The Oxford dictionary defines geography as “the study of the physical features of the earth and its atmosphere, and of human activity as it affects and is affected by these, including the distribution of populations and resources and political and economic activities.” Hence, the field can be divided into two primary areas of study: human geography and physical geography. Human geography is the study of people in relation to the spaces they inhabit. The elements studied in physical geography are climate zones, storms, deserts, mountains, glaciers, soil, rivers and streams, the atmosphere, seasons, ecosystems, the hydrosphere, and much, much more.
Geography is much more than opening Google Earth and scanning the globe. According to the American Association of Geographers (AAG), there are many career opportunities in education, business, non-profit organizations, as wells as local, state and federal agencies. In our article on the Top 10 Jobs with a Degree in Emergency Management, we referenced the applicability of emergency management and geography.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), however, does not paint a rosy picture for employment. The data in 2016 stated that there were only 1,400 employed as geographers as of 2014 and the job outlook is declining at a rate of 2% through 2024.
All of these accredited schools have stellar academic reputations. They are ranked by increasing tuition, as it’s difficult to impose a definitive ranking based on quality of education. We leave it to you, the prospective student, to decide which program best meets your objectives and finances.
1. University of Florida
UF’s College of Liberal Arts and Science offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Geography online whose coursework explores the relationship between human and biophysical systems. You will learn about some of the most critical issues of our time such as environmental hazards, climate change, sustainability of resource management systems, international development, and community and urban planning. Understanding the concept of place, including how and why places differ from each other, is a central concern. Their 120 credits geography program provides the analytical skills to develop innovative solutions to some of the most pressing issues for society, including urban expansion, multicultural integration, environmental disasters, and climate change. Students will examine issues as diverse as climate variability and change on the African continent, malaria outbreaks in Africa and South America, deforestation, and land conflict in the Amazon.
Students who have social and economic interests can enter into a career in international development, urban and regional planning, geographic information systems, and environmental consultancy. Students who combine the study of socioeconomic factors and the biophysical world can work in resource management, conservation, environmental assessment, and watershed and coastal planning. Graduates may opt to pursue further educational ambitions in graduate school in areas such as law, business, climatology, environmental science, emergency management, or public health.
Tuition: $129.18 includes fees: Florida resident; $212.71:non-resident
2. Florida Atlantic University
FAU’s Department of Geosciences offers a Bachelor of Arts in Geography fully online. The teaching staff that believes geography is not just the study of where things are, but rather the study of how those things came to be there in the first place, and how they have changed over time. This study accounts for both the influences of nature (Physical Geography) and man (Human Geography). Physical geographers study patterns of climates, land forms, vegetation, soils, and water, with a view to understanding the physical layout of the Earth. Human geographers, meanwhile, are concerned with the spatial aspects of human existence. In other words – how people and their activity are distributed in space, how they use and perceive space, and how they create and sustain the places that make up the Earth’s surface.
The Geographic Information Sciences (GIS) courses empower geographers to both map and analyze the spatial patterns associated with both of these sub-disciplines. While geographers will ultimately specialize in one of these areas of Geography, students seeking their Bachelor’s degree will have the opportunity to study each prior to later concentration. The core courses (18 credits) are required of all students for the B.A. in Geography. Students then complete 6 credits from each of the three areas of concentration within geography (environmental systems, human systems, and GIS totaling 18 credits. The remaining 15 credits are additional courses chosen from the three areas of concentration mentioned above. There are a total of 120 credits required for graduation.
Tuition: $201.29 per credit: Florida residents; $719.84: non-residents
3. Marshall University
Marshall is another school that offers both the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science in geography online. Courses in this geography program include geographic information systems (GIS), global environmental issues, meteorology, world regions, and human geography. As a student, you will earn a well-rounded education that emphasizes communication skills (including written and oral communication), understanding the physical environment, global cultures, and the latest geospatial technology. Those who have graduated from a Community College students may have completed some of the general education requirements. General education includes subjects like math, science, English, social science, humanities, and communications.
As expected, the B.S. degree places a greater emphasis on the scientific aspect of geography through the study of physical geography, such as environment or climate, and GIS (Geographic Information Systems). Whereas the B.A. degree emphasizes how human activity affects or is influenced by the earth’s surface, known as human geography. This entails the study of the cultures, economy, population, social, urban, and historical geography or economic geography, including foreign language study. The Arts degree in geography requires a minimum total of 37 hours of geography coursework.
