Scope and Objectives

Geography is the study of the natural world and how humans have changed it. It examines the physical Earth and life on it, looking at the world’s diverse cultures and economies and at the environmental problems they produce.

Geography addresses many issues about the contemporary world. Some are local, such as documenting the development of ethnic neighborhoods within Los Angeles. Others are regional, such as determining the best locations for nature reserves in California. Many are global, such as the study of greenhouse gases and how they affect climates, culture and resource issues in developing countries, and the impact of information technologies on people in different places.

The work of geographers often takes them out of the classroom into the field to collect information on topics that range from the settlement of new immigrants to the distribution of endangered species, the erosion of shorelines, and the location of high-tech businesses. On other occasions, geographers work in laboratories, using techniques such as the computer analysis of satellite photographs to look for changes in river courses and the computer modeling of shifts in global vegetation patterns and the distribution of human populations. Research is also conducted in libraries and archives, probing documentary sources on human interaction with the natural world and how that world is imagined.

Department of Geography graduates have a wide variety of career opportunities because of their combination of geographical/environmental perspectives and technical skills. UCLA geography students have gone on to become university scholars, school teachers, members of governmental and nongovernmental planning, development, and conservation agencies, business executives, lawyers, and specialists in geographical information analysis for government and private business. Because of its sophisticated focus on the relationship of the global to the local, geography is particularly useful for those who wish to pursue careers with an international focus.

The department has one of the top programs in the U.S. and offers two undergraduate majors that lead to the Bachelor of Arts degree: Geography and Geography/Environmental Studies. The Geography major combines a broad background in the field with specific tracks. The Geography/Environmental Studies major focuses on the impact of humans on the natural environment. Also offered are undergraduate minors in Geography, Geography/Environmental Studies, and Geospatial Information Systems and Technologies.

The department also offers the PhD degree in Geography (an MA degree may be earned in the process of completing PhD requirements). Student research projects are conducted in collaboration with a faculty adviser and advisory committee. Graduate students work in most major areas of geography and on projects around the world. Graduate alumni of the department have teaching positions at many leading universities in the U.S. and abroad.