Geography

The Department of Geography offers theoretical and practical work in physical geography, including climatology, hydrology, geomorphology, and biogeography; conservation of natural resources, including environmental education; human geography, including urban, social, economic, political, cultural, and population geography; geographic information science (GIS), including spatial analysis using GIS, remote sensing, computer cartography, GIS and society, and geography education; and regional analysis, including mountains, natural hazards, and specific regional courses. To complement its curriculum, the department offers internship opportunities to geography majors.   

The Department of Geography offers BA, MA, and PhD degree programs in geography.   

The undergraduate degree in geography emphasizes knowledge and awareness of:

  • the unique contributions of the discipline to understanding the spatial components of problems and the diverse factors relating to human interaction with the environment;
  • the spatial distributions of physical and human characteristics on the Earth surface, the general patterns these form, and the processes that have created and are changing these patterns;
  • the major themes of geographical analysis, including absolute and relative location; human and physical characteristics of place; human and environmental relations; movement of people, ideas, and products; and regionalization; and
  • the general geographical principles of human-environment interaction, global change, and human spatial organization.   

In addition, students completing the degree in geography are expected to acquire proficiency in:

  • one or more of the specific geographic skill areas of cartography, remote sensing, and geographic information systems;
  • writing, quantitative methods, computer literacy, and library and field methods of data collection; and
  • identifying the geographic dimensions of a problem and analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating relevant data, and applying geographic principles offering a geographic perspective on that problem.

MAPS (Minimum Academic Preparation Standards)

To fulfill a MAPS deficiency in geography, students may take any one of the following courses: GEOG 1982, 1992, 2002, or 2412, or pass the Geography Exemption Exam. For more information on the exemption exam, contact Testing Services at 303-492-5854 or careerservices.colorado.edu/testing.cs.

The course code for this program is GEOG.

Bachelor's Degree Program(s)

Undergraduate Study in Geography

Students must complete the general requirements of the College of Arts and Sciences and the required courses listed below. Students must complete at least 36 and no more than 45 credit hours in geography courses with grades of C- or better (22 hours must be upper division). No pass/fail grades are allowed in the major. Transfer students majoring in geography must complete at least 12 credit hours of upper-division geography courses at CU-Boulder.

Required Courses and Semester Credit Hours

  • GEOG 1001 Environmental Systems I: Climate and Vegetation—4
  • GEOG 1011 Environmental Systems II: Landscapes and Water—4
  • One of the following:
    GEOG 1982 World Regional Geography—3
    GEOG 1992 Human Geographies—3
    GEOG 2002 Geographies of Global Change—3
    GEOG 2412 Environment and Culture—3
  • One additional upper- OR lower-division human geography course (courses ending in 2)
  • One of the following:
    GEOG 2053 Mapping a Changing World—4
    GEOG 3053 Cartography 1: Visualization and Information Design (introductory statistics course recommended; may be taken concurrently)—4
  • One of the following:
    GEOG 4023 Introduction to Quantitative Methods in Human Geography (prereq: GEOG 3023)—3
    GEOG 4043 Cartography 2: Interactive and Multimedia Mapping (prereq: GEOG 3053)—4
    GEOG 4093 Remote Sensing of the Environment—4
    GEOG 4103 Introduction to Geographic Information Science (prereq: GEOG 2053, 3053 or equivalent and introductory statistics course)—4
    GEOG 4173 Research Seminar (restricted to senior GEOG and ENVS majors)—3
    GEOG 4203 Geographic Information Science: Modeling Applications (prereq: GEOG 4103)—4
    GEOG 4383 Methods of Vegetation Analysis (prereq. or coreq.: GEOG 4371)—3
  • Introductory Statistics (Note 1)
  • ANTH 4000 Quantitative Methods in Anthropology—3
    BCOR 1020 Business Statistics—3
    ECON 3818 Introduction to Statistics w/Computer Applications—4
    GEOG 3023 Statistics for Geography—4
    MATH 2510 Introduction to Statistics—3
    PSCI 2074 Quantitative Research Methods—3
    PSYC 3101 Statistics and Research Methods in Psychology—4
    SOCY 2061 Introduction to Social Statistics—3
    SOCY 4061 Social Statistics—3

Note

1. Courses taken in other departments may be used to satisfy the statistics requirement, but credits earned in these courses are not counted in the 36 hours of geography. Only GEOG 3023 applies to the 36 hours required in the Department of Geography.

