Geography is the study of place and location, why things are where they are, and how a location’s characteristics affect natural processes, the environment, and human activities. It explores how we interact with, alter, and manage the physical environment. To our ancestors, simple questions like, “Is there familiar foodstuff over the next hill?” or “Which trail will take me to the trading post?” were often matters of survival. Though the questions we face today are more complex, Geography is a practical science that not only helps us understand our world, but adapt to and thrive in it.
Yes, we study maps, but there is far more to Geography than that! Undergraduates may choose from two separate emphases: Geography and Geomatics. Geography answers such questions as “Where are we?” and “What kind of place is this?” as well as “How do people interact with their environments?” and “How are people, goods, and ideas transported from one place to another?” It explores the geographic conditions that influence everything from a region’s economy to its social development.
With a Student Chapter of the American Meteorological Society, a Geography Club, and a Soil Judging Team, the fun never ends! We are also home to an Advanced Geospatial Lab, Biogeography Lab, Cartography Lab, and a Soil Analysis Lab.
Research and internship opportunities provide the “real world” experience that will give you a distinct advantage in the work place. Our students have interned as business analysts, ecologists, GIS technicians, planning officers, soil analysts, transportation planners, weather forecasters, and zoo keepers. They have held research positions with NOAA and the National Weather Service, helped build the NIU Campus WebMap and Huskie Bus Tracking System, conducted morphometric analysis of Martian valley networks, and built models of traffic flow for urban areas. Our graduates work for the U.S. Geological Survey, the NOAA Climate Service, and the National Weather Service. They are property analysts, city and urban planners, land use specialists, and forest and soil ecologists.
Graduates with degrees in Geography can work for:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for geographers is expected togrow 35% through 2020, much faster thanother occupations.
— Ata Shakir, B.S. 2005, M.S. 2012
— Tamara Houston, physical scienctist for NOAA's National Climatic Data Center
Students can earn a B.S. or B.A. degree with emphasis in geography by selecting electives from GIS & mapping science, natural environmental systems, urban-economic systems, or area studies, or by sampling from across our entire curriculum. We also offer the B.S. degree with emphasis in geomatics.
Geomatics is the science of measurement, representation, analysis, management, retrieval and display of geographic data pertaining to the physical Earth and human built environments. The emphasis in geomatics blends coursework in land surveying with additional courses in GIS, mapping science, and spatial analysis. Our curriculum has been approved by the Illinois Public Land Surveyors Association. Students completing the program will qualify for the Surveyor In-Training [SIT] examination and potential careers in a wide variety of surveying and mapping science related fields. The department also offers an undergraduate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems and a minor in Geography.