Major and Minor Program Details

The Undergraduate Program

You may download the following information as the UC Berkeley Geography Department Undergraduate Handbook in pdf format by clicking here.

The Geography Department provides a broad-ranging perspective on humans as inhabitants and transformers of the face of the earth. The search for this kind of understanding involves thorough study of (a) the interlocking systems of the natural environment (climate, landforms, oceans, biota) and the evaluation of natural resources; (b) those diverse historical, cultural, social, economic, and political structures and processes which affect the location and spatial organization of population groups and their activities; and (c) significant geographical units, whether described as cities, regions, nations, states or landscapes, where integrated interpretation can be attempted, and a variety of problems thereby better understood.

The Geography Major

The undergraduate major in geography therefore includes the study of various aspects of cultural, human, physical, and regional geography as well as cartography, quantitative methods, and fieldwork. Backgrounds in the natural and social sciences, history, and statistical methods will be found useful to the geography major, the emphasis depending on the student’s particular interests. It allows specialization in the area of the student’s chief interest, and assumes that the student has previously achieved some breadth in the basics of geography through completion of the lower division requirements. A late-declaring major (determined as a Senior) who has not completed one of the lower division requirements will be required to complete an upper division equivalent to be chosen in consultation with the Student Academic Advisor (SAA).

It is not necessary to declare an option formally, but it is necessary to complete one for graduation. In some cases there are course options within the major options. Occasionally, due to the unavailability of a course listed in the option, substitution of another course is necessary. Any such substitutions must be approved by SAA or a Faculty Undergraduate Advisor.

Most courses are offered only once a year; therefore careful scheduling is important to avoid course “jam-up” or situations in which some courses cannot be taken due to the necessity of completing a left-over Letters and Science or Departmental requirement.

Major Requirements

Lower Division: All majors complete three (3) lower division courses, one from each group:

Basic Physical Geography
GEOG 40 (Introduction to Earth System Science)
or equivalent of the above

World Geography
GEOG 10 (World Regions, Peoples, and States)
GEOG 20 (Globalization)
GEOG 31 (Justice, Nature, and the Geography of Identity)
GEOG 35 (Global Ecology and Development)
or equivalent of the above

Regional Geographies
GEOG 50AC (California)
GEOG C32 (Introduction to Development)
GEOG 51 (Political Economy of Development in East Asia)
GEOG 70AC (The Urban Experience)
or equivalent of the above

NOTE: Transfer students who have had introductory courses elsewhere should consult with the SAA in order to avoid repeating lower division work.

Upper Division: Majors may select from one of the following plans:

5-2-1 option
Majors must take at least eight (8) upper division courses. Five (5) of these must be in one specialty group and two (2) from the other. One (1) course from the methodology group must also be completed. Everyone choosing the Earth System Science option must take Geography 140A (Physical Landscapes: Process and Form). Everyone choosing the Geography of Economy, Culture & Society option must take Geography 110 (Economic Geography of the Industrial World) -OR- Geography 130 (Food and the Environment).

4-2-2 option
Majors must take at least eight (8) upper division courses. Four (4) of these must be in one specialty group and two (2) from the other. Two (2) courses from the methodology group must also be completed. Everyone choosing the Earth System Science option must take Geography 140A (Physical Landscapes: Process and Form). Everyone choosing the Geography of Economy, Culture & Society option must take Geography 110 (Economic Geography of the Industrial World) -OR- Geography 130 (Food and the Environment).

Specialty Groups:

Earth System Science
C135. Water Resources and the Environment
C136. Terrestrial Hydrology
137. Top Ten Global Environmental Problems
C139. Atmospheric Physics & Dynamics
140A. Physical Landscapes: Process and Form
140B. Physiography & Geomorphology Extremes
142. Climate Dynamics
143. Global Change and Biogeochemistry
144. Principles of Meteorology
C145. Geological Oceanography
C146. Communicating Ocean Science
147. Communicating Climate Science
148. Biogeography
171. Spec. Topics in Physical Geography
173B. Cross-listed Topics in Physical Geography
175. Undergraduate Seminar

Economy, Culture & Society
110. Economic Geography of the Industrial World
C112. History of Development/Underdevelopment
123. Postcolonial Geographies
125. The American City
130. Food and the Environment
137. Top Ten Global Environmental Problems
138. Political Ecology of the Third World
150. California
C152. Multi-Cultural Europe
153. Social & Economical Development in East Asia
C155. Race, Space and Inequality
157. The Politics of the Anthropocene
C157. Central American Peoples & Cultures
159AC. The Southern Border
C160A. American Cultural Landscapes, 1600-1900
C160B. American Cultural Landscapes, 1900-1970
164. Geog. of Economic Development in China
170. Selected Topics
172. Topics in Social Geography
173A. Cross-listed Topics in Human Geography
175. Undergraduate Seminar


