Program Overview and BA Degree Requirements

Kim England, Undergraduate Program Coordinator (england@uw.edu)
Rick Roth, Director of Curricular and Advising Services (rroth@uw.edu)
Josef Eckert, Undergraduate Adviser (jeckert1@uw.edu)

Geography Advising

Geographers address some of the world’s most urgent challenges, including globalization, economic inequality, world hunger and agricultural development, global health and health care, the social control of public spaces, immigration, gender inequality, and what it means to be a citizen in the 21st century.  Answers to such questions are complex and partial, and these issues are not “fixable” by one-dimensional solutions. Geography’s contribution to these public issues and solutions is spatial analysis and accountability to place.  We study the locations of things and people and the processes that brought them there. In all of our work we hold ourselves accountable to the things and the people in our community.

In Geography classes you will learn how to conduct interviews, use statistical and demographic analysis, and interpret data in order to construct models, maps, and other tools for understanding. In addition to providing our students with the analytical tools and habits of mind to assess these problems, we also encourage our students to combine classroom study with internships, community service, apprenticeships, and independent research to develop an integrated learning experience. This learning experience not only provides students with critical and analytical skills, but also offers a sense of hope that these daunting problems can be solved and that individuals can make a difference.

Earning A Geography BA at the University of Washington

The Geography BA is awarded upon completion of:

Applying for graduation. See Geography advisers to apply for a degree by the start of the third week of the quarter you intend to graduate. Once the degree application is filed and you satisfy all the “in progress” courses or remaining required courses listed on the application, you will be granted your degree and you need not do any additional paperwork. If you do not graduate the quarter you have listed on your application, however, please contact a Geography adviser because your graduation date will have to be changed with the Graduation Office. Your actual diploma will arrive 3-4 months after your graduation quarter, and be mailed to your permanent address. In the meantime, if you require a letter attesting to the fact that you have earned your degree, please contact the UW Registrar’s Office.

Majoring In Geography

Planner and course eligibility grid for the Geography major

The major is organized into four hybrid “tracks”:

  • Cities, Citizenship and Migration
  • Environment, Economy and Sustainability
  • GIS, Mapping and Society
  • Globalization, Health and Development

Majors are expected to take at least one course in each track  for breadth, and  four additional courses in one of the tracks for depth.

In addition, we require 10 credits of methods courses, including Geog 315–a course on research methods and philosophies that students should take as soon as possible upon entering the major–and one additional methods courses in quantitative methods, qualitative methods, or a combination of GIS and statistics.

Majors are also encouraged to try an internship, and 5 internship credits may also be applied to the required 60.

  1. Geog 315 (5)
  2. one additional methods course (5)
  3. 5 credits in each of the four tracks (20)
  4. 20 additional credits in one track
  5. 10 elective credits,  5 of which which may include either Geog 496 (internship) or Geog 499 (Independent Study)

Geography Major Requirements
Geography is an open major–no prerequisites or admissions requirements

Foundations (30 Credits)

GEOG 315, Explanation and Understanding in Geography

One course in methods (317, 326, 425, 426 or other courses approved by petition to the undergraduate program coordinator.

One course from the Cities, Citizenship, and Migration track, chosen from a list of courses provided by departmental advisers and displayed on the undergraduate program website.

One course from the Environment, Economy, and Sustainability track, chosen from a list of courses provided by departmental advisers and displayed on the undergraduate program website.

One course from the GIS, Mapping, and Society track, chosen from a list of courses provided by departmental advisers and displayed on the undergraduate program website.

One course from the Globalization, Health, and Development track, chosen from a list of courses provided by departmental advisers and displayed on the undergraduate program website.

Track (20 credits) (four additional upper-division courses, at least two of which must be at the 400-level):
Students may choose from among the four tracks or customize their own hybrid focus along more thematic or issue driven lines, such as inequality, race/class/gender studies, etc.

1. Cities, Citizenship and Migration

Why do people move, and where do they go?  What are the constraints and opportunities for migrants as they settle and integrate in new cities and new nations?  How are cities formed and what are the forces that impact their economic and cultural development?  The courses in this track focus on themes of urbanization and human movement, emphasizing the importance of labor and housing, as well as cultural processes and historical forms of discrimination that shape where people live and work.  Students in this track will develop an understanding of the intersections of power and place as they pertain to migration and immigrant life, citizenship and belonging, and the production of urban space.

See advisers for details.  Four upper-division (300-level and 400-level) Geography courses are required for this concentration, at least two of which must be at the 400-level.  These are in addition to the course used to satisfy the “Foundations” requirement for your “track”.

2. Environment, Economy and Sustainability

The courses in this track study the reciprocal and often contradictory forces of economic activity, environmental policy, and sustainability.  Using such key geographic concepts as scale, place and location, these courses analyze relations between such complex processes as: land use, labor markets, corporate location, international trade, energy policy & consumption, environmental regulatory policy, resource use and food systems.

