Major Requirements

The Department of Geography offers two major programs of study:

Declare a Geography Major or Minor

Geography Major Requirements

The Geography major requires a minimum of 46 credits in Geography (or specifically noted Environmental Studies or Asian Studies) courses.  At least 9 Geography courses must be taken for a letter grade. A grade of C- or better is required for any course applied towards the major, and a GPA of 2.25 or better is required in courses used for the major.

1. Fundamentals

Everyone needs the fundamentals. These introductory and advanced (both required) courses will stretch your horizon, sharpen your critical thinking skills, synthesize core principles, ignite a passion for learning, and might even surprise you. Let the discoveries begin.

1a Introductory Core (3 courses, 12 credits)

  • GEOG 141: The Natural Environment
  • GEOG 142: Introduction to Human Geography: Our Globalized World
  • GEOG 181: Our Digital World

1b Advanced Core (2 courses, 8 credits)

  • GEOG 391: Social Science Research & Inquiry (required for all students)

One of the following:

  • GEOG 201-208: Regional Course (pick one regional course)
  • GEOG 281: The World of Big Data

2. Breadth (3 courses, 12 upper division credits)

With roots in exploration and travel, Geographers traverse a wide range of topics and specialties. Here, students will gain the necessary breadth to put all the pieces together. Choose one course from each of the following:*

  • GIScience
  • Biophysical Geography
  • Human Geography

3. Concentration (3 courses, 12 upper division credits)

With this requirement, students gain greater depth of knowledge and skills. The concentration helps translate Geography for careers. Choose one of the following concentrations and take three courses:*

  • Culture, Politics & Place: Social, economic, and political processes that shape and connect places
  • Environment, Economy & Sustainability: Human-environment interactions and sustainability
  • Water Science & Policy: The social, political, and physical processes that shape water and its use
  • Environmental Systems: The biological, climatological, and geomorphological processes that shape the earth’s surface
  • Geographic Information Science: Using spatial data to understand processes that shape the earth

4. The Launchpad (1 course, 2 credits)

What can Geography do for you, beyond the classroom? Here, students will gain tangible skills in research, professional development, leadership, and applying geographical concepts and skills beyond college. Chose one of the following:

  • GEOG 401: Research Experience
  • GEOG 403: Thesis (requires a GPA of 3.6 or higher)
  • GEOG 406: Field Studies
  • GEOG 409: Practicum/ Internship
  • CAS 417: Career Readiness

Why study Geography? What’s required to earn a degree? It's all summarized in our major map.

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Geography Concentrations

Within the Geography major, there are five concentrations:

Environmental Systems

The Environmental Systems concentration in Geography focuses on the processes that shape the physical features of the landscape. Climate, geology, and biology interact in complicated ways to result in the weather, landforms, and life that characterize any place. The surface of the Earth as we see it today is the result of millions of years of gradual change and of past catastrophes. The long-term dynamics of natural systems provide the context for evaluating changes wrought by people over recent times, while also acknowledging and evaluating potentially long history of people shaping and interacting with environments through time. Using remote sensing, spatial modeling, natural archives in lake sediments, and field survey methods, the research in the department includes:

  • Developing river channel restoration objectives through detailed studies of channel morphology (McDowell)
  • Quantifying the riverscape through new remote sensing technology (Fonstad, Marcus)
  • Postglacial biogeography: studying the assemblages of vegetation through the large climatic changes coming out of the last glaciation through the study of lake sediments (Gavin, Bartlein)
  • Interacting natural disturbances on the landscape: drought, fire, erosion and insect outbreaks (Gavin)
  • Global-scale data syntheses of climate changes and fire occurrence (Bartlein)

Economy, Environment & Sustainability

The study of Economy, Environment, and Sustainability is a cornerstone of Geography at the University of Oregon. We examine diverse processes related to interactions between human society and the biophysical environment, ranging from the mostly physical to the mostly social. Our interests touch upon human impacts on riverine systems; sustainable cities in the global North and South; nature conservation and protected areas; food economies and development; impacts of climate change on policy, environments and economies; and environmental conflict, politics, and governance. Faculty research includes:

