Explore future careers in geography, GIS and urban planning from the comforts of home

By

Megan Martin

The days of ride-alongs and shadowing professionals have taken a pause in our current virtual world. Even many internships are taking place in a student’s home environment instead of heading into an office or out into the field. But that doesn’t mean the exploration of future careers has to end.

Arizona State University’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning has launched a virtual suite of videos from professionals highlighting the different career paths forged by an education in geography, GIS and urban planning. This effort is a continuation of the school’s Career Navigator, a successful in-person career fair and learning event. Career Navigator, both in the in-person and virtual formatting, aims to highlight the wide variety of careers available to students in the geography, GIS and urban planning fields.

“Students who are majoring in these realms, or taking a few courses in these areas, often only have a vague idea of careers that utilize the knowledge and skills they’re building through their academic work,” said Barbara Trapido-Lurie, an academic research professional in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, who assists students with finding internships and career preparation. Trapido-Lurie is also one of the key organizers of the in-person event and also served on the team of creators for the new virtual web experience, which also included Eileen Baden, Aryn Musgrave and Megan Martin.

The Career Navigator webpage features videos from 16 professionals across the different disciplines. Visitors to the page can either decide to view all of the videos, or sort and search based on interests – whether that be by specific discipline or via more universal interests, such as loving the outdoors, an interest in technology, or sustainability issues.

“As a whole, the three areas aren’t well known among people choosing college majors,” Trapido-Lurie said. “A person who’s passionate about preserving and protecting the natural environment may not realize that the study of GIS, geography and planning can lead to a career in which they develop plans for conservation lands, use cutting-edge technologies or help citizens understand how they can create a water-wise home.” 

New format, same purpose

Last year’s Career Navigator event brought together over 100 professionals to ASU’s Memorial Union. The ballroom was crowded and filled with hundreds of students who connected with these professionals to learn about different careers and organizations.

While there’s no way to duplicate the energy of a room packed with people, organizers of Career Navigator wanted to try to replicate some of the connections students were making with professionals, especially in terms of realizing the breadth and the depth of career options available.

“I hope that students who interact with these videos will feel inspired and gain confidence that there are diverse avenues to build careers that are meaningful and rewarding,” Trapido-Lurie said. “I hope that they’ll also feel ready to continue their investigation of career options described in the videos, and will find guidance in the advice that the professionals offer.”

Now, in its digital formatting, the organizers hope Career Navigator will reach even more students than may have attended an in-person event to help them to also feel inspired. With plans to connect with educators beyond the walls of the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, as well as those outside of ASU, the videos and resources provided can give students who have yet to enroll in geography, GIS and urban planning courses, and even those who have yet to take a college course, new opportunities to consider when it comes to future studies.

A world to explore and advice to be shared

The 16 videos from professionals across the country and around the world highlight a variety of careers, including those available with local and national governmental agencies, private firms, and even the nonprofit sector. But with job titles like community planner or GIS coordinator, the aspects of the day-to-day job or even the bigger impact may not be immediately identifiable.

In each of the videos, professionals share what their work entails, including the impact they make for the communities they serve, as well as share what they love about their careers and advice for students. With each video, the hope is that students gain further insight into the career opportunities available to them, beyond a nondescriptive job title.

For instance, as a GIS coordinator for the U.S. Forest Service, Mark Christiano’s job in the most simple of terms is to create maps for the region he serves. But, the importance of those maps is critical to areas such as conservation and can be life-saving.

“It’s exciting to know that you have such a massive impact,” said Christiano in his video submission to Career Navigator. “You make a trail map and thousands of visitors use it. You make a fire map and it helps keep firefighters safe. You make a timber map and you’re helping to restore the forest. I just love what we do."

From researching tornadoes to investigating archaeological sites to helping create towns that are thriving, each of the submitted videos showcases the diversity of ways that the disciplines of geography, GIS and planning can create meaningful and impactful careers, and the value that each of the professionals finds in their field. To learn more and view all of the videos, visit the Career Navigator website.