Geography FAQ

FAQs for Geography Majors

Q: May I take Geography classes before I become a major?
Yes, there are many Geography courses with no prerequisites. To declare Geography as a major, students only need to have completed two Geography classes and have at least a 2.0 overall grade point average; see the Undergraduate Admissions Description.

Q: What sort of undergraduate degrees are offered in Geography?
The Department offers three undergraduate degrees: a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Geography, a BA in Geography with an Emphasis in Geographic Information Science, and a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Physical Geography. The majors are designed to provide a fundamental background for students seeking an interdisciplinary understanding of our planet and the varied human and natural systems that interrelate within it. For more, see Majoring in Geography.

Q: Can I take courses outside of Geography for credit towards the major?
A maximum of eight upper division units from related fields may be included for Geography credit for a BA, selected without petition from a list of approved alternatives in the department office (see Related Courses) or from other related courses by petition. BS students are offered several options, including a specific list of related courses from Biology and Earth Science to supplement their selection of systematics courses.

Q: How do I declare a major in Geography?
Make an appointment with your Faculty Undergraduate Advisor. Your Faculty Undergraduate Advisor is determined by the first initial of your last name, and can be found on the Undergraduate Advising page. *Please note the following:

  • Bring an unofficial transcript (you can order one on GOLD).
  • Bring a copy of your New Student Profile. If you started school as a freshman in Fall 2002 (or later) or you began as a transfer Winter 2003 (or later), you can print a copy of your New Student Profile (you will need to use your UCSB NetID and password). If you started at UCSB before these dates, you can ask for a copy of your New Student Profile at the Office of the Registrar
  • Provide copies of credit memos, if you ever took a course at another college or university after beginning at UCSB.
  • Fill out the petition form that the department will give you.
  • If you are changing from one major to another within the College of Letters and Science and you have not yet completed 155 units, you will leave the petition in the department, and the department will forward the approved petition to the Office of the Registrar.

Q: What is an “add code” and how do I get one?
If a class isn’t full or closed and you have the prerequisites, you can register for it yourself, using Gold. If a class is almost full, it is closed for registration in order to save some spots for our junior transfer students, new majors, etc. However, even though a class is closed for registration, you still might be able to get in by obtaining an “add code” from the instructor of the class.Approval (add) codes are a means for an academic department or course instructor to allow a student to register, bypassing registration restrictions on the course. Examples of restrictions a code will bypass are:

  • Instructor or department approval required prior to registration
  • Major limitations
  • Level limitations
  • Closed or full classes

Geography faculty/instructors are responsible for distributing add codes for their courses. To obtain one, you will have to go to the first meeting of the class and request one from the instructor:

  • Attend the first day of class where there will be a waiting list for you to sign. Prerequisites are screened for each individual student on the list.
  • Return to the second day of lecture (on rare occasion the third or fourth day) where add codes will be distributed by the instructor.
  • Please do not ask the Undergraduate Advisor for add codes! These can only be given by the instructor in class!

Q: What other majors combine well with Geography for a double major?
Environmental Studies is the number one candidate-as of June 2005, 465 Geography alumnae graduated with a double major in Geography and Environmental Studies. Other majors that are compatible with Geography include Computer Science, Earth Science, Statistical Science, Business Economics, Biological Sciences, Linguistics, and many more. Students with interest and talent in two separate major fields may propose completion of a double major. In their proposal, they must estimate the number of units they will need to complete in satisfying degree requirements and the term in which they will become eligible to graduate. In general, double majors are approved for students who demonstrate that they can meet all degree requirements without exceeding 200 units of credit from all institutions attended. Students who receive approval for a double major will be allowed to continue their studies at UCSB only through the final quarter listed on their proposal. No more than 8 units may be applied simultaneously to the upper-division requirements of the two majors. See

Q: Please explain the procedure for graduation.
Progress checks are an evaluation of academic work completed toward meeting degree requirements, and you are strongly advised to have a Progress Check audit with the undergraduate advisor at least two terms before graduation. For comprehensive details regarding the requirements for graduation, rules and regulations, declaration of candidacy, degree evaluation, commencement ceremonies, and the issuance of diplomas, see “The Path to Graduation” at

Q: I would like to participate in the Education Abroad Program. Will this affect my graduation in any way?
Because there is usually a delay in processing grades for courses completed abroad, students participating in the Education Abroad Program are asked to postpone declaring candidacy to graduate at least one quarter beyond the final academic term abroad. For more information, see the Undergraduate Advisor and the EAP web site at

Q: What sorts of jobs can I get with a degree in Geography?
Geography majors are among the most marketable of all majors, according to placement counselors. As the Association of American Geographers Career Guide points out, Geography’s theories and methods provide analytical techniques applicable to a wide range of questions asked over a broad spectrum of occupations. For students planning to end their formal education with the bachelor’s degree, a major in Geography provides marketable skills and the broad perspectives on environment and society that enable graduates to move beyond entry-level positions. Geography also provides a sound foundation for students who plan to enter graduate work in a variety of fields, from geography and the physical and social sciences to business, land use planning, law, and medicine. Geography majors find work as public sector transportation planners; environmental impact analysts; airline route specialists; import / export and shipping logistics planners; geodemographic analysts and marketers; strategic planners in banking, insurance, and real estate; software developers; web designers and programmers; urban and regional planners; computer cartographers using Geographic Information Systems; international trade consultants; teachers at all levels; studies of satellite imagery/remote sensing, climate change analysis, and land use/ land cover change; and much, much more. The following links provide fascinating commentaries on people with geographic training who make use of their knowledge in careers one might not expect to find them in: “Hidden Geographers” and “Geography Jobs.”

Q: How do I take a class for directed readings or independent study?
Choose a professor with research interests similar to your own and discuss your idea for a research project with them. Once you have both agreed on the work to be done, complete the Geography 198/199/199RA Course Proposal Form, sign it, have the professor sign it and return it to the Geography Office for the Chair’s signature. The Undergraduate Advisor will keep it on file. NOTE: The prerequisites for Geography 198, 199 & 199RA are as follows: 1) upper-division standing (junior or senior), 2) minimum 3.0 GPA in the preceding 3 quarters, 3) at least 2 upper-division Geography courses completed, and 4) instructor and departmental approval.

Readings in Geography (Geog 198) (read the catalog description for more information): Use Geog 198 if you are interested in further research into an area of geography like the history of cartography or bioresource management or whatever. Ask a professor (preferably one who has similar interests) to oversee your project and go from there. You’ll probably decide on a book or a number of journal articles, and then you’ll either write a paper or give an oral presentation. You and the faculty member will decide on what’s required of you and how many units you will earn. Letter grade only.

Independent Study (Geog 199) (read the catalog description for more information): This is similar to Geog 198 in that you need a faculty sponsor. You bring an idea to a professor and ask if they’ll supervise. It can be nearly anything that’s geographic in nature: a GIS, cartography or remote sensing project, a research paper, a survey, or whatever else you can dream up. Be creative! Depending on how organized you are, the professor might give you suggestions or point you in another direction. This would be a great way to begin research that you could use in graduate school or in the workplace. Letter grade only.

Research Assistanceship (Geog 199RA) (read the catalog description for more information): This is when you assist a professor or graduate student on one of their projects doing research, entering data, digitizing, or otherwise helping them along in their project. You gain valuable experience and can gather ideas for your own research in the future. P/NP only.

Q: How do I get keycard access to Geography labs?
Please see Smart Authorization Keycard access to select labs.