Geography Major, B.A.

Department of Geography

205 Carolina Hall, CB# 3220

(919) 962-8901

Michael E. Emch, Chair

Nina Martin, Director of Undergraduate Studies

Nell Phillips, Undergraduate Program Administrator

Geography is the science of space, place, and environment. The department offers classes spanning the social and natural sciences and offering students training in qualitative, quantitative, spatial analysis and modelling, and lab methodologies. Human geographers study the spatial aspects of human activity, and physical geographers study patterns of climate, land forms, soils, and water. Geographic tools and techniques—including Geographic Information Systems, remote sensing, and online and interactive mapping technologies—are among the most important for exploring and understanding our complex world. Geographic inquiry is global and local, inherently interdisciplinary, and offers skills that enable insights into pressing issues valued by employers and policy makers.

Career opportunities for geographers are wide ranging in the public, private, and nongovernmental sectors. Geographers work in the areas of social, health, and environmental policy; energy, transportation, economic development, and tourism planning; urban and regional planning; research and education; community development; resource management; and environmental regulation and modeling.

With geography you can explore the world and find yourself.

Department Programs



Graduate Programs

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the geography program, students should be able to:

  • Apply current research methods in geography
  • Construct a coherent, logical research approach to examine a question of geographic significance
  • Analyze a geographic landscape and discuss the human and physical influences that have helped create it
  • Report satisfaction with the geography major


In addition to the program requirements listed below, students must

  • attain a final cumulative GPA of at least 2.0
  • complete a minimum of 45 academic credit hours earned from UNC–Chapel Hill courses
  • take at least half of their major course requirements (courses and credit hours) at UNC–Chapel Hill
  • earn a minimum of 18 hours of C or better in the major core requirements (some majors require 21 hours).

For more information, please consult the degree requirements section of the catalog.

Core Requirements
GEOG 110The Blue Planet: An Introduction to Earth's Environmental Systems H3
or GEOG 111 Weather and Climate
One of the following:3
World Regional Geography
Geographies of Globalization
Geographical Issues in the Developing World H
GEOG 370Introduction to Geographic Information3
GEOG 391Quantitative Methods in Geography3
GEOG 392Research Methods in Geography3
GEOG 697Capstone Seminar in Geographic Research3
Four GEOG elective courses, at least three of which must be at the 400-level or above.12
Total Hours30

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Students are invited (but not required) to navigate through the major using a pathway, which reflects various subfields of geography (for example, urban geography, health geography, climate, international development, social and cultural geography). Students should refer to the full list of pathways on the department’s Web site.

All General Education requirements apply. Although the major requires a total of 10 geography courses (30 credit hours), a maximum of 15 geography courses (45 credit hours) can count toward the 120 hours required to graduate. Students wishing more information should consult the director of undergraduate studies.

Geography (GEOG) course descriptions.

Special Opportunities in Geography

Joint Degree Program with the National University of Singapore (NUS)

The Department of Geography is one of several departments offering a joint degree in conjunction with the National University of Singapore (NUS). Students in the program will spend one or two years studying geography at NUS, and their diploma will be jointly granted by both universities.

Honors in Geography

Qualifying students are encouraged to pursue an honors degree. To gain admission to the honors program students must have a cumulative grade point average of 3.3 or higher and a grade point average of 3.4 or higher in geography courses. Honors students take GEOG 691H and GEOG 692H (honors readings and research and theses hours) with their honors thesis chair in their senior year. Honors study involves the completion of a substantial piece of original research and the formal presentation of the results in an honors thesis and oral defense. Those who successfully complete the program are awarded their B.A. degree with either honors or highest honors in geography.

Departmental Involvement

All students are welcomed and encouraged to attend the department's seminar, held on most Friday afternoons at 3:35 p.m. in Carolina Hall 220. The department sponsors the Carolina Geography Club, which provides an avenue for student involvement with the department outside of course work (see the club’s Facebook page). Students can also interact with the department through service on the faculty undergraduate committee and through independent research with faculty.

Experiential Education

The department offers several experiential education courses:

GEOG 53First-Year Seminar: Battle Park: Carolina's Urban Forest3
GEOG 419Field Methods in Physical Geography3
GEOG 429Urban Political Geography: Durham, NC3
GEOG 452Mobile Geographies: The Political Economy of Migration3
GEOG 493Internship3
GEOG 650Technology and Democracy Research3
GEOG 691HHonors3
GEOG 692HHonors3


Students can gain course credit by interning with an organization, agency, or business that will augment their classroom learning. The department has an internship coordinator available to assist students find internships and to manage participation in the organization’s activities. Internship can be taken with a geography faculty member for academic credit through GEOG 493.

Independent Study

Independent study with a geography faculty member can be taken for academic credit through GEOG 296. Students are responsible for arranging their independent study with a faculty member who will sponsor them for this activity. Students must fill out a learning contract and syllabus in collaboration with the sponsoring faculty member and then be enrolled by Nell Phillips in the department office. For more information, contact the individual faculty member or the director of undergraduate studies.

Undergraduate Research

Research with a geography faculty member can be taken for academic credit through GEOG 295. Students are responsible for arranging their research activities and responsibilities with a faculty member who will sponsor them for this activity. Students must fill out a learning contract with the sponsoring faculty member and then be enrolled by Nell Phillips in the department office.

Study Abroad

Experiences with other cultures and environments are important to a sound background in geography, and thus the department encourages a study abroad experience. Many of our students study abroad in the Galapagos Islands at the Galapagos Science Center. The department also participates in a junior-year exchange program with King's College London. Many other study abroad programs combine well with a major in geography.

Undergraduate Awards

The Andrew McNally Award is given each spring to an outstanding graduating geography major, as chosen by a committee of the faculty. The department also administers the Melinda Meade Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Geographic Research, the John D. Eyre Service in Geography Award, as well as the John D. Eyre Travel Award, and the Burgess McSwain Travel America Fund, which are open to all undergraduates at UNC–Chapel Hill.