Careers for Undergraduate Students

Geographical & Sustainability Sciences graduates find employment in a range of career sectors. Our majors (geography, environmental policy & planning, and sustainability science) are equipped with the interdisciplinary skills and knowledge needed to embark on careers that prioritize the health of our environment and communities. Identify your interests and strengths to best utilize opportunities available to you and plan for your future career. Below are several major career sectors our graduates excel in and listed are associated job titles, resources, and strategies to prepare. 

Handshake @ UIowa

UI Pomerantz Career Center

Undergraduate Academic Advising 

American Association of Geographers

Career Areas

Conservation & Natural Resources  

Do you consider yourself problem-focused, thoughtful, and eco-friendly? Are you interested in deeply exploring human/environment interactions or conservation efforts that support sustainable living? Does it sound fun to conduct field work outside? Could you see yourself analyzing environmental data through GIS software, helping to prevent environmental hazard disasters, or advocating for “going green”?

Careers in this sector focus on studying the physical aspects of the earth and its systems and applying knowledge to educate and inform on how to protect the environment and human/animal health.

Graduate Education: Some careers in this field may require advanced study in biological and environmental sciences. There are also many entry-level jobs that require a bachelor's degree in this career field

Sample Job Titles

  • Environmental Scientist 
  • Environmental Consultant 
  • Sustainability Director
  • Conservationist
  • Natural Area Management
  • Water Resources Advisor
  • Ecologist
  • Greenhouse Gas Reduction Specialist 

Strategies to Prepare

Complementary Academic Programs

  • Minors: Biology. Environmental Sciences, Geoscience
  • Other: Iowa Lakeside Laboratory Summer Program

Resources

GIS & Geospatial Technology

Do you consider yourself to be systematic, precise or efficient? Are you interested in learning about creating digital maps, utilizing and creating databases, or using geospatial technology? Does it sound like fun to test new LiDAR machines or develop software? Could you see yourself working in a constantly changing high-tech environment?

Careers in this community focus on developing geographic computer systems, managing computer networks and interpreting and presenting data to address environmental and other industry problems.

Graduate Education: Computer and technology-based skills are always evolving so experience is sometimes more important than a graduate degree. If you seek to enhance your skills or programming knowledge, consider graduate school in geography, informatics, or computer science.

Sample Job Titles

  • GIS Specialist 
  • GIS Software Developer
  • Web Cartographer
  • GIS & Mapping Technician
  • Spatial Data Steward
  • Geodatabase Analyst
  • Remote Sensing Specialist
  • CAD Adminstrator 
  • GIS & Data Analytics Manager

Strategies to Prepare

Complementary Academic Programs

  • Minors: Computer Science, Informatics, Mathematics, Statistics
  • Certificates: Social Science Analytics, Technological Entrepreneurship, Big Data
  • Other: U2G 5-Year Geoinformatics Bachelor's/Master's Program

Resources

Public Health & Epidemiology

Do you consider yourself to be compassionate, curious, or solution-focused? Are you interested in identifying disease patterns and understanding how health services vary geographically? Do you enjoy using spatial analysis and geographic modeling to study environmental justice, population dynamics and health outcomes?

Careers in this sector focus on understanding health patterns and developing strategies to improve public health outcomes. 

Graduate Education: A bachelor's degree will prepare students for many entry-level opportunities. Those interested in health services should consider gaining a graduate degree in geography or public health.

Sample Job Titles

  • Health Coordinator
  • Medical Geographer
  • Healthcare Analyst
  • Disease Program Director
  • Global Health Manager
  • Epidemiologist 
  • Public Health Officer
  • Environmental Health Specialist 

Strategies to Prepare

Complementary Academic Programs

  • Minors: Global Health Studies, Informatics, Gender, Health, and Healthcare Equity, Health and Human Condition
  • Certificates: Globla Health Studies, Public Health, Social Science Analytics, Disability Studies

Resources

Government & Law

Do you consider yourself to be ambitious, resilient or optimistic? Are you interested in learning about developing public policy or addressing environmental issues though governmental initiatives? Does it sound like fun to argue environmental legal issues or lead a civic/community improvement project? Could you see yourself working for a city, state, or federal agency or government body?

Careers in this sector focus on public affairs, politics, and serving the community.

Graduate Education: Some careers will we require a professional or graduate degree, while others may require certifications. If you are interested in being an environmental lawyer, pursuing a law degree is necessary.

Sample Job Titles

  • Environmental Lawyer
  • Environmental Compliance Coordinator
  • Sustainable Policy Advisor
  • Policy & Research Analyst 
  • Environmental Services Director

Strategies to Prepare

Complementary Academic Programs

  • Minors: International Relations, Political Science, Social Justice, Statistics, Criminology, Law and Justice
  • Certificates: International Business, Political Risk Analysis, Rhetoric and Persuasion, Leadership Studies

Resources

Non-Profit & Advocacy

Do you consider yourself to be supportive, generous, or empathetic? Do you enjoy learning about environmental health, justice, or community development? Do you enjoy empowering others, handling a crisis or developing resources? Could you see yourself tackling environmental problems via organizing and advocacy?

Careers in this sector focus on understanding people and communities and making change by serving the community.

