University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

The undergraduate major in Geography is unusually broad and diverse, including the study of cultural, economic, political, historical, biophysical, urban and regional geography as well as cartography, quantitative methods, Geographical Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing and field work. Backgrounds in the natural and social sciences, history, and statistical methods may be useful to the geography major, with the mix and emphasis depending on the student's particular interests. Lower division requirements ensure that all students gain a broad understanding of the discipline, while upper division requirements are structured to allow students to specialize in the areas of their greatest interest.

Declaring the Major

Students may declare the Geography major after they have completed two of the three lower division requirements, completed at least 30 units, have a C (2.0) cumulative grade point average (GPA), and no prior infraction of the Undergraduate Code of Ethics and Climate Standard. Students should declare by the end of their sophomore year at Berkeley or by the start of their second semester if they are a transfer student. To declare, make an online appointment with the student academic adviser here: 

Honors Program

Students with an overall GPA of 3.5 or higher on all work completed at the University, and an average of 3.5 in courses taken in the Geography Department, may apply for the honors program, with the consent of a departmental adviser. The application should be made at the beginning of the senior year. A senior in the honors program must complete GEOG H195A and/or GEOG H195B consecutively, in which a thesis is required (usually over two semesters). Any faculty member in the department may administer an honors course. It is suggested that students approach faculty members with whom they have taken classes about mentorship during junior year. After deciding on the number of units (1-4 units) the student wishes to undertake, the student should see the student academic adviser for a course control number (CCN) and the departmental application. Upon successful completion of the program and graduation, the designation of "with Honors," "with High Honors," or "with Highest Honors” will be noted on the student's transcript and diploma.

Minor Program

The Department offers a Minor in Geography. Upon completion of all the requirements for the minor, students must see the academic adviser to fill out the “Confirmation of Minor Program” petition. Students should plan on filing this petition with the adviser during the finals week of the semester in which the last course is taken.

Visit Department Website

Major Requirements

In addition to the University, campus, and college requirements, listed on the College Requirements tab, students must fulfill the below requirements specific to their major program.

General Guidelines

  1. All courses taken to fulfill the major requirements below must be taken for graded credit, other than courses listed which are offered on a Pass/No Pass basis only. Other exceptions to this requirement are noted as applicable.
  2. No more than one upper division course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor programs, with the exception of minors offered outside of the College of Letters & Science.
  3. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 must be maintained in both upper and lower division courses used to fulfill the major requirements.

For information regarding residence requirements and unit requirements, please see the College Requirements tab.

Lower Division Requirements (3 courses)1

Select one course from each of the following groups:
Basic Physical Geography
Course Not Available [4] (or equivalent)
Global Environmental Change [3] (or equivalent)
Introduction to Earth System Science [4] (or equivalent)
World Geography
World Peoples and Cultural Environments [4] (or equivalent)
World Peoples and Cultural Environments [3] (or equivalent)
Worldings - Regions, Peoples and States [4] (or equivalent)
Globalization [4] (or equivalent)
Globalization [3] (or equivalent)
Justice, Nature, and the Geographies of Identity [4] (or equivalent)
Global Ecology and Development [4] (or equivalent)
Regional Geographies
Introduction to Global Studies [4] (or equivalent)
The Politics of Science and Technology [4] (or equivalent)
California [4] (or equivalent)
California [3] (or equivalent)
Introduction to Central Asia [3] (or equivalent)
The Urban Experience [3] (or equivalent)

Transfer students who have had introductory courses elsewhere should consult with the staff academic adviser in order to avoid repeating lower division work.

Upper Division Requirements

Students select either the 5-2-1 Option or the 4-2-2 Option for fulfilling upper division major requirements.

