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Department of Geography - Undergraduate Major in Geography

Undergraduate Majors in Geography at Ohio State


Geography offers a distinctive way of thinking about and analyzing the world.  Geographers identify "where" things, both physical and human, are located, and then analyze "why" they are located where they are. The "where" question is always central to what geographers study and how they study it.  What they study is very diverse.  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, the geography of landforms and vegetation, for example. Geographers also study different places, including regions like the Midwest but also at the scales of neighborhoods, cities, or countries.

Thus, geographers have an extraordinarily diverse and interesting set of problems to study.  Here at Ohio State we focus in particular on four major areas of interest: i) atmospheric sciences and climatology, which are branches of physical geography; ii)  urban and regional systems, an important branch of human geography; iii) people, society, and environment, which provides insights into the interactions between people in society and their physical environment; and iv) cartography and geographic information systems (GIS), which are important methods for studying the various geographies, both physical and human, around us.

This page provides you with information about our four tracks. If you would like more information about one or more of them please contact


B.A. in People, Society, and Environment

Students pursuing this track study issues and concepts such as:

Global Environmental Problems: From deforestation to the ozone hole, geographers study not only the environmental systems that unite the globe, but the social and economic forces that drive profound, and perhaps irreversible, changes.

Environmental Law and Policy: The realities of environmental law are formed both by the exigencies of ecological systems and the practicalities of social and economic processes. You can study the legislative procedures that form new environmental law and the methods and techniques used in managing parks, forests, and waterways.

Environmental Systems: To understand human life in its physical environment, geographers require a solid grasp of ecological systems. You can study soils, plants, atmosphere, water, or geomorphology from the basics to more advanced concepts.

Environmental History and Philosophy: Competing views of the  physical world set the stage for current debates and issues. Geography is a field where history and philosophy are fundamental to contemporary science.

Field Research in Environmental Issues: Geographers often practice their craft in the field, interviewing resource users, measuring ecological systems, and mapping environmental phenomena. You can learn to use field tools like Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Geographical Information Systems (GIS), and cartography in a hands-on research project.

Careers You Can Pursue

This brand new program trains you for jobs at the intersection of social and environmental science, such as ones with state and federal Environmental Protection Agencies (EPA), the Department of Natural Resources, non-governmental organizations like the Nature Conservancy or American Farmland Trust, local or state governmental bodies, and companies active in environmental management or engineering.

B.S. in Atmospheric Sciences / Climatology

Students pursuing this track study various weather phenomena, including:

Weather Forecasting:. Atmospheric scientists learn how the atmosphere works and how that knowledge can be used to forecast future weather for various periods into the future.

Boundary Layer Meteorology and Climatology: What sorts of processes occur in the important first kilometer of the atmosphere in which we spend most of our lives?  Boundary layer climate studies this layer, its interaction with the ground and applies these ideas to agricultural meteorology, pollution, and the weather characteristics of cities, lakes and forests.

Severe Storms Forecasting: What sorts of atmospheric conditions lead to hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms, intense lighting, and heavy precipitation? Can these weather conditions be predicted accurately?  How are new technologies like computers, satellites, and sophisticated weather radars playing a role?

Atmospheric Dynamics and Thermodynamics: Why do thunderstorms tend to occur in warm, humid weather? Why are the upper winds of the earth mostly westerly? How does the atmosphere transport heat, water, and pollutants? A detailed study of the physics of the atmosphere as an undergraduate major in Climatology/Atmospheric Science will help you understand these vital issues.

Careers You Can Pursue

Recent graduates who studied Atmospheric Sciences or Climatology are now working in the following occupations: Meteorologist with a local TV station; Forecaster with the US Air Force; Meteorologist with the National Weather Service; Meteorologist/Computer Programmer with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration; Air Pollution Researcher with the Ohio EPA; Weather forecaster with a private forecasting firm

B.A. in Urban and Regional Systems

Students pursuing this track investigate concepts like:

Housing and Neighborhood Politics: Issues like the problem of the homeless, of downtown redevelopment, the crisis in schools funding, and residential segregation.

