Geography is the study of the surface of the Earth - the physical and human landscapes that, together, make our planet unique. Geography is the science that seeks to understand and explain spatial distributions; where things are located and, more importantly, why things are located where they are. To answer these questions, geography is an integrating science. Geography brings together elements of both the physical and social sciences to explain the spatial distribution of phenomena, how and why places differ from one another, and how people interact with their environment.
Within geography there are two main branches. As shown below, human geography is largely concerned with the processes that shape the human landscape. Physical geography, on the other hand, is largely concerned with the processes that shape the physical landscape.
Although most professional geographers tend to focus their research on one side of the discipline or the other, ultimately, geographers are tied together by a common interest in geographic information and its application to regional geography, environmental studies, and geographic education.
Although maps are at the heart of any geographic analysis, geographers often rely on a combination of research techniques. A geographic analysis may involve quantitative analytical techniques (statistics or mathematical models), field and laboratory methods, and geographic information technologies (e.g. cartography, geographic information systems, remote sensing.
Today there are many career opportunities for students majoring in geography. Perhaps the best source of information concerning careers in geography can be found at the Association of American Geographers home page. The link below will open the AAG home page in a new window. From there, click on "Careers in Geography" to explore a wide range of topics including:
- What can you do as a geographer?
- Geographic Fields
- How do you know if you want to be a geographer?
- What is geography?
- What will it take to get a good job?
- Job-Search and Internship Guide For Geographers
- Geographer Contact List for North America
- Professional Portfolios
- Geographers At Work
- Interactive Map of Geography Departments in the United States and Canada
Too often, students graduate from Universities without the skills expected of educated people. These include effective communication, creative and critical thinking and other skills discussed below. Most classes deal with a specific subject and the course work is strictly limited to that topic. In this context the broader aspects of education are often given short shrift and are typically ignored altogether. General Education requirements help to some extent, but not enough. In geography courses at Texas Tech University these broader aspects of education are deliberately incorporated into the coursework. In so doing, we better prepare our graduates for successful futures.
We see three complementary goals for students in geography.
- Learning geography as part of a liberal arts education.
- Preparation for employment by learning directly marketable skills.
- Development of skills expected of educated individuals.
By focusing on these goals, students are trained to be effective in their chosen careers (geography, education or other) or are prepared to continue their education in graduate school or other professional programs.
Geographical Knowledge. Students graduate with a thorough knowledge of the discipline of geography, including the core areas of human geography, physical geography, geography of regions, and geographic techniques. Students not only learn the established knowledge of these subjects, but also how research is done in these various fields.
Directly Marketable Skills. Our techniques courses prepare students for entry level employment in geography-related jobs. Courses in geographic techniques that can lead to employment for graduates include cartography, geographic information systems, remote sensing and field methods. As part of the geography program instruction is offered in each of these areas. In addition students are required to take a quantitative course or courses to improve their marketable research skills.
Important Skills. Educated individuals are expected to have certain skills that are crucial to a successful life. These include verbal, oral and visual communication; critical and creative thinking; logical, scientific and other approaches to problem solving; ability to work individually and in groups; the ability to independently learn complex topics; and leadership. The geography program offers courses which incorporate these skills into the curriculum.