Degrees BA, MA, PhD

The Department of Geography offers theoretical and practical work in physical geography, including climatology, 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 regionalanalysis, including mountains, natural hazards, and specific regional courses. To complement its curriculum, the department offers geography majors internship opportunities.

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.

Bachelor’s Degree Program +

Students must complete the general requirements of the College of Arts and Sciences and the required courses listed below. Students must complete at least 32 and no more than 45 credit hours in geography courses with grades of C- or better (18 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 Semester Hours
GEOG 1001 Environmental Systems 1: Climate and Vegetation 4
GEOG 1011 Environmental Systems 2: Landscapes and Water 4

Two 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
Upper-division human geography course (GEOG 3**2 or GEOG 4**2).

One of the following:
GEOG 2043 Special Topics in Geography 3
GEOG 2053 Mapping a Changing World 4
GEOG 3053 Cartography 1: Visualization and Information Design 4

One of the following:
ANTH 4000 Quantitative Methods in Anthropology 3
ECON 3818 Introduction to Statistics with Computer Applications 4
GEOG 3023 Statistics for Earth Sciences 4
GEOG 3093 Geographic Interpretation of Aerial Photographs 3
GEOG 4023 Introduction to Quantitative Methods in Human Geography 3
GEOG 4043 Cartography 2: Interactive and Multimedia Mapping 4
GEOG 4083 Mapping from Remotely Sensed Imagery 4
GEOG 4093 Remote Sensing of the Environment 4
GEOG 4103 Introduction to Geographic Information Science 4
GEOG 4173 Research Seminar 3
GEOG 4203 Geographic Information Science: Modeling Applications 4
GEOG 4383 Methods of Vegetation Analysis 3
GEOG 4411 Methods of Soil Analysis 3
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

Additional electives 11-18
Students should consult the departmental office for further information and referral to departmental advisors.

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 by the end of the sixth semester.
Complete the remaining upper-division credit hours by the eighth semester.

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. For more information see

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

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,

Graduate Degree Programs +

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 Degree +

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 +

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.

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