University of Wisconsin–Madison

Undergraduate Programs

Geographers study the interaction between people and the environment, including the ways these interactions vary throughout the world. Geographic knowledge is essential for understanding rapid social and environmental change in a globalized society. Our program offers two majors: Geography and Cartography/GIS. Geography majors choose a concentration in one of three thematic areas: physical geography, people-environment geography, and human geography. These areas are described in detail on our department overview page. Cartography/GIS incorporates geography, cartography, spatial analysis, and related fields such as geovisualization, geodesy, geocomputation, cognition, and computer science. Cartography/GIS majors study digital technology and the theory behind this technology to help people work with geographic information.

To qualify for a major in geography, a student must earn a minimum of 30 credits in geography and must meet three requirements:

1. Breadth of Study Take at least one course in each of:

a. Physical Geography: Earth Systems and Environmental Processes (Group 1 below)
b. People–Environment Interaction (Group 2 below)
c. Human Geography (Group 3 below)
d. Area Studies and Global Systems (Group 4 below)

2. Skills, Techniques, and Methodology Each of the following, or an equivalent approved by the advisor:

a. 170 Our Digital Globe, or 370 Introduction to Cartography, or 377 Introduction to GIS
b. 360 Quantitative Methods in Geographical Analysis (offered only in spring)
c. 565 Colloquium for Undergraduate Majors (offered only in fall)

3. Depth and Quality of Study

a. All students must complete the L&S requirement of at least 15 credits of upper-level work in the major completed in residence. All courses in the department identified as intermediate or advanced count toward this requirement.

b. A concentration, approved by the advisor, consisting of at least three related intermediate or advanced level courses (including at least one advanced level course). Either: (1) A concentration from one of the Groups 1, 2, or 3., or (2) An individual concentration proposed by the student and approved by the advisor.

c. A grade point average of 2.0 or higher for the courses in the major.


Five Groups of Geography Courses

Group 1 — Physical Geography: Earth Systems and Environmental Processes 
120, 121, 127, 320, 321, 325, 326, 328, 329, 331, 332*, 338*, 344*, 420, 523, 524, 525, 527, 528, 531.

Group 2 — Environment Interaction 
139, 230, 240, 303, 309, 319, 332*, 337, 338*, 339, 344*, 434, 460, 508*, 519, 534, 535, 536, 537, 538.

Group 3 — Human Geography
 101, 102, 236, 300, 301, 302, 305, 312, 318, 340*, 349*, 353*, 444, 501, 502, 503, 505, 506, 507, 508*, 510, 553*.

Group 4 — Area Studies and Global Systems 
244, 253, 260, 277, 340*, 342, 344*, 348, 349*, 353*, 355, 358, 508*, 548, 553*.

Group 5 — Cartography and Geographic Information Science
170, 370, 377, 378, 570, 572, 574, 575, 576, 577, 578, 579.

*Course is listed in more than one group. Students must choose the course grouping in which they want to count the course.

 

The undergraduate major in Cartography and GIS requires a minimum of 30 credits in geography. The major must include:

1. Core (required)
360 Quantitative Methods in Geographical Analysis (offered only in spring)
370 Introduction to Cartography
377 Introduction to GIS (Geog 370 and 377 should be taken before cartography electives.)
565 Colloquium for Undergraduate Majors (offered only in fall)

2. Electives Three of the following courses:
572 Graphic Design in Cartography
575 Animated and Web-based Mapping
577 Environmental Modeling with GIS
578 GIS Applications 579 GIS and Spatial Analysis

3. Topical Breadth One course in each of the following groups:
Physical Geography: Earth Systems and Environmental Processes (Group 1 below)
People–Environment Interaction (Group 2 below)
Human Geography (Group 3 below) or
Area Studies and Global Systems (Group 4 below)

4. Other Required Courses

At least 11 credits to include: 
(a) 8 credits of college-level mathematics and
(b) Comp Sci 302 Introduction to Programming or Geog 378 Introduction to Geocomputing

At least 3 credits from the following courses:
Remote Sensing: Geog 371, Envir St 556
GPS: Geol 444


Five Groups of Geography Courses

Group 1 — Physical Geography: Earth Systems and Environmental Processes 
120, 121, 127, 320, 321, 325, 326, 328, 329, 331, 332*, 338*, 344*, 420, 523, 524, 525, 527, 528, 531.

Group 2 — Environment Interaction 
139, 230, 240, 303, 309, 319, 332*, 337, 338*, 339, 344*, 434, 460, 508*, 519, 534, 535, 536, 537, 538.

Group 3 — Human Geography
 101, 102, 236, 300, 301, 302, 305, 312, 318, 340*, 349*, 353*, 444, 501, 502, 503, 505, 506, 507, 508*, 510, 553*.

Group 4 — Area Studies and Global Systems 
244, 253, 260, 277, 340*, 342, 344*, 348, 349*, 353*, 355, 358, 508*, 548, 553*.

Group 5 — Cartography and Geographic Information Science
170, 370, 377, 378, 570, 572, 574, 575, 576, 577, 578, 579.

*Course is listed in more than one group. Students must choose the course grouping in which they want to count the course.

Honors in Geography is reserved for students who demonstrate a level of scholarship and independent study that goes well beyond the standard coursework for the major. To receive Honors, students must complete a year-long independent research project, which culminates in a written thesis and public presentation.

Honors students must also take additional advanced courses in the major and maintain a GPA of 3.3 or higher in Geography courses. Students interested in obtaining Honors in Geography should begin planning in their junior year, and conduct their independent study during their senior year. Note that Honors in the Major (in this case, Geography or Cartography/GIS) is distinct from Honors in the Liberal Arts, which is awarded and administered by College of Letters and Science. Students receiving both Honors in the Major and Honors in the Liberal Arts are awarded a Comprehensive Honors degree upon graduation, the highest degree obtainable from the College of Letters and Science. Read more about the L&S Honors Program. For more information about the Geography Honors Program: Overview and Honors Thesis Timetable Honors Thesis Guidelines List of Honors Theses For further questions (or to get started with your honors planning), contact an Undergraduate Program Advisor. You can also access and read full UW Geography Senior Honors Theses through Minds@UW. Additional copies of theses are available in paper form at the UW-Madison Geography Library.

Faculty advising is an important process for students switching to a Geography major or who are already in the program. Each advisor works in a concentration within the major: physical, people-environment, human, and cartography/GIS. 

Majors may also contact the department's undergraduate advisor for general information and guidence:

Joel Gruley Undergraduate Advisor 144 Science Hall (608) 262-4438 jgruley@wisc.edu

Geography faculty advisors will help you plan your coursework and degree program. They can assist you in matching your Geography degree with other coursework, including related Certificate programs. Before registering for each semester, or as advised by the faculty, the student should meet with his or her advisor to review the in-progress coursework and ensure it meets the requirements. Before registering for your last semester, meet with your advisor to go over all coursework and your DARS report.