University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

All human activity takes place on a geographic stage of great diversity and constant transformation. For more than a century, the Geography Department at Berkeley has been a leading center of scholarship about earth’s landscapes and human relationships to the environment. Our inquiries encompass a wide range of topics, from the economies and cultures of cities and built landscapes, to tropical climates and the flow of polar ice sheets. We combine rigorous empirical work with deeply conceptual theoretical analyses, always recognizing the importance of both spatial processes and accumulated histories. We use geographic analyses to illuminate the abiding problems of the modern world.

UC Berkeley's Geography Department provides a broad-ranging perspective on humans as inhabitants and transformers of the face of the earth. The search for this kind of understanding involves thorough study of (a) the interlocking systems of the natural environment (climate, landforms, oceans, biota) and the evaluation of natural resources; (b) those diverse historical, cultural, social, economic, and political structures and processes which affect the location and spatial organization of population groups and their activities; and (c) significant geographical units, whether described as cities, regions, nations, states or landscapes, where integrated interpretation can be attempted, and a variety of problems thereby better understood.

As geographic theory and research has expanded their horizons over the past quarter-century, five research focuses have emerged to define Geography at Berkeley: 

Earth System Science

Earth System Science is the study of the interconnected components of our environment—the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, cryosphere, and biosphere—and how they interact to produce an integrated whole. It utilizes the fundamental disciplines of mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology and applies them in the context of human activities and landscapes to understand the Earth, at scales ranging from single watersheds to the entire globe. The complex system of interactions is investigated to address questions about current and future sustainability, how environmental changes affect society, and how society influences the environment.

Racial Geographies

Racial Geographies represents an insurgent geography that critically engages with questions of race, drawing from, and contributing to, an intellectual history rooted in anti-racist and anti-colonial struggles. We are concerned with how geography is explicitly and implicitly implicated in the construction and deconstruction of race and its symptoms.

Critical Environments

Critical Environments attends to the complex relations that constitute the material and social dimensions of the modern world. We explore lives and ecologies that emerge together with histories of capitalism, militarism, racism, colonialism, and sexuality.

Geospatial Representation

How peoples and cultures represent space and time are central to understanding the world, shaping the possibilities - and the limits - of our thinking, knowing, and being. We work towards cross-cultural geospatial representations in service to understanding and collaboration across communities. We also encourage antiracist and anticolonial geospatial representation in the service of planetary decolonization, to literally remake the maps and other representational forms that reinforce our divided planet.

Political Economies

Political Economies cuts across metropolitan and Global South/ postcolonial perspectives on contemporary questions concerning capitalist and imperialist dynamics. Berkeley Geography explores political-economic processes through urban, agrarian, and oceanic studies, emphasizing the dynamics of past, present, and future. Berkeley Geography interrogates capitalism, as well as its articulations with other forms of value and devaluation of places and people, through racial, gendered, sexual, and colonial relations. Berkeley Geography also explores human-environment relations and questions concerning social natures and political-ecological processes through the lens of critical political economy.

Bachelor of Arts in Geography

UC Berkeley's Geography B.A. 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 fieldwork. 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. Completing a major in Geography requires the satisfactory completion of three lower-division courses and eight upper-division courses. 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.

Geography students are expected to have diverse interests and independent thought. The department welcomes students from a variety of backgrounds, including those with professional experience who wish to deepen their education. Students are encouraged to roam freely through the curriculum and to follow their inspiration where it leads while working in tandem with faculty and staff advisers. 

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Major Requirements

Declaring the Major

Students may declare the Geography major after completing at least 30 units with a 2.0 or better cumulative UC Berkeley GPA and after completing at least two of the three lower-division requirements. Junior transfer students should declare their major during the beginning of their second semester at UC Berkeley. Students are able to use community college coursework as substitutions for lower-division requirements with approval from the Undergraduate Major Advisor.

To declare a major in Geography, please contact the Undergraduate Major Advisor.

The major requires students to take three lower-division courses, one in each of these areas:

  • Basic Physical Geography
  • World Geography
  • Regional Geography

Geography Lower-Division Courses

Basic Physical Geography
Global Environmental Change [3]
Introduction to Earth System Science [4]
Introduction to Environmental Sciences [3]
World Geography
World Peoples and Cultural Environments [3]
Worldings: Regions, Peoples and States [4]
Globalization [4]
Globalization [3]
Justice, Nature, and the Geographies of Identity [3]
Introduction to Global Studies [4]
Regional Geography
California [4]
California [3]
Introduction to Central Asia [3]
The Bay Area [3]

In addition to completing the three lower-division course requirements, students must also complete eight upper-division courses in order to satisfy the requirements of the major.

Students must take one course from four of the five following research areas:

Students must complete an additional four upper-division courses in the Geography department. Students can earn an emphasis in a research area by completing a total of four courses in that research area. A maximum of two upper-division courses from related fields may be applied as substitutions if they are approved by the Undergraduate Major Advisor.

