What is Geography?

UCSB Geography is internationally recognized as one of the best Departments of Geography in the world, and we have been ranked among the top doctoral programs in the U.S. by a variety of indices for the last 15 years. Geography’s highly trained and diverse faculty bring together aspects of International Development Studies, Urban and Regional Planning, Climatology, Terrestrial Sciences, Marine Sciences, Statistics and Operations Research, and Environmental Psychology. Active research areas include: global climate change; development studies; geographical analysis, GIS, and remote sensing; global climate change; natural hazards and risk; regional geography; spatial optimization, spatial perception and cognition; sustainability, resources, and conservation; transportation and planning; and urban studies. If this broad perspective appeals to you, then you’re a candidate for a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in GEOGRAPHY!

Geography Is the Most Interdisciplinary Department on the UCSB Campus It is also the most integrated discipline on campus, insofar as the material taught in our classes about environmental processes can be found in other disciplines, but are only put together as a whole story in Geography. Above all, Geography is “spatial”—virtually everything has a spatial component, from the distribution of subatomic particles to the choices we make when we buy groceries. Therefore, as a Geographer, you can choose to study an enormous range of subjects. Geography is also an extremely hands-on discipline with a strong emphasis on using computer–based tools and participating in field studies. Knowing where things are, why they got there, and how they work is critical to understanding our world today and how it is changing—this is Geography!

The UCSB Department of Geography Is Represented By Three Cross-Cutting Themes

  1. Earth System Science: the physical and biological processes of the environment
  2. Human Geography: the way humans perceive, interact with, and modify the environment
  3. Modeling, Measurement, and Computation: techniques for the collection, analysis, and interpretation of geospatial data using tools such as GIS, remote sensing, and spatial statistics

We are internationally recognized as one of the largest and highest ranked Departments of Geography, and our faculty routinely win the most prestigious awards in their fields (see Awards and Rankings). Some of our most popular classes include Geography of Surfing, Geography of the U.S., Oil and Water, and GIS. For a more complete list of our classes and the faculty who teach them, see the UCSB Geography web site.

  • Undergraduate Degrees Offered in Geography:
    The Department offers three undergraduate degrees: a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Geography, a BA in Geography with an Emphasis in Geographic Information Science, and a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Physical Geography. The majors are designed to provide a fundamental background for students seeking an interdisciplinary understanding of our planet and the varied human and natural systems that interrelate within it. For more information, please see the Majors Offered page. UCSB’s Geography Department offers a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Geography, a BA in Geography with an emphasis in Geographic Information Science, and a Bachelor of Science in Physical Geography. The department maintains close ties with other disciplines such as geology, marine and biological sciences, economics, statistics, and environmental studies. The department encourages those students who would like to become professional geographers to develop a concentration in one or more of those related disciplines.

General Major Information

How Can I Tell If I Would Like Geography?

Students who like variety and possess a strong sense of curiosity about the Earth and physical environment would likely enjoy Geography. Because Geography operates within a highly interdisciplinary approach, individuals must be comfortable applying diverse perspectives and methodologies to analyze issues and solve problems. The three major themes in Geography are earth system science; human geography; and modeling, measurement, and computation. The BA in Geography is extremely interdisciplinary and is designed for students who seek maximum flexibility.

Students seeking a more structured approach that emphasizes quantitative and scientific approaches to studying the physical environment would likely prefer the BS in Physical Geography.

What Are Potential Topics Within This Major?

Although the following list can provide students with topics that may be covered in this major, look at the UCSB catalog and consult with the Undergraduate Department Advisor for more detailed information about requirements and course offerings.

  • Atmospheric Sciences
  • Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Computer Science (including Databases/Information Systems & Graphics/Human Computer Interfaces)
  • Earth Sciences (including Environmental Sciences, & Soil Science)
  • Forestry & Forest Sciences
  • Hydrology
  • Information Science
  • Meteorology
  • Oceanography
  • Operations Research, Systems Engineering, & Industrial Engineering
  • Psychology (including Cognition & Perception)
  • Sociology (including Demography, Population, & Ecology as well as Place and Environment)
  • Statistics & Probability
  • Urban Studies & Planning

To learn more about whether you might enjoy this major, check with a peer in the Career Resource Room for details on:

- Focus 2 to explore college majors and careers.

- The Strong Interest Inventory®, an assessment that compares your interests against six broad categories of work. This assessment helps match your interests and suggests potential careers to explore.

