Geography analyzes the deep interconnections between people and our environments – from forests to farms to cities. The Department of Geography, which is part of the College of Arts and Sciences, offers the opportunity to study with internationally known faculty who conduct cutting-edge research in the field.
The Department of Geography offers two degrees: the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) and the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.). The two options begin the same, making it easy to adjust your path as your interests develop. Both allow you to select a concentration to develop a deeper understanding of a specific topic or set of issues.
The B.S. degree requires more math and science. Choose it if you want to communicate your knowledge of geographic phenomena in a quantitative way. Opt for the Geography B.A. for a qualitative focus.
Coursework covers cities, development and justice; climate and environmental change; food and agriculture; geographic information systems and remote sensing; and water resources. Geography majors add internship, research, and study abroad experiences to enhance their programs. A capstone seminar integrates learning across the subfields of geography through a group project in the local community.
The department also offers a minor in Geography, and both a minor and a certificate in Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing for students majoring in other subjects.
Your starting point for the Geography major is one of the following introductory courses:
- GEOG-G 208 Environment and Society
- GEOG-G 237 Mapping Our World
- GEOG-G 338 Geographic Information Science
Tracks and concentrations
Geography majors can pursue a concentration to gain a focused understanding of a topic or set of issues. The concentration appears on the official transcript along with the major. The five concentrations are:
- Cities, Development and Justice addresses urgent challenges of our time by examining the relations between society and space. This concentration appeals to students who want to understand the intersections between environmental aspects of economic growth, historical change, and contemporary political processes.
- Climate and Environmental Change addresses how recent changes in the global atmosphere and land surface are dominated by human activities and are driving unprecedented changes in the modern environment. This concentration appeals to students who seek to better understand these processes and their impacts on natural systems and human society.
- Food and Agriculture foucses on agricultural decision-making, agricultural and food policy, consumer choice and taste, food security, food systems governance, and foodways. This concentration appeals to students who want to understand how humans produce and consume food, how the global food system functions, and how the global food system can be made more sustainable and just.
- Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing are rapidly growing subfields with applications in environmental science, environmental management, climatology, urban planning, criminal justice, and food studies, among other areas. This concentration appeals to students who want to develop skills in the analysis, management, and application of spatial information through the analysis of geospatial data.
- Water Resources examines all aspects of water resources including occurrence, use, management, and conservation in the United States and around the world. This concentration appeals to students who want to address current and future issues in water quality, water pollution, and water resource regulation.
Each concentration combines critical thinking and communication skills with knowledge of the environmental and social justice issues we face today.
You may also select your courses from across the breadth of the Geography curriculum with no concentration.
Upper level coursework
Your individual interests and concentration guide your selection of courses as you advance in the major.The department offers a broad variety of courses.
Some examples of courses that might interest you are: Environmental Conservation, Physical Climatology, Geography of Food, Mobility, Biogeography, Environmental Remote Sensing, Capitalism and Nature, Tourism Geography, Water and Society, Urban Geography, Tree-Ring Science, and the geography of various countries and regions.
The Geography of Current Issues examines current problems with new topics each term.
The capstone in Geography integrates and applies your training to the real world. You collaborate with fellow majors on a research project that helps address a pressing issue. During the capstone you analyze a practical geographic problem driven by both physical and social issues. You evaluate what each subfield's approach brings to that problem, and generate solutions that integrate knowledge and methods across subfields. The capstone experience enhances your ability to work in teams, and to present your ideas orally and in writing.
Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates
The Geography degree can be combined with many other courses of study. Geography B.S. students often add a major, minor, or certificate in an additional academic area. Your choice will depend on your individual interests and goals.
Current students have selected areas as diverse as Anthropology, Biology, Business, Computer Science, Economics, English, Environmental and Sustainability Studies, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Germanic Studies, History, Informatics, Mathematics, Media, Public and Environmental Affairs, and Spanish.
Work with the academic advisor to plan a course of study that addresses your specific interests and goals.
- Enhance your major
Working with faculty
When pursuing a degree in Geography, you have the opportunity to work with faculty who have expertise in the field. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of assignments, and how the course helps you work toward your goals. During these conversations with faculty, you can also request advice about future classes, seek guidance toward your professional goals, or discuss something in the field that has sparked your interest. Engage with them early and often.
You can get involved in research as early as your first year. Many incoming first-year students apply to the Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Experience (ASURE) program. ASURE students experience project-based learning enhanced by a community of supportive faculty and peers. Choose an ASURE path in the arts and humanities, social and historical studies, or natural and mathematical sciences. Consider joining one that will deepen your skills and knowledge in an area related to your major or a different one to become a more well-rounded thinker.
