Geography B.A. & B.S.

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.

The Geography major is offered as a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and a Bachelor of Science (B.S.). Students with strong interest in quantitative analysis and model building should pursue the Bachelor of Science and are encouraged to master an appropriate computer programming language. Bachelor of Science students take additional mathamatics course work. 

Geography major tracking sheet 

Geography major handout



The major in geography requires a minimum of 120 s.h., including at least 39-43 s.h. of work for the B.A. or at least 45-48 s.h. for the B.S. Credit required for the major depends on a student's choice of track. Students must maintain a g.p.a. of at least 2.00 in all courses for the major and in all UI courses for the major. They also must complete the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences General Education Program. Transfer students must earn a minimum of 15 s.h. for the major in residence at the University of Iowa. 

Geography majors may not earn the minor in geographic information science.

The major in geography is appropriate preparation for advanced training or careers in geographical and sustainability sciences.

Students choose one of three tracks in the major: environmental studies, geographic information science (GISci), or health and society. All students majoring in geography complete a common set of foundation courses in addition to the requirements for their choice of track.

Consistent with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences maximum semester hours rule, students may count a maximum of 56 s.h. earned in their major department toward graduation.


The B.A. with a major in geography requires the following course work:

Course List
Common Requirements 18-23 
Statistics Courses 3-4 
Track Courses 15-19
Total Hours 39-43  

The B.S. with a major in geography requires the following course work:

Course List
Common Requirements 18-23 
Statistics, Mathematics, or Computer Science Courses 10 
Track Courses 15-19 
Total Hours 46-49 

Common Requirements (B.A. and B.S.)

Students may not use a course to fulfill more than one major requirement.

Course List
All of these:  
GEOG:1020 The Global Environment 3
GEOG:1021 The Global Environment Lab 1
GEOG:1090 Globalization and Geographic Diversity 3
GEOG:2050 Foundations of GIS 3
One of these:  
GEOG:1060 Geography of Asia: From Japan to Pakistan 3
GEOG:1070 Contemporary Environmental Issues 3
GEOG:2110/GHS:2110 Eight Billion and Counting: Introduction to Population Dynamics 3
GEOG:2130 World Cities 3
GEOG:2910 The Global Economy 3
GEOG:2950 Environmental Conservation 3
One of these (not required for GISci track students):  
GEOG:3340 Ecosystem Services: Human Dependence on Natural Systems 3
GEOG:3500 Introduction to Environmental Remote Sensing 3
GEOG:3520 GIS for Environmental Studies 3
GEOG:3540 Introduction to Geographic Visualization 3
GEOG:3570 Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR): Principles and Applications 3
GEOG:4010 Field Methods in Physical Geography 3
GEOG:4020 Field Methods: Mapping and Mobile Computing 3
GEOG:4150/GHS:4150 Health and Environment: GIS Applications 3
GEOG:4650 Simulation in Environmental Geography 3
One of these:  
GEOG:4030 Senior Project Seminar 3
GEOG:4995 Honors Thesis (must enroll for 3 s.h.) 3
One of these (at least 1 s.h. required):  
GEOG:3400 Iowa Environmental Policy in Practice 3
GEOG:3992 Undergraduate Research (including ICIGO or independent research) arr.
CCP:1201 Academic Internship 1-3

Senior Project Seminar (GEOG:4030) is offered only in spring semesters. Students who choose GEOG:4995 Honors Thesis must make arrangements with a faculty advisor.

The Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences is a participant in the University's internship program, which provides opportunities for students to participate in paid and unpaid activities related to their academic programs. The Pomerantz Career Center works with students to develop appropriate internships.

Statistics Courses (B.A. only)

Students must earn a minimum of 3 s.h. in statistics by completing one of the following courses or a statistics course equivalent to or numbered above one of these.

Course List
One of these:    
GEOG:1065 Introduction to Spatial Analysis: Patterns and Processes 3
PSQF:4143/STAT:4143 Introduction to Statistical Methods 3
STAT:1020/PSQF:1020 Elementary Statistics and Inference 3
STAT:1030 Statistics for Business 4
STAT:2010 Statistical Methods and Computing 3
STAT:2020 Probability and Statistics for the Engineering and Physical Sciences 3
STAT:3510/IGPI:3510 Biostatistics 3


Statistics, Mathematics or Computer Science Courses (B.S. only)

Students must earn a minimum of 10 s.h. in statistics, mathematics or computer science course work by completing the following. Equivalent courses and courses with a higher course number also may be selected in consultation with, and approval by an advisor.

Students who complete the GIS track may not double count their required computer science courses for the statistics, mathematics or computer science courses requirement.

Both of these:    
STAT:2010 Statistical Methods and Computing


STAT:3200/IE:3760/IGPI:3200 Applied Linear Regression 3
One of these:    
CS:1210 Computer Science I: Fundamentals 4
CS:2110 Programming for Informatics 4
CS:2230 Computer Science II: Data Structures 4
MATH:1460 Calculus for the Biological Sciences 4
MATH:1380 Calculus and Matrix Algebra for Business 4


Track Requirements (B.A. and B.S.)

All geography majors must complete one of the three tracks: environmental studies, geographic information science (GISci), or health and society. Students should pay close attention to prerequisites for the upper-level courses in each track in order to develop a study plan that allows them to complete their major in a timely way.

Students in the environmental studies or health and society track who wish to gain additional experience in theory and application of geographic information systems (GIS) should take GIS-based courses offered by the Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences, as described for each track below.

Students may use GEOG:3001 Special Topics to fulfill a track requirement if the course content is applicable. 

See also:


Honors in the Major

Students have the opportunity to graduate with honors in the major. Departmental honors students must maintain a cumulative University of Iowa g.p.a. of at least 3.33 and a g.p.a. of at least 3.33 in all work for the major. They must be admitted to the department's honors program by the first semester of their senior year or earlier.

Honors students in geography pursue study beyond the typical undergraduate level. In order to graduate with honors in the major, they work under the direction of a faculty member to conduct original research and then prepare and present an honors thesis based on their research. The thesis is reviewed by a committee of at least three faculty members. Departmental honors students earn credit for their thesis by registering for GEOG:4995 Honors Thesis. They may substitute GEOG:4030 Senior Project Seminar for GEOG:4995, as long as they continue to work on the thesis under the direction of a faculty member.


Academic Advising

Hannah Whitcomb serves as Academic Advisor for Geographical, Sustainability Sciences, and Environmental Policy & Planning students. For advising questions, you can view Hannah Whitcomb's contact information on our Undergraduate Academic Advising page