What Can I Do To Make My Major More Marketable?

  • Pursue relevant work, internship, volunteer, and/or research experience.
  • Choose a complementary minor.
  • Specialize in an area; take courses in related fields.
  • Develop your computer skills.
  • Learn a foreign language.
  • Study abroad.
  • Join professional associations.
  • Get involved in student clubs.
  • Participate in community organizations.
  • Seek out leadership positions.
  • Research specific prerequisites for different positions.
  • Network with others in fields that interest you.

General Career Information

What Are Some Possible Career Options?

Note: On its own, your major does not dictate what your job will be. The following list provides only a handful of possibilities. Geography majors with a strong liberal arts background may pursue career options in hundreds of fields. Depending on experience, specialized coursework, and possible graduate study, options include:

Aerial Photographer
Business Consultant
Environmental Impact Analyst
Geographic Information Systems
(GIS) Specialist
Government Service
International Trade Consultant
Location Analyst
Market Research Analyst
Park Ranger
Professor or Teacher
Software Developer
Soil Scientist
Strategic Planner
Transportation Planner

What Sort of a Job Can I Get with a Degree in Geography?

  • Geography majors are among the most marketable of all majors, according to placement counselors. As the Association of American Geographers Career Guide points out, Geography’s theories and methods provide analytical techniques applicable to a wide range of questions asked over a broad spectrum of occupations.
  • For students planning to end their formal education with the bachelor’s degree, a major in Geography provides marketable skills and the broad perspectives on environment and society that enable graduates to move beyond entry-level positions. Geography also provides a sound foundation for students who plan to enter graduate work in a variety of fields, from geography and the physical and social sciences to business, land use planning, law, and medicine.
  • Geography majors find work as public sector transportation planners; environmental impact analysts; airline route specialists; import / export and shipping logistics planners; geodemographic analysts and marketers; strategic planners in banking, insurance, and real estate; software developers; web designers and programmers; urban and regional planners; computer cartographers using Geographic Information Systems; international trade consultants; teachers at all levels; studies of satellite imagery/remote sensing, climate change analysis, and land use/ land cover change; and much, much more.
  • Visit the Careers in Geography page. Also, the following links provide fascinating commentaries on people with geographic training who make use of their knowledge in careers one might not expect to find them in: Hidden Geographers and Geography Jobs.

To learn more about these and other occupations, please visit:

Come visit the Career Resource Room to see our vast collection of career books and resources.
See what other UCSB alumni are doing with their major on LinkedIn

Graduate and Professional Schools
This is a comprehensive website that provides information about where graduate programs are offered throughout the nation.

This is a database to help find where graduate programs are offered throughout the U.S.

Experience Search Strategies

My GIS Jobs
Features paid jobs, internships, graduate positions. Site listings range from large companies to small firms and include openings in both the public and private sectors. The site makes GIS job search easier by aggregating hundreds of geospatial jobs from dozens of sites across the web into a single place.

The Nation's largest water, earth, and biological science and civilian mapping agency, the U.S. Geological Survey collects, monitors, analyzes, and provides scientific understanding about natural resource conditions, issues, and problems.

InfoOil Careers
Find over 18,000 oil and gas jobs from around the world. Over 1,200 oil and gas jobs are posted each week.

GIS Job Clearing House
The most visited GIS/RS jobs site on the Internet. Started in 1992, the GJC has helped thousands of GIS/RS professionals find positions. With hundreds of positions and resumes in their databases, the GJC has resources for both employers and those seeking jobs.

Geology & Geomorphology Jobs
Listing of international geology jobs.

UCSB Career Services “Job Links”
Check out job links in the following categories: Local/CA, National, International, Industry Specific, UCSB Careers By Majors and Diversity.

When you join LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, you get access to people, jobs, news, updates, and insights that help you be great at what you do.

Professional Associations

American Geographical Association
The American Geographical Society is an organization of professional geographers and other devotees of geography who share a fascination with the subject and a recognition of its importance.

American Planning Association
A nonprofit public interest and research organization committed to urban, suburban, regional, and rural planning.

Association of American Geographers
The Association of American Geographers (AAG) is a scientific and educational society founded in 1904.

National Council for Geographic Education
The National Council for Geographic Education works to enhance the status and quality of geography teaching and learning.

UCSB Resources