Undergraduate Studies


What do IBM, The Nature Conservancy, the City of Chicago, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Walgreens, Del Monte Foods, NASA, the National Weather Service, Allstate Insurance, Centers for Disease Control, De Kalb County, John Deere & Co., the Byron Fire Protection District, and the NIU Contract Archaeology Lab have in common? If you guessed origin in Illinois, sorry! The correct answer is that they have all discovered geographic information systems and the power of maps. Geographic information systems (GIS) together with satellite imaging and global positioning systems (GPS) enable the precise application of herbicide or even tillage in an agricultural field, the global tracking of cargo containers, visualization of the scene of a reported fire while in-route, target marketing to select parts of a city based on census demographic data, modeling and visualization of gypsy moth damage to a native forest, a format for the dynamic display of weather systems, a framework for tracking land sales and residential development, and thousands of other practical uses.

Students having completed the undergraduate degree in Geography with a specialization in Geographic Information Systems have successfully pursued careers in: state/county/municipal GIS, cartography, land information systems, remote sensing, land surveying, spatial database management, commercial mapping, public safety & homeland security, GIS training, elections planning, delivery routing & scheduling, census, demographic market analysis, and civil & environmental engineering, and pursued graduate degrees in geography, environmental science, computer science, and business administration.

The major in Geography comprises 24 semester hours of required coursework bridging the human, environmental, and mapping traditions of Geography, with an additional 12 semester hours of electives in an area of specialization. Though we offer both the B.A. and B.S. in Geography, students pursuing specialization in Geographic Information Systems will be better prepared for career tracks by completing the B.S. curriculum, with its additional requirements in mathematics, laboratory science, and computational skills. The curriculum in GIS and mapping science is patterned after National Center for Geographic Information & Analysis standards and includes electives in cartographic design, remote sensing, GIS customization, spatial decision support systems, GIS project management, and spatial analysis. Class sizes in required courses average between 35 and 50, while enrollments in mapping science and GIS electives are often between 15 and 25. The northern Illinois region has long been a leader in American cartography and continues to be a rich source of internship and career-development opportunities in both corporate and public sector mapping. Students and faculty regularly participate in activities of the Illinois GIS Association.

Undergraduate Coordinator Thomas Pingel

Undergraduate Catalog Geography Major