cultivate my design, creativity, research and communication skills into one tangible product for other students to use and learn about geography employability in a fun and concise format. As a student at the University of Exeter myself, it gave me the opportunity to get involved and use my experiences to help the next wave of undergraduates. Completing the guide was definitely challenging as there was a lot of information to process and refine, but the outcome was an achievement and well worth it! Sometimes the bombardment of employability information aimed at students can be overwhelming so we (the Geography Employability Group) decided it would be a great idea to refine everything that was available and relate it specifically to BA and BSc geography students. I hope that students will find the guide a useful start point for their successful employability futures!

Belle Clarke, BA Geography student

The Geography Employability Committee (GSEC) is a student led committee. The purpose of GSEC is to run employability events and talks aimed at Geography students in order to help improve their future prospects. Throughout the academic year, we run a series of talks from professionals in industries in which students have expressed an interest. So far these have included, Kevin Barnes from the Environment Agency, Falmouth Harbour Master Captain Mark Sansom and Dan Nicholls from Cornwall Council's Green Cornwall Team among others. GSEC's biggest event of the year is the CLES Careers Fair. 2015 was the first time the committee had joined in with the fair and it was extremely successful. Over 30 different organisations from a vast range of sectors attended the fair and several have since offered students internship and employment opportunities.

Charlotte Ettling, BSc Geography student (Cornwall)

With an increasingly competitive job market, planning for your future career should begin the moment that you arrive at university.

Here at the University of Exeter, we understand how important it is to not only make the most of your time studying with us, but also make the most of your full potential once you have graduated.

Royal Geographical Society (RGS) Ambassador Scheme

As a Geography student you will have the opportunity to apply for the RGS Ambassador Scheme. The scheme recruits, trains and supports geographers currently at university and graduate geographers from the work place to act as ambassadors for geography in the classroom. This is a great way to introduce younger students to the benefits of studying geography and to encourage them to pursue the subject beyond the compulsory stages. The ambassadors act as positive role models for pupils and can illustrate, with enthusiasm, both the specific and transferable skills they have developed as a geographer. For more information you can visit the RGS Ambassador Scheme website.

Workshops and further events

There are a number of opportunities for you to develop your career aspirations, whether you’re based on our campuses in Exeter or Cornwall: 

  • The CareerZone organises and series of pivotal events throughout the year and which include careers fairs, forums and workshops.
  • Widen Your Options is a fortnight of events, that takes place during the spring term, to give students access to industry professionals from a range of sectors. 
  • The Exeter Award is designed to enhance the employability of University of Exeter graduates by providing official recognition and evidence of extra-curricular activities and achievements.
  • eXfactor is the employability and professional development day that aims to encourage you to consider what motivates you; where your interests and values lie; what skills you may already have; and which skills you need to develop in preparation for graduate level employment or further study.
  • The Career Mentor Scheme is a unique opportunity for all current students to be matched with an experienced professional to gain one-to-one careers advice, support and guidance into their profession and sector for 6-months.
  • eXepert Scheme provides students and recent graduates the opportunity to contact University alumni to gain advice on how to enter their chosen sector, work for a certain company, become self-employed or benefit from possible networking opportunities and contacts.
  • Green Consultants trains students to undertake practical work as a junior consultant dealing with environmental and sustainability issues in organisations.

Geography Employability Group

Holding a role as an employability group member allows students to have an input into the creation of events and to gain key skills in event promotion and commercial awareness. It also counts towards the Exeter Award. Our Geography Employability group have also worked hard in 2014/2015 to produce an employability guide (.pdf) for fellow geography students

Dedicated employability committee

In order to help you achieve your ambitions, Geography undergraduate students in Cornwall have established an employability committee for their fellow students. Run by students, the committee organises and hosts a number of dynamic events over the course the academic year to inspire fellow undergraduates to consider career paths that are open to them. Events included a Careers Fair specifically for Geography, which attracted a range of different speakers and organisations.

Employability events

A wide variety of people participated, including alumni, professionals and University staff who studied for a Geography degree. They talked about their roles, how their degree benefitted their career choice, gave professional advice and responded to any queries or questions that arose. Our students were also given an invaluable opportunity to network with those present. It was a great opportunity and everyone really made the most of it.

Dr Sarah Dyer, Senior Lecturer in Geography

I have always been keen to get involved with anything I can, so when the opportunity came up to help organise the Geography Careers Fair I jumped at the chance. It was a really exciting project to be involved with – from thinking about timings and locations to making contact with the right people to make sure there was something of interest for everyone. One of the good things about it was that everyone had time to talk to who they wanted to – you could ask questions and get really good ideas and inspiration from people who really know what they are talking about and know the processes you need to go through to achieve your goals. Whether you wanted advice on a particular career path, or more specific information about a certain organisation, there was something there for everyone.

Nikki Pillinger, Final year Geography student

'What Next After a Geography Degree?' event

The Met Office Open Day

The Shape of Enrichment

Careers fair

To help you make the most of the career opportunities open to you, we have initiated a discipline-specific Careers Fair for our undergraduate. This event brings together a host of representatives from key organisations and businesses, as well as University of Exeter alumni, to examine in detail a variety of potential available career paths.

The last Careers Fair was organised as part of the innovative Students as Change Agents (SACA) project, which invites students to actively engage with their College to help improve the student experience. It took the format of a Q and A session between students and representatives from organisations such as WWF and the Environment Agency.

What Next After a Geography Degree?

At the end of November all Geography students were invited to attend an evening panel event hosted by four Geography Alumni. Our speakers took time to explore their various roles which included a Corporate Partnerships Development Manager from the The Climate Group, a Senior Operational Meteorologist from the Met Office, a Journalist from ITV and Research and Fundraising Assistant from the Sustainable Food Trust .They discussed their career paths, highlighting to students what an average day would be like in their various establishments, as well as the career paths which led them to their current roles. Students then took the opportunity to network with our speakers. Our speakers highlighted the importance of making use of the services available to them whilst here at Exeter, including Careers Zone, undertaking mock interviews, gaining work experience and networking with professionals. Students commented that it was ‘fantastic to see four women in such strong, successful positions in their careers, especially as they’re all so different with hugely different interests’.

The Met Office Open Day

Students studying Geography in Streatham and Penryn were invited to an Open Day at the Met Office, Exeter. They were given an overview of The Met Office, a series of ‘A Day in a Life of’ talks, networking opportunities, tours of the offices, sessions on applying for jobs as well as a Q and A session. Students commented that they “really enjoyed the whole day learning about the various sectors within the organisation and listening to personal experiences which gave a great insight into working in this type of organisation.”

Seminars

For students based at our Cornwall Campus, there has also been a regular series of seminars given by local organisations, charities and businesses such as the Wildlife Trust, Natural England and the RSPC. The seminars attract up to 100 students and give an insight into different sectors and career paths.

Students also have the option to undertake a work experience based module in which many students undertake placements abroad, including working in Wildlife Parks, undertaking Turtle Research, as well as working with the RSPCA, RSPB, Environment Agency and National Trust.

The Shape of Enrichment at Newquay Zoo

In the summer term Biosciences students in Cornwall also have the opportunity to undertake free training courses in areas such as mammal trapping, camera trapping and reptile survey. There is also a zoo-keeping style course that runs in partnership with The Shape of Enrichment at Newquay Zoo in  the summer, which takes place over four days and it open to a limited number of students.

Climate Change studies within Geography

Academics and students within Geography talking about their studies in relation to climate change, sustainable development and energy policy. View full size.