Geographical & Sustainability Sciences

A student reading a textbookGeographical and sustainability sciences are concerned with place, environment, and the ongoing processes of change within and between social and physical systems. Geographical and sustainability sciences' importance to scholarly inquiry is rooted in the complexity of social and environmental problems. Three concepts at the core of the disciplines—space, place, and scale—provide theoretical constructs and methodological tools for sciences that investigate the complex character of social and environmental phenomena.

Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences graduates find employment opportunities in government, nongovernmental organizations, and business. For example, many geographical and sustainability scientists are employed in resource management, urban and regional development, public health, and market area analysis. They analyze problems in the distribution and interactions among physical, ecological, social, and political systems.

Please visit our careers page to view more jobs for geography majors!

Environmental Majors Flowchart

Environmental Policy and Planning (BA or BS)

Are you committed to environmental protection and stewardship?  The interdisciplinary EPPL major trains students to tackle environmental problems through action, advocacy, and compliance.  It is excellent preparation for a career in environmental law.  The Planning track provides tools for working in city, county, or regional planning, or in land and resource use assessment.  The Policy track offers training for positions in the public or private sector.

Geography (BA or BS)

Are you curious about how the decisions we make about land and resources affect the natural environment? Or how the distribution of natural resources drives human activities? Geographers study how humans interact with the environment, often using digital technologies, and solve problems in order to build a more sustainable world.  A degree in Geography can help you: 1) prepare for a career in environmental planning, consulting, or management; 2) excel in the rapidly expanding field of geospatial technologies; or 3) prepare for graduate school in a variety of environmental fields.

Environmental Sciences (BA or BS)

Are you interested in using science to understand and address environmental problems?  The Environmental Sciences major emphasizes hands-on training, with options to survey many fields of science or specialize in one of four "tracks": Biology, Chemistry, Geology, or Hydrology.  This degree prepares students for careers or graduate study in varied and rapidly growing fields such as ecology, wildlife management, hazards assessment, hydrology, natural resource management, geochemistry, soil conservation, or aqueous chemistry.

Geoscience (BA or BS)

Do you wonder how the Earth works?  Do you want to apply your favorite science to the Earth?  Geoscience is the application of all sciences to the Earth.  Geophysics, geochemistry, & geobiology are just a few of the disciplines that make up Geoscience.  This degree prepares students for careers in environmental services/environmental engineering, mineral and resource industries, natural resource positions, government jobs, or further study in graduate school.

Sustainability Certificate (can be added to any major)

Are you a future-driven thinker wondering how to protect the Earth while also providing for the demands of a growing population?  The Sustainability Certificate offers students a broad understanding of human and environmental systems and the complex interactions between them.  Adding the certificate to any major will prepare you with knowledge and skills to address some of the most pressing issues of our time.


Students currently enrolled at The University of Iowa wishing to declare the major or minor can contact the department or the registrars office at:

Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences
316 Jessup Hall


Office of the Registrar
17 Calvin Hall
(319) 384-4300


New students wishing to apply to the University of Iowa and the department should follow the directions at The University of Iowa Undergraduate Admissions website.