Area Studies: Geographers study different regions of the world. In the Department at OSU you can study such areas as North America, Western and Eastern Europe, Latin America, India, the former Soviet Union, and South Africa. Each of these have their own distinct problems and lessons to teach us.

Development: Development is a major issue in the world today. In studying for a B.A. in Urban and Regional Systems at Ohio State you will have the opportunity to learn about patterns of economic development and why some countries and regions are more developed than others. You can also study the Newly Industrializing Countries and why and how they are 'newly industrializing' as well as the politics of local and regional development within countries.

Location Studies: Geographers study the location of all manner of things: cities, firms, residents, migrants. As a geographer you will become acquainted with location theories that often underlie these patterns.

Transportation: Subjects like planning logistical systems, the pros and cons of airline hub‑and‑spoke routing patterns, and the deregulation of transportation industries.

Globalization: Geographers, including those at OSU, have made major contributions to the study of contemporary processes of globalization, its economics, and its politics.  

Careers You Can Pursue

Recent graduates who studied Urban and Regional  Systems are now working in the following occupations: Assistant Director Economic Development for the Chamber of Commerce, Columbus, Ohio; Director of Flood Plain Management for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources; Demographic Analyst with Ohio State Extension Service; Transit Planner, Southern California Rapid Transit District; Loan originator with Huntington Mortgage Company; Cartographer with an oil company; Intelligence Officer, US Armed Forces Logistics Center; Transportation Planner, Mid‑Ohio Regional Planning Commission; Director, Capital City Transit Coalition; Research Analyst, State of Ohio EPA, Air Pollution Division; University Professor; Market research, Nationwide Insurance; Real estate developer.


B.S. in Cartography/Geographic Information Systems

Students pursuing this track learn skills like:

Mapping Patterns: Patterns like those of population change, flows of migrants, neighborhood change, severe storms, ocean currents, the flows of air masses, and economic development. 

Visual Presentation: Learn about the best ways of making "visual" presentations of the sorts of spatial data that geographers typically deal with; what is the best way of organizing for visual inspection (e.g.) data on neighborhood characteristics, trade flows or winds?

Problem Analysis: Learn how to use standard GIS tools for the analysis of problems like environmental change, air pollution, poverty, unemployment, and the like.

Combining Statistics and Mapping: Learn how to, for example, detect unusual occurrences of disease and mortality rates, or to isolate exceptions in geographic patterns for more careful analysis.

Identifying Optimal Locations: Many employers are interested in identifying 'best' locations for diverse facilities that include fast food outlets, automatic teller machines, one-way streets, and bus routes. GIS provides ways to find solutions to these problems.

Careers You Can Pursue

Recent graduates who studied Analytical Cartography or Geographic Information Systems are now working in the following occupations: cartographer with the U.S. Geological Survey; university professor; digital cartographer with Rand McNally; manager with a private GIS consultancy; cartographer with the US Defense Mapping Agency; GIS analyst with Nationwide Insurance; cartographer with an oil company. 

What is Ohio State's Geography Department like?

In doing any bachelorís degree in Geography at Ohio State you would be part of one of the foremost Departments of Geography in the United States. In the most recent national rankings it ranked fourth. This is higher than any other Department at Ohio State. It is a Department that has earned its ranking through the international research visibility of its faculty, and is strong in all four of our areas of specialization. So doing a bachelorís degree in this Department will put you in contact with first-rate minds who are on the cutting edge of research in the field as well as enable you to make important contacts with potential employers.

Geography majors come from diverse backgrounds, both personally and academically. However, whether participating in class discussions, studying for exams, or doing homework problems, students work cooperatively with, not competitively against, each other. If, for whatever reason, youíre re-examining your present major, or if you currently have no major, consider Geography. We may be what youíre looking for! 

For more information, or to report a problem, contact us at
The Ohio State University at Lima, 4240 Campus Drive, Lima, Ohio, 45804
Phone:  419.995.8600 Fax:  419-995-8

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Last modified on March 09, 2006.