geography

Geography studies the interaction between people and their environments, including the ways in which people, environments, and their interactions vary from place to place across Earth. Because it is concerned with the character of people and their cultures on the one hand, and with the character of Earth's surface and its resources on the other, it is both a social and a natural science. Being broad and integrative, Geography provides an appropriate foundation for a liberal education. It also provides a base for employment in public or private agencies, both domestic and international, concerned with environmental management, locational analysis, or planning (urban, regional, land use), among other fields.

Exploring the field of geography at UW–Madison is easy. Interested students are strongly encouraged to take introductory courses in the field. The Department of Geography offers four intro courses, each of which surveys one of the four major subareas that comprise the discipline: (1) human geography; (2) people–environment geography; (3) physical geography; (4) and cartography and geographic information science. The four intro classes are:

Students who intend to declare their major in geography must schedule an appointment with the geography undergraduate advisor.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Letters & Science Breadth and Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

Students pursuing a bachelor of science degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science curriculum. View a comparison of the degree requirements here.

Bachelor of Science DEGREE REQUIREMENTS

Mathematics Two (2) 3+ credits of intermediate/advanced level MATH, COMP SCI, STAT
Limit one each: COMP SCI, STAT
Foreign Language Complete the third unit of a foreign language
Note: A unit is one year of high school work or one semester/term of college work.
L&S Breadth
  • Humanities, 12 credits: 6 of the 12 credits must be in literature
  • Social Sciences, 12 credits
  • Natural Sciences, 12 credits: must include 6 credits in biological science; and must include 6 credits in physical science
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework 108 credits
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work 60 intermediate or advanced credits
Major Declare and complete at least one (1) major
Total Credits 120 credits
UW-Madison Experience 30 credits in residence, overall
30 credits in residence after the 90th credit
Minimum GPAs 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
2.000 in intermediate/advanced coursework at UW–Madison

Non–L&S Students PURSUING AN L&S MAJOR

Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements and do not need to complete the L&S breadth and degree requirements above.  Please note that the following special degree programs are not considered majors so are not available to non-L&S-degree-seeking candidates:  

  • Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics (Bachelor of Science–Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics)
  • Journalism (Bachelor of Arts–Journalism; Bachelor of Science–Journalism)
  • Music (Bachelor of Music)
  • Social Work (Bachelor of Social Work)

Students must declare one of the major options below, complete Core Requirements common to each option, and also the specific requirements for their declared option.

CORE REQUIREMENTS

30 credits the major, to include these core requirements:

BREADTH

3 courses, 1 each from these areas:

Human Geography (1 course)3
Introduction to Human Geography
Introduction to Human Geography
Revolutions and Social Change
Economic Geography: Locational Behavior
Introduction to the City
Introduction to Geopolitics
World Regions in Global Context
Geography of Wisconsin
Latin America
Europe
Russia and the NIS-Topical Analysis
Africa, South of the Sahara
Human Geography of Southeast Asia
The Making of the American Landscape
Space and Place: A Geography of Experience
Researching the City: Qualitative Strategies
Cities and Development
Historical Geography of European Urbanization
Landscape and Settlement in the North American Past
Economic Geography
Power, Place, Identity
History of Geographic Thought
People–Environment (1 course)3
Global Environmental Issues
Soil: Ecosystem and Resource
People, Land and Food: Comparative Study of Agriculture Systems
Global Warming: Science and Impacts
Nature, Power and Society
Environmental Biogeography
Environmental Conservation
World Regions in Global Context
Changing Landscapes of the American West
Australia: Environment and Society
People, Wildlife and Landscapes
US Environmental Policy and Regulation
American Environmental History
Landscape and Settlement in the North American Past
Human Transformations of Earth Surface Processes
Environmental Governance: Markets, States and Nature
Culture and Environment
The Humid Tropics: Ecology, Subsistence, and Development
Development and Environment in Southeast Asia
Physical Geography (1 course)3
Introduction to the Earth System
Physical Systems of the Environment
Geomorphology
Science of Climate Change
Analysis of the Physical Environment
Landforms-Topics and Regions
Landforms and Landscapes of North America
Global Warming: Science and Impacts
Environmental Biogeography
Geography of Wisconsin
Changing Landscapes of the American West
Glacial and Pleistocene Geology
Advanced Paleoecology: Species Responses to Past Environmental Change
Advanced Landform Geography
Soil Geomorphology
Human Transformations of Earth Surface Processes
The Quaternary Period
Past Climates and Climatic Change
Total Credits9

