Geography is the academic discipline responsible for the study of place and location: where things are, why they are there, and how they are related to other patterns of distribution. Although geography is often counted as one of the social sciences, it is also a natural science because an understanding of human location patterns requires knowledge of the physical earth. The concept of “environment” lies at the very heart of geographical study because it is human society that is environed by the physical world. Geography emphasizes that the physical and the human should be studied together.
Professional geographers are employed in an ever-broadening array of occupations. The most important growth area today is the field of geographic information science (GIScience) which has applications in environmental monitoring, urban planning, disaster preparedness, data analysis, public health, and many other fields. Knowledge and training in geography is a prerequisite for most careers in GIScience.
Employment in the academic world is a traditional path for professional geographers to follow. The demand for geography teachers remains brisk at all educational levels. Other traditional sources of employment for geographers are the many branches of government, from the local level to the national. Washington, D.C., is the largest single home of professional geographers in the United States. Geographers work in data analysis, policy research, planning, and GIScience in virtually every branch of the federal government.
Students who elect to major or minor in geography come from virtually all fields of study in the university, including engineering, economics, earth science, environmental sciences, education, journalism, and anthropology. Many have found that geography makes an excellent subject to present along with their other studies and skills when applying for jobs or seeking admission to graduate and professional schools.
The Program in Geography offers three types of courses to students who seek knowledge about the physical earth and its various modes of human occupancy. Introductory courses develop global perspectives on environments that are relevant to many social and physical science fields. Courses in regional geography present a unique way of understanding how nature and culture have interacted over time to give character to specific places or regions. Advanced courses focus on the concepts and techniques of professional geography, especially on the construction of maps and on the uses of maps in solving geographical problems.
Those who wish to specialize in geographical studies may elect to do so by completing either the adjunct major or the minor. The adjunct major requires students to complete a major in some other field in addition to their geographical studies.