  • Capitalism, nature, and the mechanics of power (Cohen)
  • Factors that shape social and ecological sustainability in the western United States and Southern Africa (Walker)
  • Human responses to historic floods and the ability of rivers to regenerate fish habitat in the Pacific Northwest (McDowell)
  • How changes in foodways are entwined in processes of urbanization and the transition to capitalism in China and Asia (Buck)
  • The influence of laws and political institutions on environmental arrangements and understandings (Murphy, Meehan)
  • How environmental vulnerability and environmental knowledge are transformed by financial markets, especially in East Africa (Johnson)
  • How Environmental history can illuminate reactions to climate change in different contexts (Carey)

Culture, Politics & Place

The various research interests of the human geographers in the department coalesce around issues of politics, culture, political-economy and space. Individually and collaboratively, this cohort of researchers brings together a diverse set of interests, including ethno-territorial conflict, transnational citizenship and belonging, tourism, rural development, urban politics, and human-environment interaction. Emphasizing a critical and historical approach, faculty in this area draw on a range of theoretical and methodological debates in political and cultural geography, political ecology, critical development studies, and urban studies. Specific lines of research in this area include:

  • Tourism, place and identity in China and Asia (Su)
  • Shifting territorial arrangements and understandings in response to changing economic and political circumstances (Murphy)
  • The material and ideological spaces of peace and conflict (Cohen)
  • Land use and natural resource politics in the western United States and southern Africa (Walker)
  • Political economy of development and foodways in China and Asia (Buck)
  • Politics of climate change risk governance (Johnson)
  • Environmental justice and issues around nationalism and ethnicity (Pulido)

Water Science & Policy

 The study of Water Science & Policy is a new focus area for this department, reflecting the breadth of research and teaching in these subjects. This also reflects a burgeoning recognition of how water operates in people’s daily lives, whether they are in Eugene or Mexico City, and in international context, such as the hydropolitics of the Jordan River in the Middle East. New and innovative research examining river dynamics, including how land management systems can effect stream flow, which can severely influence erosion and flooding, is reflected in our courses and fieldwork of faculty. Water is a universal human need, and the politics and ecologies of management will be at the forefront of the international agenda in the 21st Century. Faculty research includes:

  • Human responses to historic floods and the ability of rivers to regenerate fish habitat in the Pacific Northwest (McDowell)
  • Developing river channel restoration objectives through detailed studies of channel morphology (McDowell)
  • Quantifying the riverscape through new remote sensing technology (Fonstad)
  • Understanding the influence of climate change and climate-mediated natural disturbances on the composition and structure of forests (Gavin)

Geographic Information Science

Geographic Information Science provides students with the conceptual knowledge base and the technical skills to develop and conduct geospatial analysis and data visualization. This core area emphasizes a broad-based approach to GIScience and includes courses, research and training in cartography, geographic information systems, cognitive and information science, and remote sensing.

  • Remote sensing and spatial data analysis to understand changes in hydrology in the Arctic (Cooley)
  • Cartography as a science communication tool to understand and explain environment-society interactions (Fish).
  • Using drones to collect and model data to inform decision-making (Fonstad)
  • Using Geographic Information Science and how it can illuminate environment-society interactions (Kohler).
  • Using spatial statistics on large spatial data sets, especially as they are applied to health issues, such as disease and food access.
  • Developing models and applying them to understand ecological dynamics of landscapes (Lucash).
  • Remote sensing of ice sheets and coastal ice to understand the shifting dynamics of water systems under climate change.

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Spatial Data Science & Technology BS Requirements

The Spatial Data Science & Technology major (SDS) requires a minimum of 48 credits in Geography and Computer Science. At least 9 courses must be taken for a letter grade. A grade of C- or better is required for any course applied towards the major, and a GPA of 2.25 is required in courses used for the major. There is no option for a minor with this program.

All Geography majors seeking a BS degree will be required to complete any math sequence that satisfies the University’s math requirement for a BS degree. Math classes must be passed with a grade of at least C- or P. For students in the SDS major, we recommend a computer programming sequence. You can double dip courses between the SDS major and the requirements for a Bachelor’s of Science.

Why study Spatial Data Science and Technology? What’s required to earn a degree? It's all summarized in our major map.