80. Digital Worlds
180. Field Methods for Physical Geography
181. Urban Field Study
182. Field Study of Buildings and Cities
183. Cartographic Representation
185. Earth System Remote Sensing
187. Geographic Information Analysis
C188. Geographic Information Systems

**Courses in bold type are required within the speciality they are listed.

Honors Program

Departmental Honors

Students with an overall grade point average of 3.5 or higher on all work completed at the University, and an average of 3.5 in courses taken in the Geography Department, may apply for the Honors Program, with the consent of a departmental advisor. The application should be made at the beginning of the senior year. A senior in the Honors Program must complete Geography H195A and/or H195B consecutively, in which a thesis is required (usually over two semesters). Any faculty member in the Department may administer an honors course. It is suggested that you approach faculty members from whom you’ve taken classes about being your mentor. After deciding on the number of units (1-4 units) you wish to undertake, see the Student Academic Advisor for a course control number (CCN) and the departmental application. Upon successful completion of the program and graduation, the designation of “with Honors”, “with High Honors”, or “with Highest Honors” will be noted on your transcript and diploma.

College Honors

The College of Letters and Science’s awarding of “Distinction”, “High Distinction”, and “Highest Distinction” is based solely on the grade-point average established for the year in which the student graduates. The required minimum grade-point averages for this award may vary from year to year. This notation will appear on the student’s diploma, on the List of Certificates, Degrees and Distinction, and on their Berkeley record when they graduate.

Academic Performance Requirement

Students in the major must maintain an overall grade point average of a C- or better in upper division courses used to fulfill the requirements for the major. All courses required for the Geography major must be taken for a letter grade. Geography H195A, H195B, 197, 198, and 199 cannot be used to satisfy a major or minor program requirements.

Note about maintaining minimum grades: According to an Academic Senate rule, if a student fails to get at least a 2.0 in any unit undertaken in the major, the department can dismiss him/her from the major, and send the student back to the College to select another major at which he/she will be more successful. The Geography Department would be reluctant to do that, but the faculty advisors may review a student’s file it if at any time his/her grade points in any course taken in the major dips below a 2.0. Thus a student cannot accumulate a number of D’s and F’s in Geography, while managing to pass a number of other courses with a C- or better, and expect to be allowed to complete the major. If at any time you need help, don’t fail to take action. Make an appointment to talk to the Student Academic Advisor, one of the undergraduate faculty advisors, or your instructors.

Code of Ethics and Climate Standards of the Undergraduate Geography Program

The Department of Geography at the University of California, Berkeley offers one of the finest undergraduate degrees in the world. The department prides itself in having a harmonious and respectful space where every person in our community receives respect and civility from one another.

As a declared major, this department can create opportunities that are currently unavailable to most of you. Each of you must uphold high ethical standards to protect these opportunities. Any student who does not uphold these standards should not expect to declare or continue to major in the Geography Department.

Code of Ethics of the Undergraduate Geography Program

Neither this department, nor its students, will condone cheating, lying, or any other misrepresentations. Moreover, anyone who willingly conceals these activities will be considered accomplices and equally culpable.

All undergraduate students are expected to comply with the code of ethics of the Undergraduate Program as stated above. In doing so, we commit ourselves to upholding the standards of honesty, integrity and personal responsibility.

Violations of the code of ethics will be referred to the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards and can be grounds for dismissal from the major.

Climate Standards of the Undergraduate Geography Program

As part of our educational community the undergraduate student is required to adhere to certain responsibilities. We expect of our students the highest ethical behavior and they are responsible for contributing to an environment that is free from discrimination and harassment on the basis of categories including race, color, national origin, gender, age and sexual orientation/identity. This department depends on the personal integrity of each of us. Your grades and your degree will mean little without a firm foundation upon which to base these credentials.

Violations of the climate standards will be referred to the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards and can be grounds for dismissal from the major.

The Minor Program in Geography

The requirements for the minor program are as follows, effective Fall 1997:

A minimum of five upper division courses taken for a letter grade. Students must maintain an overall grade point average of 2.0 for all courses taken for the minor. A minimum of three courses must be taken on the Berkeley campus. Students must take at least one course in the physical area and one course in the human area from among the courses listed in the range of 109-173. Students may select courses in the range of 175-188, but if so, there are several that have limited enrollment and require permission of the instructor. (See Page 2 for course breakdown within each option.) Students should contact a Student Academic Advisor (SAA) to obtain a list of the courses being offered each semester, which fall into the two designated areas.