Sample Job Titles

  • Climate Campaign Director
  • Environmental Educator
  • Fundraising & Development Coordinator
  • Community Energy Planner
  • Climate Action Coordinator
  • Public Health Community Organizer
  • International Development Coordinator

Strategies to Prepare

Complementary Academic Programs

  • Minors: International Studies, Native American and Indigenous Studies, Social Justice, Social Work, Global Health Studies
  • Certificates: Human Rights, Nonprofit Leadership and Philanthropy, Museum Studies, Writing, Critical Cultural Competence 

Resources

Business & Entrepreneurship 

Do you consider yourself to have strong communication, management or numerical skills? Are you interested in learning about corporate responsibility through a sustainable lens? Do you see yourself working in a corporate environment collaborating with others to accomplish company goals?

Careers in this sector focus on leading people and projects, developing business plans and preparing records.

Graduate Education: There are advancement opportunities in the business area that may not require education beyond a bachelor's degree, but some may gravitate towards an MBA or professional graduate degree. 

Sample Job Titles

  • Sustainability Manager 
  • Environmental Consultant
  • Social Impact & Corporate Responsibility Director
  • Market Research and Development Specialist
  • Sustainability and Energy Consultant
  • Innovation and Sustainability Program Manager 

Strategies to Prepare

  • Develop strong communication and public speaking skills. 
  • Obtain business-related work or internship experience in a corporate setting and build a network of contacts.
  • Consider joining student organizations like the Sales & Consulting Club, Reaching OUT in Business, or American Marketing Association. 

Complementary Academic Programs

  • Minors: Statistics, Business Administration, Economics, Informatics
  • Certificates: Entrepreneurial Management, International Business, Leadership Studies, Technological Entrepreneurship, Event Management

Resources

Urban & Regional Planning

Do you consider yourself detail-oriented, creative, and forward thinking? Are you interested in addressing important social justice and environmental issues? Does it sound fun to develop strategies for improving transportation systems, housing, employment opportunities, and air and water quality?

Careers in this sector focus on long-term environmental and economic sustainability of our development patterns and improving our cities.

Graduate Education: Planning careers will benefit from a master's degree in urban planning, however there are entry-level positions that require a bachelor's degree and certification. 

Sample Job Titles

  • Transportation Planner
  • Land-Use Planner
  • Green Building Specialist (LEED)
  • Community Development & Zoning Planner
  • Environmental Planner

Strategies to Prepare

  • Develop GIS skills and become familiar with GIS mapping software and databases. 
  • Attend local government planning committee meetings and learn the federal, state, and local government job application processes. 
  • Obtain a part-time job or internship with a local government in a planning position. 
  • Get involved with a student organization like the Community Transportation Committee, UI Student Government, or the Iowa United Nations Association. 
  •  Research Master's programs for planning and make note of admission requirements and deadlines. 

Complementary Academic Programs

  • Environmental Policy & Planning and Urban & Regional Planning U2G 5-Year Bachelor's and Master's Program
  • Minors: Political Science, Social Justice, Statistics, GIScience (Geography Majors are not eligible)
  • Certificates: Social Science Analytics, Political Risk Analysis, GIScience (Geography majors on the GIS Track are not eligible), Sustainability Certificate (Sustaianbility Science majors are not eligible)

Resources

Science Research

Do you consider yourself inquisitive, analytical, or insightful? Are you interested in learning about scientific issues or applying technical concepts to solve problems? Does it sound like fun to perform lab experiments and investigating scientific principles by collecting and analyzing data?

Careers in this sector focus on designing and conducting research to improve products, processes, and ways of living.

Graduate Education: Some students may be able to enter a PhD program directly after finishing their bachelor's degree, others may need to complete a Master's degree first. 

Sample Job Titles

  • Sustainable Development Researcher
  • Water Industry Researcher
  • Operations Analyst 
  • Energy Market Analyst 
  • Climate Analyst

Strategies to Prepare

Complementary Academic Programs

  • Minors: Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Sciences, Mathematics
  • Certificates: Social Science Analytics, Writing, Technological Entrepreneurship

Resources

Education

Do you consider yourself to be helpful, patient, or understanding? Are you interested in learning about the best methods to reach students or setting curriculum standards? Does it sound like fun to explain ideas and concepts in a classroom of learners?

Careers in this sector focus on facilitating leaning by guiding and encouraging others.

Graduate Education: There are different levels and forms of science/environmental education. If you are interested in becoming a university faculty member or researcher, a PhD in geography or another field is required, a Master's degree is required for community college. If you are interested in teaching K-12, there are different certification programs through the College of Education and other institutions. If you are interested at working as an educator at a National Park, wildlife reserve, or other organization, a bachelor's degree will suffice for many positions. 

Sample Job Titles

  • University Faculty
  • Science Writer
  • K-12 Teacher
  • Environmental Grant Writer
  • Environmental Education Instructor
  • Nature Facility and Program Manager
  • Urban Park Ranger

Strategies to Prepare

  • Develop strong communication skills, both oral and written.
  • Seek volunteer or paid experiences, such as a camp counselor or tutor with your target-age group
  • Obtain certification for public school teaching
  • If you plan on becoming a university faculty member, research graduate programs and their admission requirements, maintain a high grade point average, hone your research interests, and build strong faculty relationships to prepare for graduate school. 

Complementary Academic Programs

  • Minors: Educational Psychology, Human Relations, Museum Studies
  • Certificates: Nonprofit Leadership and Philanthropy, Writing, Critical Cultural Competency
  • Other: Elementary, Secondary Teaching Licensure

Resources