Academic Programs

Get the Geographic Edge

Geographers study the differences in human activities from one place to another, assess human impacts and responses to the environment, and resolve vital questions about current national and international situations. Geographers also pursue more theoretical inquiry into the major problems of human society by examining spatial structure and processes using various techniques of mathematical and cartographic analysis of spatial phenomena, computer mapping, geographic information systems, and remote sensing. A typical and traditional problem in geography concerns human impact on the land. Air pollution, contamination of waterways, decaying urban areas, destruction of the landscape, and the like, can only be well understood by examining the interrelations of factors such as technology, population density, legal structure, affluence, cultural traditions, and environment.

Undergraduate Opportunities

Undergraduate students may pursue a traditional major in geography in the form of either a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree. Students may also earn a geography minor, choose the geography pre-planning option, or seek an Undergraduate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Graduate Options

At the graduate level, the Department of Geography also confers the Master of Arts (M.A.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees. Drawing upon the research interests and experience of the faculty, the department's core areas of geographic inquiry are shown on the Venn diagram below. Much of the research conducted by faculty and graduate students incorporates one, or more, of these themes.

venn diagram

At the master's level, students receive training in the fundamentals of geographic thought and research in preparation for either a professional career or advanced study.   Master's students in geography may choose one of the three programs leading to the M.A. degree. The thesis option requires 30 hours of graduate credit, including 6 hours of credit for a thesis.  The report option is a non-thesis program designed for students who have a specific professional goal in mind and who do not intend to continue for a doctoral degree.  The report option for teachers is for students who intend to pursue, or continue, careers in public school or junior college teaching. A Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Science (GIScience) is also available, which can be earned as a stand-alone certificate or in conjunction with either a master's or doctoral degree.

At the Ph.D. level, students are encouraged to pursue original research that fits with the core areas of the department and complements the rural and land grant tradition of Kansas State University.  The doctoral degree is designed to develop and enhance a student's knowledge and ability to conduct original independent research that makes a scholarly contribution to the student's areas of specialization. The Ph.D. program fosters (1) an understanding of scientific inquiry, (2) knowledge of the structure of the geographic discipline, its history, issues, methods, and trends, (3) proficiency in appropriate analytical and technical skills, and (4) competency in communicating the results of research.

Learning Resources

The department is centrally located on campus near Hale Library, most classrooms, and the K-State Student Union. The university's library system is amply stocked with research resources for most geographical studies.  Department resources include the Geographic Information Systems Spatial Analysis Laboratory (GISSAL), the Paleoenvironmental Laboratory, the Remote Sensing Research Laboratory, the River Systems Research Group, hyperspectral radiometers, GPS receivers, a GIS/Remote Sensing Computer Teaching Laboratory, photogrammetric instrumentation, and a high definition videoconferencing system. Software tools for research include a campus site license for Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) products and widely used statistical and remote sensing programs such as ERDAS Imagine and ENVI.

Career Opportunities

Career opportunities in geography are diverse and employment prospects after receipt of the degree are excellent.  Employment opportunities include positions in business, government, and education. Federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, National Imagery and Mapping Agency, Bureau of the Census, and Bureau of Land Management employ numerous geographers each year, particularly those with environmental or spatial techniques and analysis expertise.  State and local agencies employ geographers with specialties in many areas, including environmental geography, physical geography, health, cultural geography, planning, and spatial techniques.  Geographers with training in geospatial techniques such as cartography, remote sensing, and geographic information systems (GIS) are also valued in the private sector by a variety of businesses.

The geographer’s training in location analysis, social and environmental problems, and a variety of spatial techniques including remote sensing, geographic information systems, and computer cartography make the geographer particularly valuable in the private sector. Job titles such as geographic information systems manager, environmental planner, market researcher, and risk analyst are just a few of the varied positions held by geographers in business.