Graduating in Four Years

Consult the Four-Year Guarantee Requirements for information on eligibility. The concept of “adequate progress” as it is used here only refers to maintaining eligibility for the four-year guarantee; it is not a requirement for the major. To maintain adequate progress in geography, students should meet the following requirements:

  • Declare a geography major by the beginning of the second semester.
  • Complete GEOG 1001, 1011, and one of the following courses: GEOG 1982, 1992, 2002, or 2412, by the end of the third semester.
  • Complete GEOG 1982, 1992, 2002, or 2412 or an approved upper-division human geography course (must be different than the course used to complete the previous requirement) and 9 credit hours of upper-division geography courses by the end of the sixth semester.
  • Complete GEOG 2053 or 3053 and statistics by the end of the sixth semester.
  • Complete the remaining upper-division credit hours by the eighth semester.

Geography Honors Program

Students interested in participating in a special honors program should contact the departmental honors advisor during their junior year.

Geography Internship Program

To complement its curriculum, the department offers geography majors internship opportunities in which students earn academic credit in GEOG 3930 Internship while working in selected positions in public agencies and firms.

Residential Academic Program

Geography students specializing in environmental issues may want to consider the Baker Residential Academic Program. Students may visit the geography department office or refer to Residential Academic Programs section.

Minor Program

A minor is offered in geography. Declaration of a minor is open to any student enrolled at CU-Boulder, regardless of college or school. 

  • Participation in the minor program is optional on the part of the student.
  • A minimum of 18 credit hours must be taken in the minor area, including a minimum of 9 upper-division.
  • All course work applied to the minor must be completed with a grade of C- or better. No pass/fail work may be applied. The grade point average of all minor degree course work must equal 2.000 (C) or higher.
  • Students pursuing an individually structured major, or who are pursuing a major in distributed studies, will not be eligible to earn a minor.
  • Students will be allowed to apply no more than 9 credit hours (including six 6 upper-division) of transfer work toward a minor.
  • Students may earn no more than two minors.
  • Course work applied toward a minor may also be applied toward general education (core/college list) and major requirements.
  • No specific concentration is required. However, students who do wish to focus on one area of geography should see the following suggested course lists below:

Human Geography Concentration

One of the following four courses—GEOG 1982, 1992, 2002, and 2412—are prerequisites to all upper-division courses listed below. Additional prerequisites are listed.          

  • GEOG 1982  World Regional Geography
  • GEOG 1992  Human Geographies
  • GEOG 2002  Geographies of Global Change
  • GEOG 2412  Environment and Culture
  • GEOG 3672  Gender and Global Economy*
  • GEOG 3682  Geography of International Development
  • GEOG 3742  Power, Place and Contemporary Culture
  • GEOG 3812  Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean
  • GEOG 3822  Geography of China
  • GEOG 3862  Geography of Africa
  • GEOG 4023  Introduction to Quantitative Methods in Human Geography (prereq: GEOG 3023)
  • GEOG 4292  Migration, Urbanization, and Development
  • GEOG 4622  City Life*
  • GEOG 4712  Political Geography
  • GEOG 4732  Population Geography
  • GEOG 4742  Environment and Peoples*
  • GEOG 4812  Environment and Development in South America* (recommended Prereq: GEOG 3812 or 3422)
  • GEOG 4822  Environment and Development in China*
  • GEOG 4832  Geography of Tibet (prereq. GEOG 3822)
  • GEOG 4892  Geography of Western Europe

  *core curriculum course

Environment-Society Relations Concentration

Two of the following four courses—GEOG 1982, 1992, 2002, and 2412—are prerequisites to all upper-division courses listed below. Additional prerequisites may be listed.        

