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Degree: BS, BA

Campus: Columbus

College: Arts and Sciences

Geography is the study of distributions, patterns and movements across space, both physical and social. Human geographers study the geographic patterns of various human activities: economic, political and cultural. Physical geographers focus on the geography of physical processes and their effects: the geography of weather and climate.

At Ohio State, students choose from four specializations:

The environment and society specialization focuses on understanding the reciprocal relationships between social and environmental processes. Social processes such as land-use decisions, racial inequality and poverty, and political decision making are closely linked to biogeophysical phenomena. 

The urban, regional and global studies specialization examines a range of social, economic, political and cultural forces that are both immediate and distant: the globalization of production and finance, technological change, migration, transnational social movement politics, social conflict and war, and other forms of political conflict around race, gender and class.

Students in the physical geography and climatic studies specialization study the interactions between the Earth’s surface, at local and global scales, and the atmosphere. For example, events in the Pacific Ocean such as El Niño or La Niña affect the global circulation and can change the location of the jet stream or the number of hurricanes over the Atlantic Ocean.

Students in the geographic information science and spatial analysis specialization develop geographic information science and spatial analysis skill sets that are crucial for today’s society and have many uses ranging from emergency management, business location and retail analysis, transportation modeling, crime and disease mapping, and natural resource management.

Upon admission to the university, students can declare a major in geography within the College of Arts and Sciences. Students entering the physical geography and climatic studies specialization should currently be enrolled in, or starting, the calculus sequence in mathematics.

The geography program requires that students complete all courses in their major track with a grade of C- or higher, with an average GPA of C. All specializations require at least 10 courses. Students in the urban, regional and global studies or the environment and society specializations earn a Bachelor of Arts. Students in the climatic studies, physical geography, geographic information studies or spatial analysis specializations earn a Bachelor of Science. These latter Bachelor of Science tracks require the completion of the calculus series (Mathematics 1151 and 1152), and the physical geography and climatic studies specializations should also take additional mathematics, physics, chemistry and computer programming courses.

The department offers its undergraduate majors an intern program to gain work experience and make valuable contacts for the future while accumulating college credit. Once you have 12 hours toward your major in geography, students can apply to a variety of agencies that have expressed willingness to take those in the department. 

There are five Honors courses in geography that reflect the diversity of the field. These include Geography 1900H: Introduction to Weather and Climate, Geography 2750H: World Regional Geography, Geography 2400H: Economic and Social Geography, Geography 3901H: Global Climate and Environmental Change, and Geography 3600H: Space, Power and Political Geography. 

Honors students are exposed to research in various ways. About one third of our honors students choose to complete a senior honors thesis. Numerous faculty members also actively incorporate research opportunities into their course structures. Laboratories in the various technique courses that undergraduate majors take—Introductory Geographical Information Systems, Cartography and Introductory Geographical Analysis—add to these opportunities.

The ability of urban, regional and global studies specialization graduates to analyze and to integrate various aspects of Earth’s human and physical environments makes them attractive candidates for positions with planning and development agencies at the federal, state and local levels. Retail chains, financial institutions, insurance companies, real estate and industrial firms employ geographers to collect and analyze data that relate to the firm’s production and distribution of goods and services, or they may employ geographers to identify appropriate locations for new or expanded facilities. 

Graduates from the environment and society specialization have a variety of career options including working for environmental and protection agencies, state Departments of Natural Resources and Conservation, and for a range of nonprofit agencies working both in the United States and overseas in areas of environmental protection, development and the protection of indigenous ways of life. 

There are numerous high-paying jobs, with private companies and governmental agencies, for students with training in computer-based cartography and the use of geographic information systems. This is a major growth area. Students in the physical geography and climatic studies specializations have job opportunities in the recently modernized National Weather Service, with private forecasting firms or in television.