5-2-1 Option

Select eight upper division courses:
Five courses from one specialty group (see below)
Two courses from the other specialty group (see below)
One methodology course (see below)

4-2-2 Option

Select eight upper division courses:
Four courses from one specialty group (see below)
Two courses from the other specialty group (see below)
Two methodology courses (see below)

Specialty Groups

Earth System Science
GEOG 140APhysical Landscapes: Process and Form (Required if your specialty group is Earth System Science) 14
GEOG 109Course Not Available
GEOG C135Water Resources and the Environment3
GEOG C136Terrestrial Hydrology4
GEOG 137Top Ten Global Environmental Problems4
GEOG C139Atmospheric Physics and Dynamics3
GEOG 142Climate Dynamics4
GEOG 143Global Change Biogeochemistry3
GEOG 144Principles of Meteorology3
GEOG C145Geological Oceanography4
GEOG C146Communicating Ocean Science4
GEOG 147Communicating Climate Science3
GEOG 148Course Not Available4
GEOG 171Special Topics in Physical Geography3
GEOG 175Undergraduate Seminars4
Economy, Culture, & Society
GEOG 109Course Not Available4
GEOG 110Economic Geography of the Industrial World (Required if your specialty group is Economy, Culture, & Society) 24
GEOG C112Global Development: Theory, History, Geography4
GEOG 123Postcolonial Geographies4
GEOG 125The American City4
GEOG 130Food and the Environment (Required if your specialty group is Economy, Culture, & Society) 24
GEOG N130Food and the Environment (Required if your specialty group is Economy, Culture, & Society) 23
GEOG 138Global Environmental Politics4
GEOG C152Course Not Available4
GEOG C157Central American Peoples and Cultures4
GEOG 159ACThe Southern Border4
GEOG C160AAmerican Cultural Landscapes, 1600 to 19004
GEOG C160BAmerican Cultural Landscapes, 1900 to Present4
GEOG 164The Geography of Economic Development in China4
GEOG 170Special Topics in Geography3
GEOG 172Topics in Social Geography4
GEOG 173ACross-listed Topics in Human Geography1-4
GEOG 175Undergraduate Seminars4

This course required for this specialty group.


One of these courses is required from this specialty group.

Methodology Courses 

GEOG 80Digital Worlds: An Introduction to Geospatial Technologies4
GEOG 180Field Methods for Physical Geography5
GEOG 181Urban Field Study4
GEOG 182Field Study of Buildings and Cities3
GEOG 183Cartographic Representation5
GEOG 185Earth System Remote Sensing3
GEOG 187Geographic Information Analysis4
GEOG C188Geographic Information Systems4

Minor Requirements

Students who have a strong interest in an area of study outside their major often decide to complete a minor program. These programs have set requirements and are noted officially on the transcript in the memoranda section, but they are not noted on diplomas.

General Guidelines

  1. All courses taken to fulfill the minor requirements below must be taken for graded credit.
  2. A minimum of three of the upper division courses taken to fulfill the minor requirements must be completed at UC Berkeley.
  3. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 is required for courses used to fulfill the minor requirements.
  4. Courses used to fulfill the minor requirements may be applied toward the Seven-Course Breadth requirement, for Letters & Science students.
  5. No more than one upper division course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor programs.
  6. All minor requirements must be completed prior to the last day of finals during the semester in which you plan to graduate. If you cannot finish all courses required for the minor by that time, please see a College of Letters & Science adviser.
  7. All minor requirements must be completed within the unit ceiling. (For further information regarding the unit ceiling, please see the College Requirements tab.)

Minor Requirements

Upper Division Requirements
Select five upper division courses
At least one course must be selected from the Earth System Science specialty group.
At least one course must be selected from the Economy, Culture & Society specialty group.
Students should contact the student academic adviser to obtain a list of courses being offered each semester, which fall into these designated areas.

College Requirements

Undergraduate students must fulfill the following requirements in addition to those required by their major program.

For detailed lists of courses that fulfill college requirements, please review the College of Letters & Sciences page in this Guide. For College advising appointments, please visit the L&S Advising Pages. 

University of California Requirements

Entry Level Writing

All students who will enter the University of California as freshmen must demonstrate their command of the English language by fulfilling the Entry Level Writing requirement. Fulfillment of this requirement is also a prerequisite to enrollment in all reading and composition courses at UC Berkeley. 

American History and American Institutions

The American History and Institutions requirements are based on the principle that a US resident graduated from an American university, should have an understanding of the history and governmental institutions of the United States.

Berkeley Campus Requirement

American Cultures

All undergraduate students at Cal need to take and pass this course in order to graduate. The requirement offers an exciting intellectual environment centered on the study of race, ethnicity and culture of the United States. AC courses offer students opportunities to be part of research-led, highly accomplished teaching environments, grappling with the complexity of American Culture.