As your interests develop, you might want to take an independent readings and research course under the guidance of faculty. All Geography majors are encouraged to include this in their program. It is a great way to explore a topic more in depth, to pursue an individual research interest, or to collaborate with faculty on a research project. Talk with the academic advisor or your instructors about this possibility.
Outstanding students are eligible for admission to the Geography departmental honors program. Under the guidance of a faculty sponsor, students complete a two-semester sequence of a readings course followed by a senior honors thesis course. The readings course should result in a literature review and research proposal for the topic of the thesis.
Honors students present their research and defend the thesis before a committee composed of at least two Geography faculty members. They must also meet certain academic requirements. Interested students should consult the Geography Director of Undergraduate Studies or the academic advisor early in their program and no later than the end of junior year.
Undergraduate scholarships and awards
Options for pursuing scholarships and awards include:
- Boren Awards for International Study
- Cartography and Geographic Information Society Scholarships
- College of Arts and Sciences Scholarships and Awards
- Department of Geography Annual Awards
- Hutton Honors College Undergraduate Grant Program
- Marble-Boyle Undergraduate Achievement Awards in Geographic Science
- National Geographic Grants
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Scholarships
- Office of Overseas Study Scholarships
- Service-Learning Student Travel Scholarship
- United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation Scholarship Program
Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts with others in the field. Many students begin exploring internship opportunities, including overseas study programs with internships, as early as their first year.
Geography majors are strongly encouraged to seek internship opportunities. The summer following junior year or during senior year are the most common times. Begin your search early, especially if you want to secure a paid internship with an employer. Internships can also be an excellent way to conduct research for senior theses.
Students can request approval for up to six hours of internship credit through the department. Previous majors have interned with a range of government agencies, nonprofits, and private sector companies, such as:
- Bloomington Economic Development Corporation
- City of Bloomington
- Indiana Department of Natural Resources
- Indiana Department of Transportation
- Jobs with Justice
- Monroe County History Center
- Mother Hubbard's Cupboard
Learn more about internships, including the possibility of receiving credit, through the Walter Center for Career Achievement, where you’ll find many resources for both domestic and international internships.
Foreign language study
As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 80 languages.
Geography majors often select a language to broaden the locations they can choose from to study abroad, and to enhance their options for global careers.
Below is a sampling of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington.
- Arabic Flagship Program
- Center for Language Technology
- Chinese Flagship Program
- Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships
- Language Workshop
- Language Tables
- Project GO
- Russian Flagship Program
Study abroad is an important part of undergraduate education in our increasingly interconnected world. Geography students often pursue language study and other coursework through the following exchange programs:
- Christchurch-IES Semester Program - New Zealand
- Copenhagen-DIS Semester Program - Denmark
- Lima-IU Semester or Academic Year Program - Peru
- Wollongong Semester Program - Australia
The College of Arts + Sciences also directly hosts a variety of study abroad programs, some even featuring IU faculty, that might be right for you. Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversation with Geography faculty, your academic advisor, and through the Office of Overseas Study.
The Geography Club at Indiana University enhances the academic and professional development of students studying physical geography, social geography, and geographic information systems.
Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one.
There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement, allowing you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. The organizations below can help you connect with others from the university and beyond:
- Bloomington Worldwide Friendship
- Crimson Cupboard
- Habitat for Humanity
- Hilltop Garden and Nature Center
- IU Corps
- IU Office of Sustainability
- IU Research and Teaching Preserve
- Middle Way House
- Monroe County Public Library Volunteers in Tutoring Adult Learners
- Mother Hubbard's Cupboard
Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and organizations.
The following are just a few of the professional organizations related to geography:
- American Association of Geographers
- American Geographical Society
- Cartography and Geographic Information Society
- Geospatial Information and Technology Association
- Imaging and Geospatial Information Society
- National Council for Geographic Education
- Society of Woman Geographers
- Build your skills
Through the major
The Geography B.S. degree provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. These include the ability to:
- Explain relationships between people and their physical environments
- Develop a specialty in a particular place or region
- Interpret current events in terms of the geographical and historical context
- Develop skills for critical reading and thinking, teamwork, research, and writing
- Describe, explain, and analyze, through theory and methodologies including Geographic Information Science, the processes that shape the locations and pattern of things in space
- Analyze the processes that lead to unjust distributions of resources
- Understand the role of physical, social, and built environments in regional and global change
- Integrate natural and social science approaches
Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree
Your coursework provides many opportunities to develop the following five foundational skills that will serve you well in every career path:
- Question critically
- Think logically
- Communicate clearly
- Act creatively
- Live ethically
These foundational skills will aid you in landing your first job and advancing professionally throughout your working life. Not only are these the skills that employers say they value most in the workplace, they provide the best preparation for lifelong success in a world of complexity, uncertainty, and change.