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General Degree Requirements

Bachelor of Science

All Geography majors seeking a BS degree will be required to complete any math sequence that satisfies the University’s math requirement for a BS degree.  Math classes must be passed with a grade of at least C- or P.

For the Geographic Information Science Track, we recommend a computer programming sequence.

For students interested in biophysical geography we recommend either a statistics sequence or a calculus sequence based on your interests:

  • For geomorphology we recommend a calculus emphasis.
  • For biogeography we recommend a statistics emphasis.
  • For climatology, we recommend a calculus or computer programming emphasis.

Bachelor of Arts

All Geography majors seeking a BA degree must demonstrate proficiency in a second language either by passing the third quarter of a second-year university language course with a grade of C- or better or by an examination indicating an equivalent level of proficiency.

If you are considering applying to graduate school in the future, we strongly recommend that you complete both the math and language requirements.

Group Requirements

All undergraduates must satisfy group requirements. For details see Group Requirements in the Bachelors Requirements section of the UO Catalog. Geography majors should consult their advisor to determine which group-satisfying courses best support their major.

Please note that for students who have Geography as their first major can only use ONE course with the GEOG subject code to satisfy the Group Requirements.

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Double Majors

Geography is a broad discipline and is therefore an attractive choice for people in other majors looking to enhance their understanding of human and/or physical systems and their interactions at different scales. Geography is a common first or second major for people who are also majoring in Geology, Anthropology, Computer Science, Sociology, Biology and more.

If you are interested in adding Geography as a second major, or want to understand how Geography can enhance your understanding of physical and social systems, contact the Undergraduate Advisor, Leslie McLees at

Double Majoring with SDS

Spatial Data Science and Technology is well-suited to be combined with another major. At only 48 credits it can be completed within about two years along with other coursework. For example, you could double major in SDS and Geography for a total of 78 credits. However, SDS would also complement other interests and majors that you may have, including Computer Science, Planning and Public Policy Management, Environmental Studies, Earth Science, Journalism, Business, Anthropology, Biology, Sociology, Economics, and much more. The Spatial Data Science and Technology major provides theoretical depth in spatial concepts and analysis and technology application. Once you understand the power of spatial data analysis, you can combine that perspective with anything you want!

ENVS Majors Considering a Double Major in Geography

Geography is an excellent second field for Environmental Studies and Environmental Science majors because it also offers you a grounding in the physical and human systems within which environmental issues are situated in a larger global context. The geography major also allows you to use the Environment, Economy & Sustainability concentration to help fine tune your understanding of the interactions of Earth’s physical and human systems. Declaring a second major in Geography will help deepen your understanding of earth’s human and environmental systems.

Consider these opportunities:

  • All General Education, Foreign Language, and Math requirements are the same for the two majors.
  • You can apply up to four classes to both majors.
  • You may apply any of the following Geography courses to complete your ENVS degree:
    • GEOG 142: Human Geography
    • GEOG 181: Our Digital Earth
    • GEOG 321: Climatology
    • GEOG 322: Geomorphology
    • GEOG 323: Biogeography
    • GEOG 341: Population and Environment
    • GEOG 342: Geography of Globalization
    • GEOG 360: Watershed Science and Policy
    • GEOG 361: Global Environmental Change
    • GEOG 421: Advanced Climatology
    • GEOG 425: Hydrology
    • GEOG 427: Fluvial Geomorphology
    • GEOG 430: Long-term Environmental Change
    • GEOG 432: Climatological Aspects of Global Change
    • GEOG 442: Urban Geography
    • GEOG 463: Geography, Law, and the Environment
    • GEOG 465: Environment and Development
    • GEOG 468: Contemporary Food Systems
    • GEOG 481: GIS I
    • GEOG 482: GIS II
    • GEOG 485: Remote Sensing I
    • GEOG 486: Remote Sensing II

Some ENVS courses are taught by Geography faculty. These can also be applied towards the Geography major. For example, Dr. Peter Walker from Geography regularly teaches ENVS 450: Political Ecology and ENVS 455: Sustainability, either of which could count towards requirements for the geography major. Other faculty who teach in Geography and other departments include Dr. Laura Pulido (Ethnic Studies), and Dr. Dan Buck (Asian Studies).

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