College of Letters & Science Essential Skills Requirements

Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning requirement is designed to ensure that students graduate with basic understanding and competency in math, statistics, or computer science. The requirement may be satisfied by exam or by taking an approved course.

Foreign Language

The Foreign Language requirement may be satisfied by demonstrating proficiency in reading comprehension, writing, and conversation in a foreign language equivalent to the second semester college level, either by passing an exam or by completing approved course work.

Reading and Composition

In order to provide a solid foundation in reading, writing, and critical thinking the College requires two semesters of lower division work in composition in sequence. Students must complete parts A & B reading and composition courses by the end of their second semester and a second-level course by the end of their fourth semester.

College of Letters & Science 7 Course Breadth Requirements

Breadth Requirements

The undergraduate breadth requirements provide Berkeley students with a rich and varied educational experience outside of their major program. As the foundation of a liberal arts education, breadth courses give students a view into the intellectual life of the University while introducing them to a multitude of perspectives and approaches to research and scholarship. Engaging students in new disciplines and with peers from other majors, the breadth experience strengthens interdisciplinary connections and context that prepares Berkeley graduates to understand and solve the complex issues of their day.

Unit Requirements

  • 120 total units

  • Of the 120 units, 36 must be upper division units

  • Of the 36 upper division units, 6 must be taken in courses offered outside your major department
Residence Requirements

For units to be considered in "residence," you must be registered in courses on the Berkeley campus as a student in the College of Letters & Science. Most students automatically fulfill the residence requirement by attending classes here for four years. In general, there is no need to be concerned about this requirement, unless you go abroad for a semester or year or want to take courses at another institution or through UC Extension during your senior year. In these cases, you should make an appointment to meet an adviser to determine how you can meet the Senior Residence Requirement.

Note: Courses taken through UC Extension do not count toward residence.

Senior Residence Requirement

After you become a senior (with 90 semester units earned toward your BA degree), you must complete at least 24 of the remaining 30 units in residence in at least two semesters. To count as residence, a semester must consist of at least 6 passed units. Intercampus Visitor, EAP, and UC Berkeley-Washington Program (UCDC) units are excluded.

You may use a Berkeley Summer Session to satisfy one semester of the Senior Residence requirement, provided that you successfully complete 6 units of course work in the Summer Session and that you have been enrolled previously in the college.

Modified Senior Residence Requirement

Participants in the UC Education Abroad Program (EAP), Berkeley Summer Abroad, or the UC Berkeley Washington Program (UCDC) may meet a Modified Senior Residence requirement by completing 24 (excluding EAP) of their final 60 semester units in residence. At least 12 of these 24 units must be completed after you have completed 90 units.

Upper Division Residence Requirement

You must complete in residence a minimum of 18 units of upper division courses (excluding UCEAP units), 12 of which must satisfy the requirements for your major.

