Why Geography?

Q: What is geography?
A: Geography is an extremely diverse, dynamic, and multidisciplinary field that seeks to understand the Earth with all of its human and environmental complexities. Geography is the study of “what is where, why there, and why care?”

Q: How do you know if you want to be a geographer?
A: Are you interested in several of the following subjects?

  • Biology, climatology, geology, hydrology, and other natural sciences.
  • Anthropology, economics, history, sociology, and other social sciences.
  • Computer science, mathematics, statistics, systems science, and other formal sciences.

If you said yes, then geography may be the major for you!

Can you say yes to a majority of these questions (AAG 1997)?

  • Are you curious about places?
  • Do you like to study maps?
  • Do you prefer the window seat on airplanes?
  • Are you interested in foreign areas?
  • Do you like to work outside?
  • Are you a problem solver?
  • Are you interested in connections between people and the environment?
  • Are you good at seeing connections among seemingly unrelated processes?
  • Can you adapt to rapid technological change?
  • Do you try to see the big picture?

If so, then geography may be the major for you!

Would you like to answer one or more of the following questions (NRC 2010)?

  • How are we changing the physical environment of Earth’s surface?
  • How can we best preserve biological diversity and protect endangered ecosystems?
  • How are climate and other environmental changes affecting the vulnerabilities of coupled human-environment systems?
  • Where and how will 10 billion people live?
  • How will we sustainably feed everyone in the coming decade and beyond?
  • How does where we live affect our health?
  • How is the movement of people, goods, and ideas changing the world?
  • How is economic globalization affecting inequality?
  • How are geopolitical shifts influencing peace and stability?
  • How might we better observe, analyze, and visualize a changing world?
  • What are the societal implications of citizen mapping and mapping citizens?

If you said yes, then geography may be the major for you!

Q: What kinds of skills will geography teach me?
A: Geography provides highly marketable academic and life skills as indicated by the broad spectrum of careers pursued by geographers.

As a geography major, you have opportunities to develop many specific skills, including the abilities to:

  • think spatially;
  • read, analyze, and interpret maps, graphs, and tables;
  • describe, analyze, and interpret the spatial dimensions of human and physical phenomena;
  • synthetize the spatio-temporal interactions between nature and society;
  • use magnetic compasses and GPS instruments for land navigation and map making;
  • perform descriptive and inferential statistical analyses on geographic data;
  • employ various tools and techniques to collect human and physical geographical data;
  • create functional and aesthetically pleasing maps using GIS software;
  • acquire, preprocess, evaluate, analyze, and interpret remotely sensed data using stereoscopes and remote sensing software; and
  • capture, manage, visualize, analyze, and interpret spatial data using GIS software.

In addition, as a geography major, you have opportunities to develop many general skills, including the abilities to:

  • think critically, creatively, and practically;
  • communicate (listen, read, speak, write) effectively;
  • use word processing, spreadsheet, database, graphics, and presentation software;
  • design, organize, and implement independent projects using various materials (e.g., professional journal articles, books, field notes, maps, and survey plats) from various sources (e.g., library, internet, and government offices);
  • work cooperatively with others;
  • meet deadlines and manage time effectively;
  • manage complex projects;
  • anticipate, respond to, and manage change constructively;
  • accept, learn, and adapt to new technology; and
  • learn on your own.

Q: What kinds of jobs will geography prepare me for me
A: Geographers may find work in a variety of employment sectors, including education; businesses; local, state, and federal agencies; and nonprofit organizations. Students with a geography degree from NMSU, for example, have moved on to take positions as GIS analysts; remote sensing specialists; cartographers, transportation planners; urban and regional planners; emergency management planners; environmental consultants; location analysts; market researchers; strategic planners in insurance, banking, and real estate; software developers; and teachers at all levels. However, because of the diverse skills portfolio of geography graduates, geographers are employed in many other jobs as well.

For more information about careers in geography, check out the following links:

Why should I study geography at New Mexico State University?
A: There are many reasons why you should study geography at NMSU.

  • Courses.  The Department of Geography at NMSU offers a diversity of courses in physical, human, and regional geography as well as in geographic information science and technology. The courses allow you to become a well-rounded professional geographer with both a broad understanding of the discipline and a deep understanding of a topic area of your choice.
  • Field Trips.  The Geography Departmet provides many opportunities for outdoor adventures. Various courses take you outside to learn how to navigate with map, compass, and GPS; create maps with geospatial tools; sample soils or vegetation; conduct surveys; or engage in landscape forensics. Some courses take you on virtual field trips to near and distant places around the world.
  • Computer Facilities.  The Geography Computing Lab is equipped with powerful computers with large monitors and various kinds of geospatial analytical software (e.g., ArcGIS, ERDAS, and ENVI) and standard office software (e.g., Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint). A number of courses (e.g., the cartography, geographic information systems, and remote sensing courses) are taught in this lab facility. As a geography student, you have access to the lab equipment not only during classes but also during open lab hours.
  • Field Equipment.  The Geography Field Lab houses many different kinds of equipment (e.g., GPS units, compasses, radios, measurement tapes, soil augers) that are used during classes with a field component. As a geography student, you may also use this gear for research projects.
  • Student Organizations.  Four different geography student organizations (Geography Club, Geography Graduate Student Organization, NMSU Student Chapter of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing) offer you opportunities to network and participate in activities ranging from study groups to potlucks, hikes, camping trips, career development workshops, and colloquia.
  • Student Awards.   Several student awards are available to geography majors through the Department of Geography. In addition, the Department provides a list of external opportunities on its website and announces new opportunities on its Facebook page.
  • Research Opportunities.  Geography majors may conduct research with the Geography Department faculty either through funded grants or through independent studies courses. In addition, research positions are available regularly in the Spatial Applications Research Center.
  • Interdepartmental Ties.  The Geography Department’s commitment to deliver high-quality education in the areas of human-environment relationships and geographic information science and technology is strengthened by its close ties to a variety of affiliate departments at NMSU (e.g., Animal and Range Sciences; Anthropology; Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business; Biology; Civil Engineering; Computer Science; Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Ecology; Geological Sciences; History; or Plant and Environmental Sciences) as well as on- and off-campus private and public sector partners (e.g., Jornada Long-Term Ecological Research Program, Physical Science Laboratory, Bureau of Land Management, or National Park Service). As a geography major, you may tap into those resources, either as part of your coursework or as an additional way to build your resume.
  • News.  The Geography Department is committed to keeping you informed about additional course offerings; extracurricular activities; career development opportunities; student, staff, and faculty success stories; news and events in the larger geography community; and more.
  • Faculty and Staff.  Faculty and staff in the Department are dedicated to helping you negotiate bureaucratic hurdles, get connected with the right people, and address whatever concerns you may have. If you stick around long enough, we’ll know your name!