  • GEOG 1001  Environmental Systems 1: Climate and Vegetation*
  • GEOG 1011  Environmental Systems 2: Landscapes and Water*
  • GEOG 1982  World Regional Geography
  • GEOG 1992  Human Geographies
  • GEOG 2002  Geographies of Global Change
  • GEOG 2412  Environment and Culture
  • GEOG 3251  Mountain Geography
  • GEOG 3301  Analysis of Climate and Weather Observations*
  • GEOG 3351  Biogeography
  • GEOG 3402  Natural Hazards
  • GEOG 3412  Conservation Practice and Resource Management
  • GEOG 3422  Conservation Thought
  • GEOG 3511  Introduction to Hydrology*
  • GEOG 3601  Principles of Climate*
  • GEOG 3612  Geography of American Cities
  • GEOG 3682  Geography of International Development
  • GEOG 3812  Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean
  • GEOG 3822  Geography of China*
  • GEOG 3862  Geography of Africa
  • GEOG 4401  Soils Geography (prereq: GEOG 1011; recommended prereq: inorganic chemistry)
  • GEOG 4430  Seminar: Conservation Trends*
  • GEOG 4501  Water Resources and Water Management in the Western U.S.
  • GEOG 4632  Development Geography
  • GEOG 4742  Environments and Peoples*
  • GEOG 4812  Environment and Development in South America*
  • GEOG 4822  Environment and Development in China*
  • GEOG 4852  Health and Medical Geography

  *core curriculum course

 Physical Geography Concentration

  • GEOG 1001  Environmental Systems: Climate and Vegetation*
  • GEOG 1011  Environmental Systems 2: Landscapes and Water*
  • GEOG 3301  Analysis of  Climate and Weather Observations* (prereq: GEOG 1001 or ATOC 1050/1060, 3600 and a statistics course)
  • GEOG 3601  Principles of Climate*  (prereq: 1 semester calculus or instructor approval)
  • GEOG 3351  Biogeography  (prereq: GEOG 1001)
  • GEOG 3511  Introduction to Hydrology*  (prereq:  GEOG 1011)
  • GEOG 4211  Physical Climatology: Principles  (prereq:  GEOG 1001)
  • GEOG 4231  Physical Climatology/Field Methods (prereq: GEOG 1001 and 4211 or 5211)
  • GEOG 4241  Principles of Geomorphology*   (prereq: GEOG 1011) (restricted to junior/senior GEOG/GEOL/ENVS majors)
  • GEOG 4311  Watershed Biogeochemistry (prereq:  GEOG 1011, 3511)
  • GEOG 4321  Snow Hydrology (prereq: GEOG 1001 and 1011; any statistics course) 
  • GEOG 4331  Mountain Climatology  (prereq GEOG 1001 or ATOC 1050/1060)
  • GEOG 4371  Forest Geography: Principles and Dynamics  (prereq: GEOG 1001)
  • GEOG 4383  Methods of Vegetation Analysis (prereq or coreq GEOG 4371)
  • GEOG 4401  Soils Geography  (prereq 1011; recommended prereq inorganic chemistry)
  • GEOG 4411  Methods of Soil Analysis  (prereq: GEOG 1001 or 1011; prereq/coreq GEOG 4401/5401)

  *core curriculum course

Geographic Information Science Concentration

1000- and 2000-level courses in physical and human geography are prerequisites to all upper-division courses listed below.

Additional prerequisites may be listed or permission of instructor required.

  • GEOG 2053  Mapping a Changing World
  • GEOG 3023  Statistics for Earth Sciences
  • GEOG 3053  Cartography: Visualization and Information Design (restricted to  junior/senior GEOG/ENVS major)
  • GEOG 3093  Geographic Interpretation of Aerial Photographs
  • GEOG 4023  Introduction to Quantitative Methods in Human Geography (prereq: GEOG 3023 or equivalent)
  • GEOG 4043  Cartography 2: Interactive and Multimedia Mapping  (prereq: GEOG 3053)
  • GEOG 4093  Remote Sensing of the Environment
  • GEOG 4103  Introduction to Geographic Information Science (prereq: GEOG 2053, 3053 or equivalent and an introductory statistics course)
  • GEOG 4160  Teaching Geography
  • GEOG 4203  Geographic Information Science: Modeling Applications 2 (prereq: GEOG 4103/5103)
  • GEOG 4173  Research Seminar* (restricted to senior GEOG/ENVS major)
  • GEOG 4303  Geographic Information Science: Programming  (prereq: 4103 or 5103)
  • GEOG 4383  Methods of Vegetation Analysis (prereq or coreq: GEOG 4371)
  • GEOG 4983  Field Problems  (restricted to junior/senior geography major) 

  *core curriculum course

Graduate Degree Program(s)

Graduate Study in Geography

Students wishing to pursue graduate work in geography leading to candidacy for advanced degrees should read carefully the requirements for advanced degrees in the Graduate School section. Graduate-level course work at the Boulder campus may be combined with graduate courses offered at the Denver and Colorado Springs campuses. Additional information should be obtained from the Department of Geography. The following are departmental requirements.

