In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Perspectives in Geography Internships

  • Introduction
  • General Overview
  • Benefits of an Internship to Learning and Career Prospects
  • Geography Skills Developed in a Professional Workplace
  • Types of Internships within Subfields of Geography
  • Stakeholders in an Internship: Student (Intern), Department, and Employer
  • Internship Exploration
  • Virtual Internships (E-internships) in Geography

Geography Perspectives in Geography Internships
Niem Huynh, Hans Asnong
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 August 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 August 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0270


The discipline of geography traditionally integrates experiential ways for students to engage with practice that complements the classroom teaching of geographic skills, perspectives, and content knowledge. Examples include field trips, fieldwork, study abroad, guest speakers, and participation in special events like “GIS Days.” In the last decade, learning in higher education has shifted from a focus only on theoretical teachings to include experiential learning that enhances application to the in-class materials outside of the classroom. A spectrum of hands-on learning opportunities is available to students in geography. Of these, the internship is a common example, whether accomplished within the community or on campus. Within geography, a student might be a member of a group that surveys campus transportation (e.g., undergraduate research); collects noise data in the neighborhood (e.g., field experience); or performs remote sensing or GIS modeling (e.g., lab experience). Usually, an internship is the result of concerted effort among the department, employer, and student, whether for program credit or no credit with or without remuneration. This encyclopedia article focuses on the topic of internship within the broad discipline of geography.

General Overview

An internship is considered a work-related opportunity where a student is exposed to the professional environment of one’s degree, usually within the community and outside of the university setting, but not always. The short-term nature of the work could be a few weeks, months, a single semester, or an academic year. Internships may be remunerated or unpaid and for credit or noncredit. Jenkins and Healey 1995 summarized the preparation of geography students for the workplace into two learning spheres: bringing the workplace into the classroom and bringing students to the workplace. This idea was fine-tuned into five levels of student engagement activities in Shepherd 2019. This hierarchy places internships (referred to broadly as work experience) at “level 5b,” which distinguishes it from other forms of workplace engagement by work activities, length of participation, and inclusion in a program. Engaged learning, of which internship is part of, is a research area in academia. Hassock and Hill 2022 proposes ways that higher education—with a focus on the Middle East, Asia and Europe—could support and promote skills development through internships. The end goal is to refocus higher education institutions’ roles in students’ employability. In addition, internships may increase geography’s appeal to students. Moolman and Donaldson 2017 encourages internships as a way to promote geography and recruit students to programs. On a larger scale, Brail and Whalen 2019 promotes internship and the spectrums of experiential learning as important to the learners, educators, universities, and society as a whole. An internship is a student’s first step into the professional world to experience applied geography work and to discover strengths and areas of growth as well as to plan one’s career trajectory. Greiner and Wikle 2013 lay out a concrete guide that starts with getting to know oneself, personal skills relevant to a job posting, and resources to build the application documents (i.e., resume and cover letters). To delve into geography skills pertinent to employment, Adams, et al. 2013 discusses ways to build these outside of the classroom in an internship. The most comprehensive and clear discussion about geography internships is found in Blanchard, et al. 2013. Here, the authors explain, from a higher education perspective, the value of an internship in geography, providing examples of work within subfields and the timeline. Students who are searching for internship opportunities or geography careers are encouraged to search the American Association of Geographers 2023 careers page or the Canadian Association of Geographers 2023 page on professional profiles of geographers.

  • Adams, Joy K., Niem Tu Huynh, Joseph Kerski, and G. Brent Hall. “Geography Education and Career Readiness.” In Practicing Geography: Careers for Enhancing Society and the Environment. Edited by Michael Solem, Kenneth Foote, and Janice Monk, 15–26. Boston: Pearson, 2013.

    Geography being everywhere, especially in the workplace, is the main theme. With this lens, the authors provide a useful overview of geographical thinking processes and skills used in professional geography.

  • American Association of Geographers. Jobs & Careers: Your Professional Journey, 2023.