Student Learning Goals

Learning Goals for the Major

  1. Spatial, holistic thinking at the intersections of society, space, and nature
    1. Phenomena in place: Explain the spatial dimensions (location, place, landscape, region, and territory) of human life and the global environment—how human and earth science phenomena “take their place” on the surface of the earth.
    2. Earth systems: Comprehend how the Earth functions as a complex system of interacting components and how this system applies to and is affected by humanity.
    3. Scales of space and time: Understand processes operating at different spatial and temporal scales in the earth system and in human histories.
    4. Nature and society: Recognize natural resource flows through human systems and identify social constructions of nature and vulnerabilities to natural disasters.
    5. Interdisciplinarity: Combine insights from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities to better understand the problems of the increasingly interconnected and ecologically fragile world.
  2. Addressing diversity in both human and physical geography
    1. Peoples and places: Discuss, interpret, and explain differences of wealth, power, health, and well-being between and within societies, and the processes that create these patterns.
    2. Physical processes: Discuss, interpret, and explain the diversity of—and the processes responsible for—the landforms, climates, and ecosystems that constitute our planet’s physical landscapes.
    3. Reading landscapes: Deduce questions and hypotheses through clues in material landscapes.
  3. Analysis and application for students who choose the Economy, Culture, and Society track
    1. Role of Space: Understand the function of boundaries, territories, places, networks, and other spatial forms in the workings of human societies.
    2. Power and landscapes: Understand the projection, protection, and contestation of power through the production of ideas, cultures, empires, and spatial forms.
    3. Roles of cities: Grasp the roles and forms of cities as records and motors of modern life, and the interactions of urban areas with hinterlands and global networks.
    4. Food systems: Compare and contrast agrarian and industrial food supply systems around the world.
    5. Society-environment interactions: Understand the mutual influences and ramifications of biophysical and social processes in the dynamics of societies at scales from the local to the global.
  4. Analysis and application for students who choose the Earth Systems Science track
    1. Earth system science: Analyze interconnected environmental systems with process-based geophysical, geochemical, and biological sciences in the context of current social environmental problems.
    2. Modeling: Construct models of the earth as a system of interconnected components, highlighting forcings and feedbacks.
    3. Experiments: Formulate and apply scientific hypotheses and devise tests for them.
    4. Science and society: Analyze and evaluate the role of science in shaping social forces, and being shaped by them.
  5. Application of basic skills in research, knowledge of literature, analysis, and communication
    1. Write clearly: Demonstrate ability to focus and elaborate on chosen topics.
    2. Read critically: Critically analyze and assess arguments in professional journals, public media, and advocacy literature.
    3. Empirical plus theoretical: Produce work with robust empirical research (that locates, interprets, and puts together relevant and reliable sources of information) as well as intellectual and theoretical rigor.
    4. Use of mapping: Understand the production, interpretation, and use of mapping in all its forms and scales.
    5. Applying quantitative skills: Apply basic quantitative skills such as statistics, algebra, and interpreting graphs.
    6. Analytical ability: Demonstrate analytical ability: including the ability to identify questions, differentiate descriptions from explanations, make connections between empirical observations and arguments, and differentiate between competing explanations of a given phenomenon.
  6. Lifetime skills
    1. Continuing concern: Show continuing concern, curiosity, and zeal for geography and for applying geographical understanding.
    2. Representing geography: Represent the usefulness of geography and geographical points of view to—depending on the circumstances—prospective employers, educators, policy makers, resource managers, developers, engineers, the public, and acquaintances.


The student academic advisers, Marjorie Ensor and Bobby Ewing, help students plan and execute their coursework in the major program and answer questions concerning requirements and course substitutions. You can make online appointments with Marjorie here:  And you can make online appointments with Bobby here:

Professors Laurel Larsen and Jake Kosek are the designated undergraduate faculty advisers for 2016-2017. They may be consulted on any other questions concerning the major during their office hours or by special appointment.

Students are also encouraged to seek substantive advice on academic matters from other faculty who share their interests or with whom they have had classes.

Information on general Letters & Science requirements should be obtained from a college adviser in the L&S office in 206 Evans Hall.



Faculty and Instructors

+ Indicates this faculty member is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.


Jeffrey Q. Chambers, Associate Professor. Forests, climate change, trees, tropical forests, remote sensing, Drought.
Research Profile

Sharad Chari, Associate Professor. Geography as history of the present and as Earth/world-writing, social theory, political economy, development, agrarian studies, labor and work, racial/sexual capitalism, Black radical tradition, biopolitical struggle, oceanic humanities, photography, South Asia, South Africa, Indian Ocean.
Research Profile

John Chiang, Professor. Climate change, climate dynamics, ocean-atmosphere interactions, paleoclimate.
Research Profile

Kurt Cuffey, Professor. Continuum mechanics, climate, geomorphology, glaciers, glaciology, climate history, stable isotopes, geographical thought.
Research Profile

William E. Dietrich, Professor. Morphology, earth and planetary sciences, geomorphology, evolution of landscapes, geomorphic transport laws, landscape evolution modeling, high resolution laser altimetry, cosmogenic nuclide analysis.
Research Profile

You-Tien Hsing, Professor. China, geography, political economy of development in East Asia, the process of international economic restructuring, cultural and institutional configuration in the processes of Taiwanese direct investment, growth in Chinese cities, business networks.
Research Profile

G. Mathias Kondolf, Professor. Ecological restoration, landscape architecture, environmental planning, fluvial geomorphology, hydrology, environmental geology, environmental impact assessment, riparian zone management.
Research Profile

Jake Kosek, Associate Professor. Cultural politics of nature and difference, cultural geography, science and technology studies, critical race theory, critical cartography, biopolitics, human and the non-human, and environmental politics.

