Earn your BS in Geography

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:

  • Prepare for a career in environmental planning, consulting, or management
  • Excel in the rapidly expanding field of geospatial technologies
  • Prepare for graduate school in a variety of environmental fields

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. Students with strong interest in quantitative analysis and model building should pursue the BS in Geography degree and are encouraged to master an appropriate computer programming language. BS students take additional mathematics coursework. 


The major in geography requires a minimum of 120 semester hours, including at least 45-48 semester hours for the BS. Credit required for the major depends on a student's choice of track. Students must maintain a GPA 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 semester hours for the major in residence at the University of Iowa. 

The BS with a major in geography requires the following course work:

Course typeSemester hours
Common requirements18-23 
Statistics, mathematics, or computer science courses10 
Track courses15-19 
Total hours46-49 

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

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

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

Course numberCourse nameSemester hours
All of these:
GEOG:1020The Global Environment3
GEOG:1021The Global Environment Lab1
GEOG:1090Globalization and Geographic Diversity3
GEOG:2050Foundations of GIS3
One of these:
GEOG:1060Geography of Asia: From Japan to Pakistan3
GEOG:1070Contemporary Environmental Issues3
GEOG:2110/GHS:2110Eight Billion and Counting: Introduction to Population Dynamics3
GEOG:2130World Cities3
GEOG:2910The Global Economy3
GEOG:2950Environmental Conservation3
One of these (not required for GISci track students):
GEOG:3340Ecosystem Services: Human Dependence on Natural Systems3
GEOG:3500Introduction to Environmental Remote Sensing3
GEOG:3520GIS for Environmental Studies3
GEOG:3540Introduction to Geographic Visualization3
GEOG:3570Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR): Principles and Applications3
GEOG:4010Field Methods in Physical Geography3
GEOG:4020Field Methods: Mapping and Mobile Computing3
GEOG:4150/GHS:4150Health and Environment: GIS Applications3
GEOG:4650Simulation in Environmental Geography3
One of these:
GEOG:4030Senior Project Seminar3
GEOG:4995Honors Thesis (must enroll for 3 semester hours)3
One of these (at least 1 semester hour required):
GEOG:3400Iowa Environmental Policy in Practice3
GEOG:3992Undergraduate Research (including ICIGO or independent research)arr.
CCP:1201Academic Internship1-3

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.

Students must earn a minimum of 10 semester hours in statistics, mathematics or computer science coursework 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.

Course numberCourse nameSemester hours
Both of these:
STAT:2010Statistical Methods and Computing3
STAT:3200/IE:3760/IGPI:3200Applied Linear Regression3
One of these:
CS:1210Computer Science I: Fundamentals4
CS:2110Programming for Informatics4
CS:2230Computer Science II: Data Structures4
MATH:1460Calculus for the Biological Sciences4
MATH:1380Calculus and Matrix Algebra for Business4

Major tracks

Environmental studies

Health and society

Create your academic path

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Current course list

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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 GPA of at least 3.33 and a GPA 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.