Once you have completed all of the requirements for the minor, you must see the SAA to fill out the “Confirmation of Minor Program” petition. You should plan on filing this petition with the SAA during finals week during the semester in which the last course is taken. It is the student’s responsibility to fill out this petition.

Departmental Orientation

The Geography Department is located in 507 McCone Hall (phone number: 510-642-3903). The Student Academic Advisor offices are in Room 509A and 517. The Faculty and Graduate Student Instructors’ Offices are located in McCone Hall; please see the Department Directory for exact locations.

Departmental Advising

The Student Academic Advisors, Marjorie Ensor and Bobby Ewing, will help you to plan and execute your course work in the major program and answer questions concerning requirements and course substitutions. Professors Jake Kosek and Laurel Larsen are the Designated Undergraduate Faculty Advisors for 2016-2017. They may be consulted on any other questions concerning the major during their office hours or by special appointment. Students are also encouraged to seek substantive advice on academic matters from other faculty who share their interests or with whom they have had classes. Information on general Letters and Science requirements should be obtained from a College advisor in the L&S office in 206 Evans Hall.

Transfer Students

The Geography Department does not rule on the acceptability of course work and units earned at other universities towards University requirements; the College of Letters and Science determine this. The Geography Undergraduate Advisors, or the Student Academic Advisor acting on their behalf, will determine whether geography courses taken at other institutions fulfill any of the major requirements. Most courses taken at other campuses in the UC system and other major universities may be applied toward the major program. Most community college courses in cultural, physical and economic geography are accepted as equivalent to the lower division course requirements in the Berkeley Geography Department. Courses in general Geography (e.g., World Regional Geography) are sometimes accepted as fulfilling one of the lower division course requirements.

If you wish to substitute a course taken elsewhere for a departmental requirement, you must provide the course description, syllabus, and/or textbooks used in the courses in question. You should also bring proof of taking such courses (i.e., a copy of your transcript or a copy of your Academic Progress Report (APR) showing the transfer credit. APRs are accessible via Cal Central). If a substitution is approved, it must be in writing (either by memo or email from Faculty Advisor and or SAA) and noted on your APR.

Transfer students should be aware of University requirements pertaining to the number of units to be applied toward graduation that must be taken in residence at Berkeley in consecutive semesters (senior residency) of course work on this campus.

Declaration of Major

Students may declare the Geography major after they have completed at least 2 out of the 3 lower division requirements, completed at least 30 units, have a C (2.0) cumulative grade point average, and no prior infraction of the Undergraduate Code of Ethics and Climate Standard (refer to page 7 of the handbook). Students should declare by the end of their sophomore year at Berkeley, or by the start of their second semester if they are a transfer student. To declare, see a Student Academic Advisor to obtain a “Petition to Declare a Major”.

Residence in the Major

All students must complete at least one semester of residence in the major before graduation. At least a C average (2.0) is required on all coursework undertaken at the University, and a C average is required on all coursework required for the major program, as well as a C average on all upper division courses required for the major.

CAl CENTRAL Registration System

Cal Central is an interactive computer system that allows you to enroll in classes via the Internet. You can access Cal Central here:

Enrollment consists of two phases plus an adjustment period. Phase I begins towards the end of the previous semester and allows undergraduates to enroll, on the basis of randomly assigned appointment times, in 10 units plus one physical education activity course, for a maximum of 10.5 units. Phase II begins immediately after Phase I ends, extends until two weeks before instruction begins, and allows students on the basis of randomly assigned appointment times to complete their class schedule. The Adjustment Period starts after Phase II ends, and continues through the fifth week of classes. During the Adjustment Period, students have access to all transactions on a first-come, first-serve basis. After the Adjustment Period, students are restricted to using Cal Central for inquiry only, with the exception of changing the grading option from letter grade to pass/not pass by the tenth week. Any subsequent class schedule adjustments must be done via petition to the Dean. Please consult the current Schedule of Classes and your registration packet for complete up-to-date Cal Central instructions and information regarding enrollment and registration procedures.

Class Workload

A 15-unit class schedule is considered a normal course load; a class schedule totaling at least 13 units per semester (including repeated courses for which unit credit toward graduation may not be allowed) is required; a maximum of 20.5 units per semester is permitted. The major department can approve exceptions to the maximum; please see a SAA. Exceptions to the minimum must be approved through a College Advisor in the College of Letters and Science (L&S).

