Geography and Career Opportunities

Most employers are concerned that schools should provide for the development of general skills – literacy, numeracy, spoken communication, computer literacy, use of maps and diagrams, analysis, interpretation and presentation of information, decision-making, planning and organisation, individual initiative and teamwork. Geography courses in particular, contribute greatly to developing such skills.

At A level, the subject can be used as an entry qualification for HNDs and Degree courses at most Universities and other institutes of Further and Higher Education.

Geography may be combined with many other subjects at this level, but the choice is important as it will affect the range of opportunities available beyond school.

Members of the Department

  • Mrs Nuala Mc Gonagle (Head of Subject)
  • Mrs Marie-Louise O’ Kane
  • Miss Honor Sisk
  • Miss Bernadette McTaggart
  • Mr Lee Mosby

The Curriculum- What do we study?

Key Stage 3

Year 8

  • What is Geography? Pupils are introduced to the various strands that make up Geography – physical, human and environmental.
  • Locational Geography –pupils become familiar with geographical scale – from local to global, and develop a sense of place through map work.
  • Geographical skills – locating places using latitude and longitude, using graphs in geography.
  • Settlements – what are settlements, factors affecting the choice of sites for settlement, how settlements change through time, land use in settlements and benefits and problems of settlement growth.
  • Weather and climate – elements of the weather, weather forecasting, microclimates, depressions and anticyclones.
  • Map skills - pupils learn the use of direction on a map, and become familiar with the symbols used on maps.
  • Natural disasters – the causes, impact and management of the 2004 Boxing day Tsunami.

Year 9

  • Erosion – pupils learn how rivers, wind, the sea and ice can wear away the land.
  • Rivers – how rivers shape the land – the formation of waterfalls, floodplains and meanders.
  • Map skills –recognising river features on a map, showing relief on a map, using contour lines
  • The Environment – pupils learn we should be concerned about the environment, and look at energy provision/use of energy resources in detail in relation to oil, coal and alternative sources of energy.
  • Population – distribution and density, factors affecting distribution, world population distribution, population distribution in the British Isles.  Population change, migration, refugees, asylum seekers and associated issues.
  • Coasts – coastal erosion and coastal landforms.

Year 10

  • Earth’s structure and rocks – igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic
  • Plate tectonics – continental drift, plates, plate movements, earthquakes and volcanoes
  • Tourism – problems and benefits, changes in tourism, national parks, conflict in tourism, ecotourism
  • Map skills – using scale – calculating distances
  • Development – levels of development, indicators of development – overpopulation, employment structure, trade and aid.

Throughout KS3 pupils develop a wide range of skills. In response to the school’s former status as a specialist school in Mathematics and Computing, the Department continues to use specific tasks related to the use of Mathematics – in addition to the normal use of a variety of graph types throughout the course. The Department also contributes to the development of IT skills. The KS3 course also has numerous opportunities to develop the skills of literacy, communication, problem solving & decision-making, working with others, self management, and being creative.

The Department has developed a Connected Learning project involving several other subject areas on the theme of the Environment. This aims to connect the planning and learning process across the different subject boundaries so that pupils can transfer their learning and skills in different contexts. This is completed in Year 9.

There are numerous opportunities for fieldwork at this level. In Year 8 pupils undertake a school based study of a microclimate, a study of land use in Derry and a survey of traffic along the Buncrana Road. In Year 10 pupils travel to the Giant’s Causeway to study rocks, weathering and erosion, plate tectonics and the impact of tourism. Geography Action Week takes place in February – this comprises a range of activities that students undertake related to the various geographical themes they are studying.

Key Stage 4

We follow the Northern Ireland CCEA Specification.

Year 11 Unit 1

  • Theme A: Landscape Development – rivers and coasts
  • Theme B: Our Changing Weather and Climate
  • Theme C: The Restless Earth – rocks, plate tectonics, tectonic activity in the British Isles, earthquakes.