Geography Upper-Division Courses

Earth System Science
GEOG C136Terrestrial Hydrology4
GEOG C139Atmospheric Physics and Dynamics3
GEOG 140APhysical Landscapes: Process and Form4
GEOG 140BPhysiography and Geomorphologic Extremes4
GEOG 142Climate Dynamics4
GEOG 143Global Change Biogeochemistry3
GEOG 144Principles of Meteorology3
GEOG 147Communicating Climate Science3
GEOG C148Biogeography4
GEOG 149AClimates of the World3
GEOG 149BClimate Impacts and Risk Analysis3
GEOG C179AGC-Maker Lab I: Skills and Theory2
GEOG C179BGC-Maker Lab II: Instrument development4
Political Economies
GEOG 110Critical Economic Geographies4
GEOG C112Global Development: Theory, History, Geography4
GEOG 124Urban Sites and City Life3
GEOG 129Ocean Worlds3
GEOG 130Food and the Environment4
GEOG N130Food and the Environment3
GEOG 138Global Environmental Politics4
GEOG 145Platform Geographies4
GEOG 155Race, Space, and Inequality4
GEOG C155Race, Space, and Inequality4
GEOG 159ACThe Southern Border4
GEOG C160The American Landscape: Place, Power and Culture4
GEOG 164Global China3
GEOG 167ACDecolonial Border Geographies4
GEOG 181Urban Field Study4
Racial Geographies
GEOG 124Urban Sites and City Life3
GEOG 129Ocean Worlds3
GEOG 155Race, Space, and Inequality4
GEOG C155Race, Space, and Inequality4
GEOG 159ACThe Southern Border4
GEOG 167ACDecolonial Border Geographies4
GEOG 181Urban Field Study4
Critical Environments
GEOG C100Art and Ecology4
GEOG 129Ocean Worlds3
GEOG 130Food and the Environment4
GEOG N130Food and the Environment3
GEOG 137Top Ten Global Environmental Problems4
GEOG 138Global Environmental Politics4
GEOG 147Communicating Climate Science3
GEOG C148Biogeography4
GEOG C160The American Landscape: Place, Power and Culture4
GEOG 175Undergraduate Seminars4
GEOG 181Urban Field Study4
GEOG 182Field Study of Buildings and Cities3
Geospatial Representation
GEOG 80An Introduction to Geospatial Technologies: Mapping, Space and Power4
GEOG 85Mapping: Space, Cartography and Power4
GEOG 175Undergraduate Seminars4
GEOG 180Field Methods for Physical Geography5
GEOG 183Cartographic Representation5
GEOG 185Earth System Remote Sensing3
GEOG C188Geographic Information Science4

Academic Performance Requirements

  • All courses taken to fulfill the major requirements must be taken for graded credit unless the course is only offered on a Pass/No Pass basis.
  • All students must complete at least one semester of residence in the major before graduation.
  • A minimum 2.0 grade point average (GPA) must be maintained in both upper- and lower-division courses used to fulfill the major requirements.
  • Students must learn at least a C- in all courses required for the major, including lower- and upper-division courses.

Minor Requirements

General Guidelines

  1. All minors must be declared before the first day of classes in your Expected Graduation Term (EGT). For summer graduates, minors must be declared prior to the first day of Summer Session A. 

  2. All upper-division courses must be taken for a letter grade. 

  3. A minimum of three of the upper-division courses taken to fulfill the minor requirements must be completed at UC Berkeley.

  4. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 is required in the upper-division courses to fulfill the minor requirements.

  5. Courses used to fulfill the minor requirements may be applied toward the Seven-Course Breadth requirement, for Letters & Science students.

  6. No more than one upper division course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor programs.

  7. All minor requirements must be completed prior to the last day of finals during the semester in which the student plans to graduate. If students cannot finish all courses required for the minor by that time, they should see a College of Letters & Science adviser.

  8. All minor requirements must be completed within the unit ceiling. (For further information regarding the unit ceiling, please see the College Requirements tab.)


Students can earn a Geography minor by completing five upper-division Geography courses with at least one course from the Earth System Science research area (Physical Geography) and at least one course from the Political Economies, Racial Geographies, or Critical Environments research area (Human Geography).

Other considerations to keep in mind:

  • All courses counting toward the Geography minor must be taken for a letter grade.
  • At least three of the five courses must be completed at UC Berkeley.
  • A minimum 2.0 grade point average (GPA) is required for courses used to fulfill the minor requirements.
  • No more than one course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor.
  • All minor requirements must be completed prior to the last day of finals during the semester in which you plan to graduate.
  • The minor will be noted officially on a student's transcript in the memoranda section, but will not be included on the official diploma.
  • All minors must be declared prior to the first day of classes in the term in which you intend to graduate. For Summer graduates, minors must be declared prior to the first day of Summer Session A.

Students interested in the Geography minor are encouraged to contact the Undergraduate Major Advisor.

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 in sequential order 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, or two years for transfer students. 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 interested in human geography
    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 interested in physical geography
    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.


Major Advising

Undergraduate Major Advisor

The Geography department is committed to providing a safe, inclusive environment for all students. The Undergraduate Major Advisor is available to support students and assist them in successfully completing the Geography major. The UMA is a great resource for the following:

  • Declaring the Geography major or minor and understanding the requirements
  • Advice about schedule planning, including study abroad
  • Information about research opportunities, scholarships, graduate and professional schools, and/or internships and career opportunities
  • Scheduling conflicts, registration holds, or other major-specific academic policies
  • Information and applications for the Honors Program, supervised independent study, or field study experiences
  • Advice on navigating personal issues that may impact a student's performance in the major or minor

Students are encouraged to utilize the Undergraduate Major Advisor as a resource in whatever ways they need support and assistance within the department. 

Undergraduate Faculty Advisor

In addition to the Undergraduate Major Advisor, the department has a designated Undergraduate Faculty Advisor who can also serve as a valuable resource to students pursuing the Geography major. Students are welcome to ask the Undergraduate Faculty Advisor questions about the content of Geography courses, research opportunities, graduate school, and career options in the field of Geography.

The faculty advisor welcomes students to meet with them during their office hours or by special appointment.



Contact Information

Department of Geography

507 McCone Hall

Phone: 510-642-3903

Fax: 510-642-3370

Visit Department Website

Undergraduate Major Advisor

Ambrosia Shapiro

507 McCone Hall

Department Chair

Jovan Lewis, Ph. D.

597 McCone Hall

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