Like the Arts program, the Bachelor of Science in Geography also has seven required courses and ends with a capstone course sequence. Students complete additional credit hours from the list of physical geography and GIScience courses. The B.S. in Geography requires a minimum 42 credit hours of geography coursework. The difference of five hours between the two degrees is in the meteorology and weather broadcasting areas of emphasis. Hence, students are in the Science degree are exempt from the college’s foreign language requirement.
Tuition: $244 per credit hour; $284 including fees
4. Kennesaw State University
Kennesaw State University’s Department of Geography and Anthropology offers a Bachelor of Arts in Geography online and on campus. Through the study of Geography, the student will gain an understanding of the distribution and dynamics of human and natural features and the interrelationships between humans and their physical environment. The Department seeks to provide students with a curriculum that addresses these components regarding the world’s human, cultural, and physical systems.
The coursework considers many factors such as human culture, language, climate and weather, vegetation, landforms, trade flows, transportation, and cities. These are studied using geography’s unique spatial perspective. In addition to meeting the basic human and physical geography requirements, students also select a large number of courses in related studies. Choices include courses in the humanities and social sciences, the arts, the physical sciences, business, and many other disciplines. This interdisciplinary approach allows students to tailor their degree to personal interests and career objectives. KSU believes the liberal arts education empowers the students to become contributing citizens in a global society.
The 123-credit hour online B.A. in Geography began in the spring of 2015. The typical enrollment is full-time lasting four years. Summer courses are not included but may be taken as available to hasten the time spent on the degree. The two semesters are Fall and Spring during which 15-16 hours are completed each semester. In addition, campus visits are not required.
Tuition: $257.33 per credit hour + $355 per semester student fees
5. University of Nebraska-Omaha
The university’s College of Public Affairs and Community Service offers an online Bachelor’s degree with a concentration in Geography. This program provides students with the opportunity to take courses in a variety of areas in the field of geography, including environmental, cultural/human, economic, physical, or geographic information systems. It will also provide the necessary knowledge to pursue an advanced degree, if desired.
The curriculum comprises 40 hours of General Education in subjects as English, Humanities, Public Speaking, Social and Natural Science. These are followed by 30 hours of Concentration Requirements, in which there is the choice of 3 tracks: Physical and Human Study (Track I), Regional Study (II), and Techniques (III). Next are 24 hours total for Secondary Field I and II (12 hours each). In addition, there are 26 hours of electives which may include any excess hours in general education, concentration or secondary fields. The number of elective hours may vary but total degree must comprise 120 hours.
U.S. News and World Report has named two online degree programs from the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) as some of the best in the country and as the best in their field in Nebraska. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, the school is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years. Their four campuses and online programs are accredited regionally by the Higher Learning Commission—a commission of the North Central Association.
Tuition: $272 per credit: In state; $500 out-of-state residents
6. Southern New Hampshire University
SNHU offers an online Bachelor of Science in Information Technologies with a Geographic Infomation Systems (GIS) Concentration. The advantage of the IT coupled with the GIS concentration will allow graduates to enter entry to mid-level jobs requiring knowledge of IT and GIS. Courses like Geospatial Programming and Foundations of Data Analytics teach you to display and analyze geographic and spatial data and charts. You will also gain the critical-thinking and communication skills required for skillful analysis and presentation of your work. In addition, you will be learning via access to state-of-the-art software and productivity tools using SNHU’s virtual desktop.
Some of the proficiencies you will master upon completion are:
- Recommend effective system design and maintenance solutions that meet user and organizational needs based on appropriate software, hardware and systems tools, and applications for a given scenario
- Develop technically correct maps and products using geospatial data to visualize spatial patterns
- Recommend appropriate core information technologies, systems, data manipulation methods and computational thinking solutions to support organizational decision-making strategies within a business environment
- Communicate the results of geospatial analyses using audience-specific tools and technologies
SNHU’s online B.S. IT and Geographic Information Systems degree will prepare you for a variety of roles, including geospatial scientist, remote sensing technologist, and user interface developer. You will also be open to jobs as a GIS analyst, developer, scientist and specialist. This degree will prepare you for Geospatial technology, which includes GIS technologies. This is an emerging, high-growth industry that’s worth an estimated $270 billion a year. The demand for GIS skills and expertise is especially strong in ecology-related occupations created by green economic activities. An example is the analysis of GIS data to promote better land use in urban planning and to determine the best locations for renewable energy sites.