Double Major

Geography may be part of a double major. Regulations regarding the declaration of a double major may be found in the “Earning Your Degree,” the announcement of the College of Letters & Science. An application can be obtained in the Letters and Science Office, 206 Evans Hall. Applications must be submitted one full semester prior to graduation. Double majors should make it a point to see a Geography Undergraduate Advisor early in order to plan their programs.


Students must arrange for the completion of Incompletes with the instructor of the course before the end of the semester. Incompletes will be assigned only if the coursework has been of passing quality but due to circumstances beyond the student’s control that work is incomplete. The remaining work to remove the “I” must be completed as follows:

Fall – no later than the first day of Fall semester classes the next year.
Spring – no later than the first day of Spring semester classes the next year.
Summer – no later than the first day of Spring semester classes the next year.

If the “I” is not made up within the periods indicated, the “I” converts to an “F”. Please consult the “Announcement of the College of L&S” for a complete description of regulations governing “I” grades. The following are excerpts:

1. To remove an “I” after you have completed the remaining work, submit a “Petition for Grade and Grade Points in Incomplete Course” within the required time period. This form is available at the Office of the Registrar and the College of Letters and Science advising unit.

2. An “I” grade may be revised by repeating the courses (no petition required).

Berkeley Undergraduate Geographers (BUGs)

The Berkeley Undergraduate Geographers (BUG’s) is a group organized by undergraduate Geography students in the department. “BUG’s” has an elected Body of Officers and holds frequent meetings during the semester. Field trips, informal lectures, picnics and potlucks, movie nights, lunchtime talks, and T-shirt sales are some past activities organized by BUG’s. BUG’s is open to all students interested in geography. For events and meeting times check their Facebook page. For more information email them at

Graduation Procedure

The first semester of your senior year you should:

  1. Arrange with the Student Advisor to have a degree check on major requirements.
  2. In the semester before you file for candidacy for the BA degree, arrange to have a degree check of your Letters and Science breadth requirements at 206 Evans Hall.
  3. As of December 1, 2016, most undergraduates registered at UC Berkeley for Fall 2016, with 8 or more terms completed (4 or more terms for junior transfer students) on their record, were automatically opted in to the Spring 2017 degree list. If you were opted in, the note “Spring 2017 is your Final Term” appears in the Notifications section of your CalCentral dashboard. This note does not mean that your current enrollments have been verified as satisfying your remaining degree requirements, only that you are on the Spring 2017 degree list. If you were not opted into the Spring 2017 degree list for any reason but plan to finish your requirements during this semester, or if you are not registered at UC Berkeley for Spring 2017 but plan to graduate, then print a Degree List Add fillable form and follow the instructions on the form.

    Note: If you are not automatically opted in to the degree list, then you must make sure to add yourself before the deadline. You will not graduate if you fail to place yourself on the degree list even if you have met all degree requirements. If you do not add yourself before the deadline, then your official graduation date will be delayed and you will need to add to the degree list in the following term.
    Note: Deadline to add to the Spring 2017 degree list is March 10, 2017.

    Opting Out of (Dropping From) the Spring 2017 Degree List

    If you believe that you have been added to the Spring 2017 degree list in error, or have a valid reason to be allowed to graduate in Fall 2017 (or later), you need to make an advising appointment with a College Adviser at 206 Evans Hall. If you wish to be added to the Summer 2017 degree list, you must use the option in your Notification entitled, “Spring 2017 is your Final Term” to easily switch to the Summer 2017 degree list. Students must use this button option by March 10, 2017. After that date, please consult our office for guidance on formally adding to the Summer 2017 degree list.

    It’s not necessary to be enrolled in Summer 2017 in order to officially graduate, but if you plan to complete coursework in Summer 2017, please note the firm deadlines for completion (review below).

    If you wish to request permission for enrollment in Fall 2017, you must do so by March 3, 2017. There will be several documents you need to prepare in advance and bring to a College advising appointment:

    1. A Four Year Program Plan Worksheet completed by you and signed by your Undergraduate Major Adviser(s), and (if applicable)

    2. Documentation proving your acceptance to an EAP (or other Study Abroad) program for Fall 2017, or

    3. DSP certification for a Reduced Course Load and extended period in which to graduate, and/or

    4. Transcripts of degree-related course work from any other college/university (including UC Extension) not yet posted to your UC Berkeley academic record.