Skills desired by employers
Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what key skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.
The following are some of the most commonly desired attributes across many employment sectors:
- Problem-solving skills
- Ability to work in a team
- Written and verbal communication skills
- Leadership skills
- Strong work ethic
- Analytical and quantitative skills
- Ability to take initiative
- Being detail oriented
- Demonstrating adaptability
- Technical skills relevant to the field
- Interpersonal skills
- Computer skills
- Organizational ability
As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic advisor and career coach about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.
Your academic advisor and career coach can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after your college career.
- Launch your career
Plan your search
The Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume, ask for letters of recommendation from faculty and workplace supervisors, and prepare for job interviews, too.
Explore and enroll in Career Communities to learn more about industries relevant to your interests. These offer unique information about each field, including alumni spotlights, opportunities and resources, and in-person events. Profiles of geographers working in education, business, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies can give you additional career ideas.
All Geography majors are required to complete a career course to maximize their career preparation. The course is ASCS-Q 296 College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience. The section dedicated to Natural and Mathematical Sciences provides the opportunity for you to explore the relationship between your field of study and life after graduation, while developing an academic and career development plan for post-collegiate success. If you are considering continuing your studies after graduation, you may wish to enroll instead in the section dedicated to graduate school preparation. Regardless of the section you select, you will leave the class with your resume, a cover letter or personal statement, and a LinkedIn profile ready to go!
The job market
Geography majors have a positive job outlook. Factors influencing job growth include the more widespread use of geographic technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS) to inform decisions and planning by government agencies, businesses, and nonprofits; a greater focus on environmental and sustainable practices; and the need to understand environmental changes and the impact of humans.
Students with the Geography B.S. take their education in many directions, whether moving directly into a career or going on to graduate or professional studies. They are well prepared to work in education, federal and state government, research, nonprofits, and business.
Initial and long-term destinations for graduates include positions in many job sectors: environmental management, sustainable development, urban planning, education, alternative energy, land acquisition, food bank management, public safety, public health, international aid, business logistics, marketing, and geospatial technology.
Want to see where your fellow majors go right after graduating from IU? Check out the Walter Center’s First Destinations survey!
Need more ideas? The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations.
Post-graduate short-term experiences
The beginning of your post-graduate career might be an ideal time to explore an international internship or other short-term experience through organizations such as these:
Fellowships for post-graduate study
Fellowships are temporary opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund your education. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profits, and government organizations.
Good resources for finding fellowship opportunities include:
- Boren Awards for International Studies
- Cultural Vistas Professional Fellowships
- Ford Foundation Fellowship Programs
- Fulbright Programs
- George J. Mitchell Scholarship Program
- NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program
- Smithsonian Institution Fellowships
- USAID Payne International Development Fellowship
Graduate and professional study
When applying to graduate or professional schools, you'll need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career, to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.
The Geography major prepares you for entry into graduate programs in geography (MA, MS, or PhD) and a wide variety of related fields such as anthropology, atmospheric science, ecology, economics, environmental studies, international studies, public and environmental affairs, and sociology.
With careful planning, and in consultation with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center, you could also prepare to enter law school, medical school, or other professional programs.
A graduate degree will increase the number of career opportunities and the salary earned. The PhD is the most demanding. It involves coursework, comprehensive exams, teaching, and writing a dissertation. It is generally a prerequisite for college or university teaching and research.
Here are examples of graduate programs offered at IU:
- Anthropology (PhD)
- College + Kelley (MS)
- Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (MS and PhD)
- Economics (MA, MS and PhD)
- Environmental Science (MS and PhD)
- Geography (PhD)
- Political Science (PhD)
- Public Affairs (MA and PhD)
- Sociology (PhD)
If you are thinking about graduate study, talk to your professors. They have first-hand knowledge of the graduate school experience, what programs best fit your interests, and what it takes to succeed. You can also explore options in the Guide to Geography Programs in the Americas.
Keep in touch with developments in the department through the alumni newsletter.
The IU College of Arts and Sciences has thousands of active alumni. Check out the College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.
Join the Walter Center Success Network to remain in touch, network directly with College of Arts + Sciences alumni, and let others know where your path takes you.
Is it for you?
The Geography B.S. degree attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. They typically have some of the following qualities:
- Interest in the relationship between people and their environment
- Desire to conduct hands-on research on climate, food, water, and/or globalization
- Deep concern with justice and desire to help address persistent global problems
- Interest in rigorous interdisciplinary and comparative study
- Intellectual curiosity and imagination
- Aptitude for quantitative reasoning and methods
Contact the Geography academic advisor and schedule an appointment to explore your options. Detailed information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.
- Department website
- Advisor email address