A geographer studies locations and spaces to learn more about the world. While many people associate geography with maps, thanks to school lessons, it's actually a very broad field of study, and while it can involve the production of maps, it also involves many more topics. People often broadly divide the field into physical and human geography, and there are a number of subspecialties within these broad categories.
A physical geographer studies the surface of the Earth and natural phenomena. He or she looks at topics like terrain, the distribution of water, climate patterns, ecosystems, and the relationships between living organisms. This person might be interested, for example, in the role of seasonal weather patterns on the natural environment, or how animals have adapted to live in particularly harsh or unique terrain. These professionals are sometimes confused with geologists, but their scope of interest is wider, and they are usually less concerned with what is underneath the Earth's surface than with what's on top.
The relationship between people and places is studied by human geographers. They can study things like the urban environment, the distribution of medical services, and the impact of environment on human activities. This can include everything from why it was so challenging for Hannibal to cross the Alps to how humans can live near a wetland without causing environmental damage. Professionals in this field are very interested in human cultures and societies and the role that geography plays in human activities.
Geographers often work for government organizations. They can be involved in tasks like intelligence gathering for security agencies, epidemiology studies for departments of health, and disaster recovery in areas that have been damaged by natural or man-made disasters. Others work for private companies and organizations. A company interested in promoting the spread of electricity to rural areas in developing nations might use a geographer, for example, to map the terrain, explore distribution possibilities, and identify potential challenges.
Working in this field can be tremendously interesting, and the work is very diverse. Professionals usually hold a master's degree or higher, which allows them to develop general geography skills before selecting an area of specialty. The job requires a number of skills, including the ability to make precise observations, collect data, interpret and analyze data, and work with scientists from a wide variety of fields, from anthropology to zoology.