Geography has existed for millennia as a field of study that concerns itself with the natural features of the earth’s surface and the ways in which human societies transform their environments through settlement, economic development, trade, governance, and cultural production. Geographers count among their ranks some of the world’s greatest explorers, including 14th century traveler Ibn Battuta and the brilliant 18th century naturalist Alexander Von Humboldt.
The word "geography" literally means "writing/describing the earth," and geographers are trained to be keen observers of natural and human environments. Rather than seeking simple, one-size-fits-all answers to social and environmental questions, geographers consider the complexity of contexts and the ways in which political, economic and natural processes interact to create diverse landscapes.
The contemporary discipline of geography has come to encompass a variety of topic areas, including weather and climate, landforms, environmental change, urbanization, migration, political boundaries and economic development. If you're fascinated with the world’s immense diversity and you want to gain an in-depth understanding of the pressing social and environmental challenges facing the world today, then geography is for you!
Areas of Study
An undergraduate geography degree offers broad exposure to different subfields in the discipline. Students may select courses in four major topic areas:
- GIScience, including courses in cartography, spatial data analysis and remote sensing.
- Physical/environmental geography, including courses on coastal dynamics, landscape ecology, hydrology and climatology.
- Human geography, including courses on economic geography, cultural landscapes, urbanization, geopolitics, migration and globalization.
- Environment-Society Relationships, including courses on water resources, human adaptation to environmental change and natural hazards.
B.A. and B.S.
The Department of Geography offers both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. While some of the course requirements overlap, there are important differences in the degree requirements for these programs. Please consult our academic bulletin and check in with a geography advisor to ensure you're taking the right courses to complete your degree.
The Department of Geography offers a flexible geography minor that requires 18 credit hours in geography courses. You may tailor your minor to fit various themes in geography, including human geography, environmental science, geographic information science, regional geography or hazards.
Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) Certificate Program
For several years, myriad fields of scientific inquiry have converged to create a new discipline: Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT). GEOINT has become a cornerstone of national security through its coordination of diverse methods of gathering and analyzing geographical data. The new GEOINT certificate, accredited by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF), prepares students by integrating critical thinking and problem-solving abilities with training in geographic information technologies and knowledge of human and physical geography. The GEOINT certificate equips students with the skills needed to confront and respond to challenges relating to natural disasters, humanitarian crises and military operations.
The department offers several awards to current undergraduate students to recognize excellence.
College of Arts and Sciences Rising Senior Award
This award is given annually by the College of Arts and Sciences to a rising senior in geography who has demonstrated excellence in the field.
The Julian J. Petty Award
Named in honor of the late Dr. Julian J. Petty, who taught geography at the University of South Carolina from 1929 to 1967 and was the first Head of the Department of Geography, this award is conferred each spring on a graduating geography major in recognition of excellence in scholarship.
The Donald O. Bushman Award
Conferred on the outstanding student in cartography during the spring of each year, this award is named in honor of the late Dr. Donald O. Bushman, who taught geography and cartography at the University of South Carolina from 1953 to 1973.
The Bennett S. Masaschi Memorial Scholarship
Up to two Bennett S. Masaschi Memorial Scholarships of $500 each are awarded each year to support geography seniors with demonstrated financial need. The scholarships were established by John and Susan Masaschi in memory of their son, Bennett, who completed his B.A. degree in Geography at USC in 1975.