Geography makes an excellent major for the student interested in integrating the study of human activity with study of the natural environment. The field’s unique spatial perspective on natural environment and human activity ties to other fields in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Geographers are interested in a wide range of phenomena and often work in interdisciplinary teams to focus on environmental change, global development, and other social, and economic issues, and resource use in an increasingly complex and interdependent world.

The major in geography leads to a bachelor of arts (B.A.) degree. You may choose to concentrate your studies in one of four optional themes. These include physical geography, human geography, environment-society relations, and geographic information science. These concentrations do not appear on your transcript.

Physical Geography Option

Physical geography integrates climate, vegetation, water, soils and landforms as the major natural elements of the environment. The focus of physical geography is on the zone of the land, ocean and atmosphere that contains most of the world’s organic life. Physical geography is a discipline that questions how and why physical and biological processes act as they do. If you elect this option, you will investigate Earth processes from the perspectives of meteorology, hydrology, geology, biology and soil science. Physical geography integrates the above perspectives in a uniquely comprehensive way, often with an emphasis on human modifications to the environment.

Human Geography Option

Human geography involves the study of human behavior, and more specifically, the organization of human activity as it affects and responds to the world around us. If you elect this option, you will study the interactions among the economy, social processes, politics, and culture. You may examine a particular region, such as Latin America, China, or Africa; particular kinds of places, such as cities or developing areas; or particular systems. Coursework in human geography covers subjects as diverse as conservation, water policy, agricultural practices, political processes, migration, urbanization, the formation of cultural identities, and gender.

Environment-Society Relations Option

In this option you will study the manifold relations between societies and their natural and built environments. This includes topics such as resource use, natural hazards, sustainable development, landscape studies, political ecology, and environmental conservation. The University of Colorado has special strength in land and water resource issues in the American West, Africa, and Latin America. 

Geographic Information Science Option

This option is concerned with the methods for collection, analysis, mapping, and communication of geographical data, methods, and findings. Subareas include cartography, geographical information systems, remote sensing, and geography education.

The curriculum is also devoted to developing basic communication skills—written, oral, symbolic, or graphic—that will be useful throughout a geographer’s career. Quantitative methods, mapmaking, computer-assisted cartography, computerized geographic information systems, and interpretation of environmental data using imagery sensed from aerial and  orbiting platforms are some of the subjects that may be covered. 


Geography majors are advised by a professional advisor in the department who is responsible for Arts and Sciences and major requirements. Geography faculty are also available to mentor geography undergraduate students and offer career advice.

The skills and knowledge of the geographer are in demand, leading graduates to entry-level positions in such areas as land-use planning, urban and regional planning, environmental analysis and monitoring, location analysis for the siting of facilities, remote sensing using satellite imagery, international development, and a wide variety of spatial analyses of issues in transportation, recreation, population, and resources. The major may also serve as preparation for graduate study leading to specialized applied and theoretical work in geography or advanced work in business, law, public affairs, planning, education, and other professions. You may find the following web site useful for more information about careers in geography:

Career Services ( helps students discover who they are, what they want to do, and how to get there. They are the bridge between academics and the world of work.

Career Services offers free services for all CU-Boulder degree-seeking students, and alumni up to one year after graduation. Meet individually the staff to discuss major and career exploration, internship or job searching, and graduate school preparation.

Field work opportunities and research activities are enhanced by departmental affiliation with various research facilities, including the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) and its Mountain Research Station, and the Institute of Behavioral Science (IBS). All of these institutes are involved in interdisciplinary research activities related to geography and the environment.

In addition, the proximity of the Boulder campus to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and state and federal agencies in Denver enhance the department’s access to technical resources.

The department’s research facilities also include cartographic, spatial data analysis, personal computer, and physical geography laboratories, including facilities for computer-assisted cartography, geographic information systems, and remote sensing interpretation. The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) and the departmental honors program offer other avenues to work alongside a faculty sponsor on original research. Learn to write proposals, conduct research, pursue creative work, analyze data, and present the results. For more information, call UROP at 303-492-2596,

A special feature of the department is the geography internship program, which provides an opportunity for qualified geography majors to put their acquired geographic concepts and skills to use in the working world. Participating students may choose from a variety of internship placements. Sponsors include city, county, state, and federal agencies, environmental planning consultants, businesses and industries, and nonprofit organizations. Students receive 3 credits and a “letter” grade. Paid internships are occasionally available, but students can not receive credit for them.

Majors can choose to seek honors in geography, which results in the designation of cum laude, magna cum laude,  or summa cum laude at graduation. Look into this program early as it involves securing a  faculty advisor and developing an individual project. 

The experience of studying abroad can prove invaluable for you as a geography major. Your first-hand experience abroad can provide you with new insights into both human and natural environments of your host country. The university offers more than 100 programs throughout the world that offer credit, in some cases fulfilling major and core requirements. You may spend a few weeks to a full academic year abroad, depending on the program you select. Prior language study or other prerequisites are necessary for some programs, so early planning for study abroad is essential. Further information about study abroad is available from the Office of International Education which is located in the Center for Community, 303-492-7741, or on the web at:

Please speak with your advisor for specific recommendations; the following is intended to be a general outline only and there may be flexibility to this plan.

Geography Major
4-year Plan

NOTE: This example will outline the major requirements, but the order of some of your classes can vary greatly.  It is important to check your Degree Audit and work with your major advisor each semester to make sure you are aware of your requirements and graduation timeline.  This is especially true of students with added majors, minors, or certificates.

First Year – Fall Semester
GEOG 1001
Environmental Systems 1 (4) (Also fulfills CORE: Content Area of Study Natural Science with lab)
CORE (3): Skills Acquisition (example: Lower-Division Written Communication)
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: Historical Context)
Elective or MAPS (3)

First Year – Spring Semester
GEOG 1011
Environmental Systems 2 (4) (Also fulfills CORE: Content Area of Study Natural Science with lab)
CORE (3): Skills Acquisition (example: Quantitative Reasoning & Mathematical Skills)
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: US Context)
Elective or MAPS (3)
Elective or MAPS (3)

Second Year – Fall Semester
GEOG 1962, 1972, 1982, or 1992
(3): Human Geography course
CORE: Content Area of Study (3) (example: Human Diversity)
CORE: Content Area of Study (3) (example: Natural Science)
Elective or MAPS (3)
Elective or MAPS (3)

Second Year – Spring Semester
GEOG 3351, 3402, 3422, 3511, 3601, 3672, 3682, 3692, or 3742
GEOG 3023 (4)
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: Lower-Division Literature & the Arts)
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: Contemporary Societies)
Elective or MAPS (3)

Third Year – Fall Semester
GEOG 3053
Upper-Division GEOG Major course (3)
CORE: Content Area of Study (3) (example: Upper-Division Literature & the Arts)
CORE: Content Area of Study (3) (example: Natural Science)
Elective or MAPS (3)

Third Year – Spring Semester
Skills course (3-4): (See Degree Audit for choices)
Upper-Division GEOG Major course (3)
CORE (3): Skills Acquisition (example: Upper-Division Written Communication)
Elective or MAPS (3)
Elective or MAPS (3)

Fourth Year – Fall Semester
Upper-Division GEOG Major course (3)
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: Ideals & Values)
Elective or MAPS (3)
Elective or MAPS (3)
Elective or MAPS (3)

Fourth Year – Spring Semester
Upper-Division GEOG Major course (3)
Elective or MAPS (3)
Elective or MAPS (3)
Elective or MAPS (3)
Elective or MAPS (3)