    The American Association of Geographers compiles on their website resources and relevant information for students and job seekers. This is a good place to start for those interested in opportunities in the United States.

  • Blanchard, R. Denise, Mark L. Carter, Robert B. Kent, and Christopher A. Badurek. “The Value of an Internship Experience for Early Career Geographers.” In Practicing Geography: Careers for Enhancing Society and the Environment. Edited by Michael Solem, Kenneth Foote, and Janice Monk, 41–58. Boston: Pearson, 2013.

    The value here lies in a comprehensive list of subfields and examples of internships frequently available to students. Also of interest to readers are concrete suggestions for pursuing an internship.

  • Brail, Shauna, and Kate Whalen. “Examining the Potential of Experiential Learning as Pedagogy for Senior Undergraduate Students.” In Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Geography. Edited by Helen Walkington, Jennifer Hill, and Sarah Dyer, 342–356. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2019.

    As higher education reimagines the value of education (i.e., undergraduate degrees), experiential learning becomes the focus of bridging theory (i.e., learning in the classroom) with building employable skills (i.e., learning outside of the classroom). This is made clear by thorough explanations of terms before moving to case studies.

  • Canadian Association of Geographers. Profiles of Professional Geographers, 2023.

    The Canadian Association of Geographers created profiles of diverse career journeys from Canadian geographers. The information is rich and inspiring for students and job seekers exploring opportunities related to the field of geography. The profiles are available in English and French.

  • Greiner, Alyson L., and Thomas A. Wikle. “Part Strategy and Serendipity: A Candid Guide to Career Planning for Geographers.” In Practicing Geography: Careers for Enhancing Society and the Environment. Edited by Michael Solem, Kenneth Foote, and Janice Monk, 1–14. Boston: Pearson, 2013.

    Readers are coached through important action items to prepare for a job in geography. The main ideas include knowing oneself, learning about the market, understanding the skills outlined in the job descriptions, and making yourself visible. The advice is clear and easy to follow for job seekers.

  • Hassock, Leisa J., and Christopher Hill. “Employability and Employment: The Role of Higher Education in a Rapidly Changing World.” In Higher Education and Job Employability. Edited by Betsy Ng, 155–178. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2022.

    The preparation of students for the job market is the responsibility of each stakeholder in the system (i.e., higher education institutions, government, students, and industry). Four real and pressing challenges are stated to better prepare students in the skills needed for employability: the demand for lifelong learning to retool, the focus on skills rather than degrees, the need to engage with disruptors of traditional education, and the demands of students.

  • Jenkins, Alan, and Mick Healey. “Linking the Geography Curriculum to the Worlds of Industry, Commerce and Public Authorities.” Journal of Geography in Higher Education 19.2 (1995): 177–181

    DOI: 10.1080/03098269508709301

    The broad summary suggests that geographers in the United Kingdom are less successful than other disciplines (e.g., business and law) while institutions in North America and Australia have seen more positive outcomes from their work. These three approaches may help institutions build bridges with industry: 1) connect with trained geographers outside academia; 2) develop curriculum that values geography knowledge (e.g., environmental analysis) and skills (e.g., GIS); and 3) and include internships to programs.

  • Moolman, Tiani, and Ronnie Donaldson. “Career Paths of Geography Graduates.” South African Geographical Journal 99.3 (2017): 252–266.

    DOI: 10.1080/03736245.2016.1231625

    The proposed research method is a useful exercise for departments to follow up with alumni to learn about their career paths post graduation. Where contact information is not available, social media and peer connections are offered as ways to reach students after graduation.

  • Shepherd, Ifan D. H. “Learning for Work.” In Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Geography. Edited by Helen Walkington, Jennifer Hill, and Sarah Dyer, 399–413. Northampton, UK: Edward Elgar, 2019.

    A table provides a clear hierarchy, divided into five levels of work-related student learning activities based on the amount of work engagement.

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