Master’s Degree in Geography

Prerequisites. For admission without deficiency and to meet the department mandatory requirements for a knowledge of basic geography, all entering graduate students are required to have the kind of knowledge presented in the department introductory courses in physical geography (GEOG 1001 Environmental Systems/Climate and Vegetation and GEOG 1011 Environmental Systems/Landscapes and Water) and human geography (GEOG 1982 World Regional Geography, GEOG 1992 Human Geographies, GEOG 2002 Geographies of Global Change, and GEOG 2412 Environment and Culture). It is the  responsibility of the student to obtain this knowledge as part of his/her preliminary exam. Students may gain the required knowledge by formally taking the introductory courses, by auditing the courses, by reading the textbooks, or by other means. This knowledge will enhance the student ability to perform at the level expected in the GEOG 5152–5161 core series. In addition to knowledge of basic geography, it is desirable that the student has course work in at least two areas outside geography in cognate fields in the social and natural sciences. Students are encouraged to have some background in college math, statistics, and computer skills.

General Requirements. The minimum requirements for an MA in geography may be fulfilled by completing 30 semester hours of graduate work, including a thesis, which carries up to 6 credit hours (i.e., 24 hours of course work at the 5000 level or above, plus a minimum of 4 but not more than 6 hours of thesis). Master students may, with the written approval of their advisor, use a maximum of 6 hours of 3000- or 4000-level course work to reach the required 30 hours.

Doctoral Degree in Geography

Prerequisites. The minimum requirements for admission to the PhD program are normally a master degree, significant published research, or equivalent standing. 

General Requirements. The PhD degree is not conferred merely upon the satisfactory completion of a course of study. The candidate must also demonstrate proficiency in some broad subject of learning, and be able to critically evaluate work in the field, show the ability to work independently in the chosen field, and make an original contribution of significance to the advancement of knowledge.

The minimum requirements are 30 credit hours of course work numbered 5000 or above and 30 credit hours of dissertation. Ordinarily the number of course work hours and dissertation hours will be greater than 30 each. At least 20 of these hours must be taken at the University of Colorado; up to 10 credit hours from another institution may be transferred upon approval.

A 3.000 (B) average or higher must be maintained in all course work.

Six semesters of residence are required beyond the bachelor’s degree, of which four must be at the University of Colorado; this may include two semesters for the master degree. Students with a University of Colorado master degree in geography, with departmental approval, may apply all credit hours from 5000 or above courses (except thesis credits) to the PhD requirements.

Certificate Program

Graduate Certificate in Development Studies

The department offers an interdisciplinary graduate certificate in development studies. Development Studies is a well-established, interdisciplinary field of research with institutional centers at a number of major universities and several scholarly journals dedicated to its study. The certificate provides interdisciplinary training in development studies to graduate students through a structured yet flexible program built around courses taught by CU faculty in a number of social science departments. Because development issues such as agrarian change, labor migration, new social movements, industrial growth, urban planning, and natural resource use cut across disciplinary divides, the study of development demands interdisciplinary approaches. For more information, visit geography.colorado.edu/grad_program/certificates.

Graduate Certificate in Population Studies 

Offered through the Population Program of the Institute of Behavioral Science (IBS), the Graduate Certificate in Population Studies recognizes master’s and doctoral degree students for interdisciplinary work in demography. The Population Program, which is international in scope and has an applied and policy-oriented focus, fosters research on population trends and patterns and provides training in population analysis. Students who are earning graduate degrees through the Departments of Economics, Geography, or Sociology and are interested in majoring in demography are eligible to petition for admission to the program.

The Population Program emphasizes research training through direct faculty/student interaction and involvement in research projects. Students are required to take three core courses:

  • ECON 8666 Economic Demography
  • GEOG 6732 Formal Population Geography
  • SOCY 6012 Population Issues, Problems, and Policies

Students are granted a certificate on the basis of the three core courses, their independent research, and their thesis or dissertation.

Questions about the certificate program in population studies should be directed to the Population Program, Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado Boulder, 484 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0484; 303-492-7986www.colorado.edu/ibs/pop; or cupc@colorado.edu.