Tuition: $320 per credit hour; $225 U.S. Service members, both full and part-time, plus spouses of Active Duty Military
7. South Dakota State University
Their Bachelor of Science in Geography program is designed to provide general education as well as a concentration in the major field of study, with recommended specializations and associated courses in physical geography, human geography, and technical geography. The program will provide the student with a general education as well as a concentration in the major field of study. The faculty recommends that majors take several courses in disciplines closely related to their specific area of interest in geography. Those interested in physical geography might register for associated courses in physics, agricultural sciences, botany, or other allied disciplines. For students interested in human geography, coursework in sociology, economics, history, political science, or foreign language or some other social science is possible options. For technical geography, computer science and mathematics courses are preferential. Qualified students may also enhance their academic experience with participation in the Undergraduate Scholars Program.
Graduates of the 120 credit hours will possess the skills to work in several disciplines of the profession with the utilization of maps, satellites, imagery, field work, and other geographic technologies and techniques to increase understanding of important issues from local to global scales. You will be able to effectively communicate geographical ideas using media common to the discipline. Examples might include maps, text, photos, illustrations, flowcharts, tables, graphs, and graphics.
Tuition: $335 per credit hour
8. Park University
Established in 1875 in Parkville, Missouri, the school is proud of its heritage, particularly the Mackay Hall that was constructed in 1886. Students who quarried the stone from the school’s land carried it to the site and built the structure as a means of earning their tuition. With its clock tower overlooking the residence halls, classrooms and other more modern facilities around it, Mackay Hall has become the symbol of the University.
Currently, the university offers 24 online Bachelor’s degrees and over 8 online graduate degrees. One of these is their Bachelor of Science in Geography that combines a thorough foundation in geographic and spatial analysis principles with a framework that bridges the humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences. The curriculum will prepare students for business and academics while imparting an understanding of physical patterns, human patterns, and Earth’s processes. This outcome is achieved through the study of 34-40 credits in the major, as well as completing the requirement of one or more minors or a second major. Related minors are in Geoscience, Geographical Information Systems (GIS), and Global Sustainability. Each minor is a total of 18 hours. The faculty has designed the program in this fashion because geography is a science that has sub-fields in many other disciplines. Therefore, this requirement is intended to help prepare geography majors to have additional knowledge in a secondary body of knowledge.
The core requirements consist of 3 hours each of Cultural Geography, Geography of North America, GIS, and Natural Disasters. There are 4 hours of Physical Geography, plus 18-24 hours of approved electives to arrive at the total of 34-40 major credits. The balance is the minor as addressed.
Tuition: $399 per credit hour; $250 Active Duty Military and Reservists
9. University of Arizona
By the end of the program, students will be proficient in GIST and they will have developed time and project management skills. This is accomplished through project-based learning, practice in compiling data, designing databases, creating methodological strategies for solving problems, and choosing the best analytical techniques to solve problems. Consequently, graduates will be prepared to enter the GIS & T industry that is growing at a rate of 35% per year. This STEM degree in geospatial technologies opens doors to careers in business, government, and non-profit agencies.
Tuition: $515 per unit cost
10. Arizona State University
ASU offers a completely online Bachelor of Arts in Geography through the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning in union with their College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The 120 total hour’s program focuses on human and cultural traditions globally in regions such as Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. You will explore topics including population and migration, geographic information science and technology, and urban and regional geography. Consequently, graduates will be qualified for careers in jobs that involve GIS (Global Information Systems), community development, urban planning, Foreign Service, intelligence analysis, and tourism. You will also be prepared for graduate work in areas such as cultural geography, climate science, global information science, and environmental and landscape dynamics.
Some of the major courses cover Human Geography, Physical Geography, GIS, and World Geography. There are a variety of liberal arts courses, such as mathematics, composition, and a second language requirement. There are also internship opportunities and supervised research with the aid of a faculty member. The School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning must approve all research studies.
Those students who select ASU will enroll in one of the Most Innovative Colleges for 2017 as determined by U.S. News & World Report. The school is also in the Top 20 for humanities research, according to the National Science Foundation.
Tuition: $585 per credit: includes fees