3. Globalization, Health and Development

How does globalization shape life and death around the planet? How can development initiatives address global health disparities? Providing geographical answers to such questions, this track traces the extraordinarily uneven effects of global trade, global finance, and market-led development on food systems, health and the geography of impoverishment.  By putting global health challenges in a global socio-economic context, the track simultaneously highlights how social movements and social organizing can make a difference, including differences in formal policies effecting human well-being directly as well as innovations in the ethics of care. Courses in the track provide frequent opportunities for service learning as part of the goal of helping students engage with real world challenges.   All our classes also approach these themes through a geographical lens: charting global-local relations and the links between nature, society and political-economy in particular places. This geographical approach in turn enables us to explore how nutrition, health, and development are intertwined with other processes ranging from the personal experiences of migrant farm workers, to urban and regional redevelopment, to global financial reforms.  Specific questions that frame our classes include: What are the links between life and debt (GEOG 123)? How have sixty years of development increased in-country inequality (Geog 230)?  How do global disease etiologies reflect other global interconnections (Geog 280)? How does agricultural modernization relate to hunger (Geog 371)? And  what are the implications for food security, health security and developmental security when they are re-framed in terms of geopolitics and the global security challenges of international relations (Geog 375)?

4. GIS, Mapping and Society

In the courses that comprise the GIS, Mapping and Society track, students learn to use GIS, web-based geospatial applications, and database management systems for problem solving in relation to a diverse range of societal concerns, such as those within the other Geography tracks. Students learn a range of analytical and critical methods for cartographic representation, spatial analysis, geovisualization, and database management.  Further, students learn about the politics, ethics and values of mapping and geospatial technologies, and integrate their social and technical skills to undertake projects with research partners in the region.

Click here to review courses by track.

Geography electives (10 credits):
10 credits of Geography electives at the 200 level and above.  300- and 400- level courses recommended.

Additional degree conditions and program features:

  1. Transfer students are required to complete a minimum of 24 upper-division (300- and 400- level) credits in Geography in residence at the University of Washington.
  2. Individual Geography course grades must be 2.0 or above in order to count toward the major requirements; the overall cumulative GPA in Geography courses counted toward the major must be 2.50 or above.
  3. Students are encouraged to take appropriate elective courses outside the Geography Department in fields which support their concentration.  Such courses appropriate to various concentrations will be available on lists supplied by Geography advisers, or may be recommended by the Faculty Adviser.  Students should be aware that 300- and 400- level courses in other departments are likely to have prerequisites.
  4. The department offers an Honors program for students. Students may also participate in either the College Honors Program or the Interdisciplinary Honors Program. See the Honors Program website for more information.
  5. A combined total of 5 credits of Internship (GEOG 496) and Independent Study (GEOG 499) may be counted towards the required 60 Geography credits.
  6. No single course may be counted toward more than one degree requirement.
  7. Upon completion of the degree, the department will confer a departmental certificate indicating proficiency in the track area.

Suggested Timeline for Geography Major:

Please note: this timeline is meant as a guideline only. Your own schedule will vary depending on when you declare the major, when necessary classes are offered, and whether you have other non-Geography requirements to fulfill. If you do have non-Geography requirements to fulfill, keep in mind that it will take you more than four quarters to complete the Geography major.

First Quarter Foundations or 315 Foundations Elective
Second Quarter 315 or Foundations Foundations or methods Foundations
Third Quarter Methods Track Track
Fourth Quarter Track Track Elective

You must take one class in each of the four tracks. In the above table, these are referred to as ‘Foundations’ classes. It is recommended that you take these early on, as they form an introduction to the discipline of Geography and give you a sense of the possible tracks of study available to you. Classes of any level (100 – 400) may be used to fulfill these requirements, though lower level classes are most often used here.

Note:  The degree audit system (DARS) will move classes around as you take additional Geog courses. So, for example, if you take a 300-level course in one of the tracks it will show up in the DRAS report as satisfying the “Foundations” requirement for that track. However, if you then take a 200-level course in that track, DARS will list that as satisfying the Foundations requirement for that rack and move the 300-levl course into the Track list.

All Geography majors must take Geog 315. It is recommended that you take this relatively early on (within your first two quarters in the major), as it introduces ways of thinking geographically, helps improve your writing skills (which can be useful for all other Geography classes, particularly upper level), and prepares you to get more out of methods classes. Additionally, if you plan to take a capstone class (Geog 469: GIS Workshop or Geog 490: The Seattle Region) it is strongly recommended that you take 315 first. 315 is offered every Fall and Spring quarter.

You must take a methods class. You have three options for introductory level methods courses: Geog 317: GIS and Statistics; Geog 326: Quantitative Methods; and Geog 425: Qualitative Methods. For those who wish to pursue further study of quantitative methods, Geog 426: Advanced Quantitative Methods is also available, but you must first take Geog 326. Note: Stat 311 can be used in the place of Geog 326.

At some point in your first two quarters in the major, you should select one of the four tracks to concentrate in. You must then take four classes within that track (this is in addition to the one class within this track that you will have already taken as a Foundations class). Two of the four classes for your track must be at least 300 level (meaning 300 or 400 level), and two must be 400 level.  (You could also take three 400-level courses and one 300-level course).

Finally, you must take two Geography electives. These can be taken at any time, as your schedule allows. Any Geography class, 200 level or higher, can be counted as one of your electives.

Geography Minor Requirements

  • 30 credits in Geography, with at least 15 in upper-division (300/400 level) courses, 5 of which must be at the 400-level. Independent learning and internship credits (Geog 494, 496, 497, 499) may NOT be counted as part of these 30 credits.
  • a minimum 2.0 grade is required for each course counting toward the minor
  • no more than 5 credits can be at the 100 level
  • For transfer students: At least 15 credits applied toward the minor must be taken in the Geography Department at the University of Washington, all in upper-division (300/400 level) courses