April 24, 2024


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What You Need to Know About Becoming a Geography Major | Best Colleges

Geography and cartography majors study the intersection of humans and the environment through the social sciences, humanities and natural sciences. That includes exploring built and natural environments over time and understanding human activity within them.

What Is a Geography Major?

Geography majors learn how the environment and humans interact and affect one another. This broad major can be understood through areas including physical geography, human geography, and geospatial representation and analysis. There is considerable overlap between these disciplines – and even with related fields in the social sciences. Physical geography explores the interconnected components of the environment through the traditional sciences. Human geography examines the interactions between humans and nature, and the reasons and methods for humans organizing into societies.

Geospatial representation and analysis uses geographic information systems, or GIS, to map, visualize or store information about different spaces. Related disciplines like cartography, which focuses on the art and science of mapmaking, come from this area of study. Many departments teach geography and cartography together, and some offer cartography minors and certifications as paths into the field. The growing need for detailed digital maps that respond in real time has increased the demand for the specific skills associated with cartography.

Common Coursework Geography Majors Can Expect

Early coursework for geography majors includes an introduction to earth system sciences, exploring topics like the atmosphere, as well as an introduction to human geography topics like culture, politics and globalization. These courses lay a foundation for students to specialize in topics of interest.

Advanced coursework often looks at specific systems, such as urban geography, or topics like conservation. Many programs also have a required internship or research component for students to gain field experience before graduation.

Geography majors may learn to work with GIS. These specialized computer systems are used to describe spaces and compare data points – an increasingly important task in today’s world of digital maps and GPS responsive tools. Topic areas here include cartography, geomatics, surveying, remote sensing and data analysis. Courses in math, engineering and computer science are also common for learning the technical aspects of the work. Additionally, web and graphic design courses help students learn how to display results to broad audiences.

Working with GIS requires continued education as new methods and tools are developed. Eventual geography graduates can stay sharp with independent training programs or get certified through multiple associations.

How to Know if This Major Is the Right Fit for You

Students who enjoy learning about the environment, digital maps and discovering hidden connections should consider a geography major. Successful students often have a strong interest in the social sciences and love to think critically about global challenges and threats like climate change. If you’re interested in working with new tools and gathering information to paint broad pictures of people and places, this major is for you.

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What Can I Do With a Geography Major?

Majoring in geography prepares students for careers in public and private arenas. Many geographers use GIS in their daily work as surveyors, cartographers or geoscientists. The graphic design nature of those skills can also lead to opportunities in media.

Geography graduates may work with people in related fields such as civil engineering and urban planning. Together, they support big public works projects, mitigate natural disasters or allocate natural resources. Graduates can also find work with conservation organizations or in business as researchers for marketing. Those looking to earn top positions as researchers or teach formally often go to graduate school.

Schools Offering a Geography Major

Check out some schools below that offer geography majors and find the full list of schools here that you can filter and sort.

Butler University
Indianapolis, IN Location
#1 in Regional Universities Midwest Featured Ranking
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT Location
#7 in National Liberal Arts Colleges (tie) Featured Ranking
Vassar College
Poughkeepsie, NY Location
#14 in National Liberal Arts Colleges (tie) Featured Ranking
Geneseo, NY Location
#14 in Regional Universities North (tie) Featured Ranking
Carthage College
Kenosha, WI Location
#14 in Regional Colleges Midwest (tie) Featured Ranking

School Name




Featured Ranking

Butler University   Indianapolis, IN   #1 in Regional Universities Midwest
James Madison University   Harrisonburg, VA   #3 in Regional Universities South
California Polytechnic State University—San Luis Obispo   San Luis Obispo, CA   #4 in Regional Universities West
University of Chicago   Chicago, IL   #6 in National Universities (tie)
Middlebury College   Middlebury, VT   #7 in National Liberal Arts Colleges (tie)
Bard College at Simon’s Rock   Great Barrington, MA   #7 in Regional Colleges North
Johns Hopkins University   Baltimore, MD   #10 in National Universities (tie)
Vassar College   Poughkeepsie, NY   #14 in National Liberal Arts Colleges (tie)
SUNY—Geneseo   Geneseo, NY   #14 in Regional Universities North (tie)
Carthage College   Kenosha, WI   #14 in Regional Colleges Midwest (tie)