Year 12 Unit 2

  • Theme A; People and Where They Live
  • Theme B: Contrasts in World Development
  • Theme C: Managing our Resources

There are two examinations worth 75% of the total mark. The remaining 25% is for Controlled Assessment. In order to fulfil the requirements of the GCSE specification pupils carry out a river study along the River Roe. Other fieldwork includes a study of the redevelopment (Queen’s Quay) which has taken place in the former docklands area along the River Foyle.

The following geographical concepts underpin the GCSE course:

  • Sustainable development
  • Interrelationships between people and the natural environment
  • The need to manage both human and physical resources
  • Interdependence between countries; and
  • International cooperation to tackle global problems

The GCSE course helps pupils to develop a wide range of skills as outlined under the Careers Section below.

Key Stage 5

We follow the Northern Ireland CCEA Specification.

Year 13 - AS Level - This course consists of two assessment units as outlined below:

Assessment Unit 1 - Themes in Physical Geography with fieldwork skills

Section A: Skills related to fieldwork, including a written repost (100 words)

Section 2: Physical processes and systems

  1. Fluvial Environments (Rivers) – drainage basins, hydrographs, rivers landforms, river processes; interaction with the human environment and its effects on people (flooding).
  2. Ecosystems - Ecosystems as open systems involving the transfer of energy and matter (trophic levels, nutrient recycling); plant succession - development of vegetation through time; human interaction with ecosystems - case study of mid- latitude grasslands.
  3. Atmosphere - Atmospheric heating, winds and moisture (precipitation); weather systems - depressions and anticyclones; extreme weather – hurricanes.

Assessment Unit 2 - Themes in Human Geography with skills and techniques

Section A: Skills and techniques – data collection, data processing, graphical and statistical techniques

Section 2: Human processes and systems

  • Population - Population data - the census; age / sex structures - population pyramids;
  • population and resources.
  • Settlement – challenges for rural environments; rural-urban fringe; remote rural areas; management of the countryside; regional development agencies; urban environments- inners cities and rapid urbanisation in LEDCs.
  • Development - The nature and measurement of development; issues of development – colonialism, dependency, globalisation, aid, trade, debt.

All pupils participate in group fieldwork (compulsory element). There is no project - but there is a written report of 100 words only, which is taken into the exam. The fieldwork consists of a residential trip to Magilligan Field Centre where pupils study a local sand dune ecosystem. Pupils also travel to Belfast where they study the redevelopment which has taken place in the Titanic Quarter and in Laganside. This trip is facilitated by Professor Geraint Ellis of the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Queen’s University Belfast.

A2 Level - This course consists of two assessment units as outlined below:

Assessment Unit A2 1

Section 1: Human geography 

  1. Impact of Population Change
  2. Issues in Ethnic Diversity or Impact of Population and Change

Section 2: Global issues

  1. Global Warming
  2. The Nuclear debate

Assessment Unit A2 2

Section 1: Physical geography 

  1. Fluvial and coastal environments
  2. The dynamic earth

Section 2: Decision making

Year 14 pupils undertake fieldwork in the city centre where they conduct a questionnaire survey on attitudes to global warming. Other educational visits are undertaken as the opportunity arises.

Entry Requirements

  • Have a minimum Grade C in the Higher Tier in both modules at GCSE level and a sound performance in the Controlled Assessment component.
  • Come with a good recommendation from their Year 12  Geography teacher 
  • Have a sound interest in the subject
  • Be prepared to read widely around the subject. 
  • Read a good quality newspaper to keep in touch with relevant current events

The Table below shows show of the possible subject combinations involving Geography. The lists are by no means complete but are intended to stimulate ideas for future career paths.

Geog table 1

Certain fields which employ large numbers and are varied in character – such as teaching, business and public administration (including the civil service and local government) may be entered from many different subject combinations.

Pupils may be attracted to degree courses with a substantial  geographical content – these would include – African / Asian/ Australian/ European studies; Coastal studies/ coastal management; environmental science; international studies; mapping sciences; resource management; tourism; journalism;  and education.