Majors & Minors

Geography Major | Geography Minor

General Distribution Requirement

All geography courses count toward the general distribution requirement in social science except courses numbered GEOG 116, GEOG 614, GEOG 624, GEOG 634, and GEOG 644. GEOG 116 counts toward the general distribution requirement in mathematics and natural science.

General Education Requirements

Courses that meet the general education requirements in writing, quantitative thinking, internationalism and multiculturalism will be posted on the Registrar’s web page in advance of registration for each semester.

Additional information about general distribution requirements and the general education requirements can be found in the graduation requirements section of this catalog.

Honors Program

The geography department participates in the honors program. Eligibility requirements, application procedures and specific project expectations for the geography department are available from geography department advisors.

Interdisciplinary Studies

Geography is an integrating and synthesizing discipline. The study of the earth’s people and their physical surroundings requires combining the subject matter of many fields of study. The courses which best serve the student interested in interdisciplinary studies include: GEOG 111 - Human Geography of Global Issues, GEOG 225 - Introduction to Geographic Information Systems, GEOG 232 - People, Agriculture and the Environment, GEOG 241 - Urban Geography, GEOG 242 - Regional Geography of the US and Canada, GEOG 243 - Geography of Africa: Local Resources and Livelihoods in a Global Context, GEOG 249 - Regional Geography of Latin America, GEOG 250 - Race, Place and Space, GEOG 252 - Water and Power, GEOG 258 - Geography of Environmental Hazards, GEOG 375 - Rural Landscapes and Livelihoods and GEOG 488 (Comparative Environment).


Over the past several years the department, in cooperation with the Career Development Center, has sponsored preprofessional internships in a variety of natural resource and planning agencies, consulting firms and community organizations. In some internships, students are paid for their work.

Further Preparation

To meet requirements for graduate study, students with majors or minors in geography should select supplementary courses from the social sciences, the natural sciences, and the humanities and fine arts in consultation with their department advisors. It is also desirable that students preparing for graduate study take an advanced GIS course, e.g., GEOG 364 - GIS and Community Partnerships or GEOG 365 - Urban GIS or GEOG 366 - GIS for Global Urban Environments, GEOG 377 - Qualitative Research Methods and one or possibly two 488-level research seminars in the department.

For other opportunities in related areas of study, see the catalog description of urban studies, international studies, environmental studies, computer science, community and global health, and various area studies programs.


The National Council for Geographic Education Award for Excellence of Scholarship is awarded to an outstanding senior majoring in geography. The Geography Department Merit Award is presented to a student or students in recognition of significant contributions to the life of the department. In addition, exceptional majors and minors in geography are eligible for membership in Epsilon Kappa, the Macalester chapter of Gamma Theta Upsilon, the national honor society in geography.  The Hildegard Binder Johnson Prize, named for the founder of the department, is awarded annually to outstanding students in geography.

Topics Courses

GEOG 194, GEOG 294, GEOG 394, GEOG 494

Examination of special topics of interest to faculty and students, such as a study of the processes by which the spatial environment is mentally organized by people, geographical problems in economic development, regions of the world, etc. To be announced at registration. (4 credits)

Independent Study

The department offers independent study options in the form of independent projects, internships, preceptorships and Honors independent projects. For more information contact the department and review the Curriculum section of the catalog.

Geography Major

Major Requirements

The geography major consists of nine required courses and supporting courses in other departments. The classes comprising the major will be selected in a manner that builds from the introductory classes to the advanced seminars and will include the following: a) one foundation course— GEOG 111 - Human Geography of Global Issues ; b) two research methods courses—GEOG 225 - Introduction to Geographic Information Systems , GEOG 378 - Statistical Research Methods in Geography ; c) one area studies course (see the clarification below on this requirement); d) four intermediate courses -- 200 or 300 level; and e) one advanced seminar course numbered GEOG 488, e.g., Transportation Geography.

The area studies course requirement may be satisfied by taking one of the following: a regional geography course in the department (e.g., GEOG 242 - Regional Geography of the US and Canada, GEOG 243 - Geography of Africa: Local Resources and Livelihoods in a Global Context, or GEOG 249 - Regional Geography of Latin America); an approved study abroad program; or the student may petition to count a comprehensive area studies course in another department for regions not covered by the geography department (e.g., Asia). If the student selects a non-geography course to fulfill this requirement, such a course does not count as one of the nine geography courses required for the major.

The senior capstone requirement in geography will be satisfied by completing one GEOG 488 level geography seminar. GEOG 377 - Qualitative Research Methods is strongly recommended for majors planning to attend graduate school.

The department supports four types of emphases within the major: 1) urban and economic geography, 2) nature-society geography, 3) cultural and political geography, and 4) geographic information sciences (GIS). Majors should strive to develop depth in an area, while taking care to sample a breadth of courses across the discipline.

Geography Minor

Minor Requirements

A minor in geography may be achieved by completing five courses selected in consultation with a department faculty member. One of these five courses must be GEOG 111 - Human Geography of Global Issues.

A minor in geography with an emphasis in GIS/Cartography may be achieved by completing five courses, four of which must be in the Geography department:

Required course:

GIS courses in Geography (Choose 3):

GIS-related courses in Geography or other disciplines (Choose 1):