Laurel G. Larsen, Assistant Professor. Hydroecology, geomorphology, complex systems, restoration ecology, environmental modeling, wetlands, sediment transport, environmental fluid mechanics.
Research Profile

Jovan Scott Lewis, Assistant Professor. Jamaica and the USA, constructions and infrastructures of poverty, inequality, race (blackness), economy, and the market.
Research Profile

Beatriz Manz, Professor. Latin America, human rights, peasantry, migrations, social movements, political conflict, Mayan communities in Guatemala, issues of memory, grief.
Research Profile

David O'Sullivan, Associate Professor. Spatial analysis, complexity, spatial models.
Research Profile

Robert Rhew, Associate Professor. Geography, terrestrial-atmosphere exchange of trace gases, atmospheric chemistry and composition, halogen biogeochemistry, stratospheric ozone depletion issues, coastal salt marsh, chaparral, desert, tundra, boreal forest, grassland.
Research Profile

Nathan F. Sayre, Associate Professor. Climate change, endangered species, rangelands, political ecology, pastoralism, ranching, environmental history, suburbanization, human-environment interactions, environmental geography, range science and management, Southwestern US, scale, community-based conservation.
Research Profile

Harley Shaiken, Professor. Mexico, labor, globalization, education, United States, geography, work organization, issues of economic and political integration in the Americas, information technology, skill.
Research Profile

David B. Wahl, Assistant Adjunct Professor.

Affiliated Faculty

Teresa Caldeira, Professor. Comparative urban studies, urbanization in the global south, social theory, ethnography. qualitative methodology.
Research Profile

Pheng Cheah, Professor. Nationalism, rhetoric, legal philosophy, feminism, 18th-20th century continental philosophy and contemporary critical theory, postcolonial theory and anglophone postcolonial literatures, cosmopolitanism and globalization, social and political thought.
Research Profile

Iryna Dronova, Assistant Professor.
Research Profile

N. Maggi Kelly, Professor.

Nancy L. Peluso, Professor. Political ecology/resource policy and politics/forests/agrarian change/property and access.
Research Profile

John Radke, Associate Professor. City and regional planning, landscape architecture and environmental planning, geographic information systems, database design and construction, spatial analysis, pattern recognition computational morphology.
Research Profile

Isha Ray, Associate Professor. Water and development, Gender, water and sanitation, technology and development.
Research Profile

Raka Ray, Professor. Feminist theory, gender, social movements, South and Southeast Asian studies, relations between dominant subaltern groups in India, women´_s movements in India.
Research Profile

Sally Thompson, Associate Professor. Nonlinear dynamics, spatial ecology, Ecohydrology, surface hydrology, arid and semi-arid watersheds and ecosystems, pattern formation, plant physiology, water resource sustainability.
Research Profile


Alicia Cowart, Lecturer.

Seth R. Lunine, Lecturer.

John Stehlin, Lecturer.

Emeritus Faculty

Paul Groth, Professor Emeritus. Architecture, vernacular architecture, urban geography, suburban America, cultural landscape studies, housing (US).
Research Profile

Gillian P. Hart, Professor Emeritus.

Michael Johns, Professor Emeritus. Latin America, development, geography, culture of cities.
Research Profile

Norman Miller, Professor Emeritus. Hydroclimate modeling and assimilation and analysis, climate change impacts to sociology-economic and ecological sectors.
Research Profile

Richard Walker, Professor Emeritus. Race, environment, urbanism, politics, geography, resources, economic geography, regional development, capitalism, cities, California, class.
Research Profile

+ Michael J. Watts, Professor Emeritus. Islam, development, Africa, social movements, political economy, political ecology, geography, South Asia, peasant societies, social and and cultural theory, US agriculture, Marxian political economy.
Research Profile

Contact Information

Department of Geography

507 McCone Hall

Phone: 510-642-3903

Fax: 510-642-3370

Visit Department Website

Department Chair

Robert Rhew

539 507 McCone Hall

Phone: 510-643-6984

Undergraduate Faculty Adviser (Human Geography)

Jake Kosek PhD

585 McCone Hall

Phone: 510-642-3903

Undergraduate Faculty Adviser (Physical Geography)

Laurel Larsen, PhD

595 McCone Hall

Phone: 510-642-3903

Student Academic Adviser (Grad & UG), Lead

Marjorie Ensor

517 McCone Hall

Phone: 510-642-3904

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