CAPSTONE

Complete one of:3-6
Colloquium for Undergraduate Majors
Senior Honors Thesis
and Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Thesis
and Senior Thesis
Total Credits3-6

Major OPTIONS

Declare one of these major options

RESIDENCE AND QUALITY OF WORK

  • 2.000 GPA in GEOG and major courses
  • 2.000 GPA on 15 upper-level credits, taken in residence 1
  • 15 credits in GEOG, taken on the UW–Madison campus

HONORS IN THE MAJOR

Students may declare Honors in the Geography Major in consultation with the Geography undergraduate advisor.

HONORS IN THE MAJOR REQUIREMENTS

To earn a B.A. or B.S. with Honors in the Major in Geography students must satisfy both the requirements for the major (above) and the following additional requirements:

  • Earn a 3.300 University GPA
  • Earn a 3.300 GPA in all GEOG courses and major courses
  • At least 1 Advanced level major course or 6 credits in major courses numbered 300 and higher, taken for Honors
  • Complete a two-semester Senior Honors Thesis (GEOG 681 & GEOG 682) for a total of 6 credits.

University Degree Requirements

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.
  1. A broad spectrum of geographical knowledge and skills, as well as a degree of expertise in a specific sub-field of the discipline (Human, People-Environment, Physical, Cart/GIS).
  2. Skills in developing and implementing research plans.
  3. Critical reasoning and analytical skills.
  4. Communication skills—both written and oral.
First Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits
Communication A3Ethnic Studies (e.g., GEOG 305)3
Qunatitative Reasoning A3Quantitative Reasoning B3
Foreign Language4Introductory GEOG3
Biological Science Breadth3Foreign Language4
Introductory GEOG3-4Literature Breadth3
 16 16
Second Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits
Communication B (e.g., GEOG 101)4Humanities Breadth3
Humanities Breadth3Social Science Breadth3
Major course: Human Geography3-4Major course: Physical Geography3
INTER-LS 2101Major course: People-Environment3
Elective3Elective3
 14 15
Third Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits
Social Science Breadth3Literature Breadth3
Natural Science Breadth3Major course: Mapping3-4
Humanities Breadth3GEOG 3653
Intermediate-Level Geography in Subarea3-4Electives6
STAT 3013 
 15 15
Fourth Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits
GEOG 5653Advanced-Level Geography Elective in Subarea3-4
Intermediate-Level Geography Elective in Subarea3-4Electives10
Electives8 
 15 14
Total Credits 120

Advising

Students with questions about the major, courses, and careers are encouraged to contact the geography undergraduate advisor, Joel Gruley, at jgruley@wisc.edu

Careers

Geography is a remarkably interdisciplinary field that spans the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. The types of careers that geography can prepare students for thus reflect this diversity. Geographers work across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, and typically work in the following fields: environmental policy, conservation, and management; geospatial analysis; urban and transportation planning; economic and community development; food security; historic preservation; environmental hazards management; demography and health; refugees and immigration; digital cartography; journalism; international conflict resolution; tourism.

L&S career resources

SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students leverage the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and liberal arts degree; explore and try out different career paths; participate in internships; prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications; and network with professionals in the field (alumni and employers). In short, SuccessWorks helps students in the College of Letters & Science discover themselves, find opportunities, and develop the skills they need for success after graduation.

SuccessWorks can also assist students in career advising, résumé and cover letter writing, networking opportunities, and interview skills, as well as course offerings for undergraduates to begin their career exploration early in their undergraduate career. 

Students should set up their profiles in Handshake to take care of everything they need to explore career events, manage their campus interviews, and apply to jobs and internships from 200,000+ employers around the country.

Professors Burt, Cadwallader, Cronon, Downey, Kaiser, Knox, Mason, Naughton, Olds, Ostergren, Turner, Williams, Zhu

Associate Professors Alatout, Dennis

Assistant Professors Baird,  Gibbs, Marin-Spiotta, Ozdogan, Robertson, Roth, Schneider, Woodward, Young