Careers with Geography
A degree in geography from Ulster University opens many new doors in terms of your career choices. This section looks at some of the careers chosen by our geography graduates and presents short profiles of alumni outlining a variety of career paths.
Geographers specialise in understanding and trying to improve society’s problems. In the degree programme at Ulster you will develop a range of quantitative and qualitative research skills, and address a range of human and physical geography issues; such as climate change, coastal erosion, conflict, development, and poverty. Our graduates are employed across a wide range of fields. Many have forged careers in environmental agencies, GIS, education, consultancy, town and country planning, and public administration. A 2010 poll of over 200,000 graduates from UK universities found that those with geography degrees had the lowest rate of unemployment six months after graduation of any discipline polled (Higher Education Career Services Unit).
Where are they now?
Alumni case studies: find out what some of our geography alumni have to say about their time at Ulster and what they are doing now.
Hannah Orr: GIS Consultant - Renewables Industry
Patricia Doran: Hydraulic Modeller
Katie McFarland: GIS Consultant - Water Management
Matthew Strahan: Heritage Scientist
Pamela McQuillan: GIS Consultant - Public and Private Sectors
Richard Smyth: Geography Teacher
I graduated from the Ulster University in 2014 and began a PGCE (Secondary) with Geography at Liverpool Hope University that September. Before the completion of the course I had secured a job at West Kirby Grammar School, a high performing, selective state school. During my time at WKGS I have had the opportunity to teach across the curriculum from Key Stage 3 to 5. I have availed of many opportunities including 2 fieldtrips to Iceland, 1 to Belgium and a 2 week geography trip to China in summer 2017. I have taught an array of topics at varying levels, including specialising in human geography at A Level and assisting in the planning of a new course and the implementation of a new fieldwork study at this level. I believe it was the experience and skills developed during my time at Ulster that assisted in me securing a place on my PGCE course and my current teaching post, especially my knowledge and understanding of GIS and ability to incorporate it into my teaching.
Ryan Johnston: GIS Engineer - Transport Industry
I graduated in 2012 and started my first job the day after graduation working for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) before returning to Ulster University to complete an MSc in GIS in 2014. The two thirds of the masters were completed in a full time setting while the dissertation was completed on a part time basis as I was working as a Mapping and Charting Officer for the Department of Finance and Personnel, developing the pointer mapping dataset, Northern Ireland’s authoritative addressing dataset. The modules taught at University within the environmental sciences help to develop a well-rounded set of skills highly sought after by industry, including the economic importance and impact of decisions. Lecturers are friendly and passionate about what they teach which helps to encourage students, but creates a positive learning experience in which to ask questions or seek support with difficult concepts. In terms of post graduate study, I looked at the job specs for jobs I wanted rather than the ones I could get straight out of my degree and realised that a number of doors would be limited without the Masters for my chosen route. Since my Masters, I have worked for Terra Quest (private mapping company), as a GIS consultant for Ordnance Survey Northern Ireland. I currently work in Milton Keynes for a company that helps bridge the gap between innovative research and wider industry adoption within the transport industry as a GIS Engineer for Transport Systems Catapult. Much of the work involves researching new emerging technologies such as Virtual Reality, CAV’s (connected and autonomous vehicles) and providing Geo-spatial expertise to projects and collaborative partners. I owe much of my success to the solid educational foundation I gained while studying at Ulster University, Geography too as a subject can add value to any industry that involves people or places.
Louise Brown: University Lecturer
Matthew McCready: GIS Officer - Public Sector
I graduated in 2012 and then took time out of education to travel Australia, Asia and the South Pacific, returning to the UK three years later to take my MSc in GIS at the University of Portsmouth. Through undergraduate study at Ulster I was awarded the Diploma in International Academic Studies (DIAS) with Commendation for an ERASMUS study placement year abroad, where I lived in Gießen, Germany, studying geographical modules in German, such as Spatial Planning, Crime Mapping and Urban Geography, at Justus-Liebig Universität. I would strongly recommend taking a year out in the third year of undergraduate study, as the experiences I had were beyond any of my expectations, from travelling around Europe to meeting like-minded students from all over the world, it is something I will never forget! The degree at Ulster provided me with strong foundations for personal development and key technical skills in GIS and remote sensing that are essential in the commercial environment. Postgraduate study offered a deeper understanding of more advanced concepts of database design/maintenance, modelling and analysis and definitely promoted me in terms of employability. Last year, my MSc dissertation in wildfire research using GIS and remote sensing was sponsored through the Ordnance Survey Dissertation Programme Award, which involved a conference presentation of my work at OS Headquarters in Southampton. I was offered a job as a GIS Analyst at Savills in Dorset almost two months before finishing my MSc and of course jumped at the opportunity. I have had the chance to get involved in some pioneering projects using bespoke methodologies and multiple GIS and database software programmes within a highly competitive environment. In April 2017 I start a new position as GIS Officer for East Kent Services, providing GIS support and to three local authorities in Kent County. I am very much looking forward to the challenge.
Scott McFarland: Geography Teacher
I graduated from Ulster University in 2011. Heavily involved in youth work, coupled with a love for my subject led me to the realisation that I wanted to be a teacher. I spent the next 3 years working as an SEN Classroom Assistant. In 2014-15 I was successful on getting onto the PGCE course in Ulster University and completed a Post Graduate Certificate in Education - Post Primary. I now work as a Geography teacher in a secondary school in Belfast and absolutely love it. I believe Geography is an eye opening subject that leads people to have a greater understanding and appreciation for the world around them. I think particularly of my GCSE class, who when learning about climate change and its impacts, gained a greater appreciation for what they have, and devised ways we could mitigate and adapt to this growing issue. Becoming a teacher did not come easily; I got onto the PGCE course on my third attempt, but I am glad I persevered. My undergraduate degree set me up for one of the best careers on the planet (I may be slightly biased). Every day, I get to play a small part in shaping the lives of the next generation and all the while, teaching them to be sustainable stewards of the world around them - what a privilege. Interestingly as a side note, my dissertation at Undergrad focused on the redevelopment of the Maze site. On my first date with a girl who I liked, we found common ground on this as this was what her PhD was on. Fast forward a few years and we are now happily married. You never know what your Geography degree will help you achieve in life!
Paul Fearon: GIS Consultant - Engineering Industry
Siobhan Murtagh: Geography Teacher
I graduated from Ulster University in July 2014 after spending a year during my degree gaining some work experience and teaching practice at Dominican College, Fortwilliam. I was fortunate enough to be accepted onto the PGCE Post-Primary Geography at Ulster University and graduated from this in July 2015. After completing my PGCE, I took the plunge and moved to England in August 2015. I now work as Assistant Director of Humanities with responsibility for Geography at Lealands High School, Luton.
Martine Scott: GIS Consultant - Public Sector