Geography is an important field, one that will only continue to become more critical as our world struggles with climate change. As the study of the planet’s systems, movements, and changes, geography provides a critical understanding of natural resources, their ability, and how humans impact the natural world. There has never been a better time to earn one of the best online bachelor’s degrees in geography!
What is a Geography Degree?
A bachelors degree in geography gives you the expertise you need to understand the shape of the world and how that affects human society. Geographers study the formation and effects of the earth’s landscape on humans and animals. They also seek to understand why and how the earth’s landscape can change over time.
Moreover, geography degrees can allow you to specialize in different aspects of geography, such as international relations, tectonic shifting, or even disaster preparation.
A bachelor of geography degree also focuses on how the intricate environmental systems of the earth can affect one another and humans. It’s a facet of environmental science that can lead to a diverse selection of careers in water resource management, geospatial information scientists, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping, to name a few.
How Much Can You Earn with an Online Geography Degree?
You can pursue multiple career paths with a degree in geography. Geographers, the most common career, study the earth and its features for scientific or practical purposes. They may also be teachers or researchers at universities. Geographers earn a median salary of about $85,220 per year, though there isn’t much projected growth in the near future. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts zero or little growth in this field in the next ten years.
Those who enjoy geography but want to see real-world applications of their work might enjoy being an urban planner. These specialists can help develop property and find new land for commercial or residential development. Urban planners have a median salary of about $78,500 per year. This career field is expected to see average growth (roughly four percent) through 2032.
Finally, geographers with an academic focus can become environmental scientists and specialists. These experts often continue their studies in graduate school. These scientists are on the front lines concerning climate change and long-term human sustainability. They’re also concerned with green technology and recycling efforts. Environmental scientists have a median salary of about $76,530 per year. With five percent job growth expected in the next decade, this field of geography is the fastest-growing among those listed here.
Other career options include being a cartographer, conducting regional planning, or teaching geography at the collegiate level.
Though careers in geography aren’t going to get you rich, they still pay relatively well. By comparison, the median annual wage for American workers in 2022 is $55,640, so the average worker in the geography field makes $20,000-$30,000 more per year than the average American worker.
See also: Highest Paying Jobs for Economics Majors
What is Required for a Geography Degree?
Admission requirements for undergraduate programs vary from one institution to the next. For example, some schools require you to submit ACT or SAT scores, while others don’t.
However, you should expect admission requirements to include some or all of the following:
- Submitting an application for admission
- Paying an application fee
- Submitting official high school transcripts
- Submitting letters of recommendation
Some schools might also require you to write a personal statement or essay. Furthermore, if you’ve taken college courses for credit, you’ll need to submit transcripts from each institution at which you’ve earned college credits.
A bachelor’s degree in geography from one of the top geography schools requires that you complete around 120 semester credits to graduate (fewer if you have transfer credits). Usually, full-time students need four years to complete programs like these.
The credits needed for a geography degree include several categories of online courses you must pass to get your diploma. For example, a large part of your studies will be general education liberal arts classes. These classes introduce you to the basics of many different fields, like science, math, and social studies. Additionally, many colleges and universities require you to take art and humanities courses, physical education, and world languages. Typical general education classes might include:
- Introduction to Psychology
- Public Speaking
- Chemistry and Chemistry Lab
- Algebra and Trigonometry
- English Composition
The next category of courses covers major-area topics in the natural sciences, so as a geography major, these courses might entail:
- Human Geography
- Environmental Science
- Physical Geography
The required coursework for undergraduate degrees in geography might differ somewhat from one school to the next, but ultimately, major-area courses in a geography degree online focus on geography and related studies.
A final component of your geography degree is elective geography courses. Your college or university will provide you with a selection of geography-related courses from which you can choose. These courses allow you to study specialized areas of geography in much more detail. For example, you might take a course in geographic research methods that helps you build crucial skills for conducting geographic research. As another example, you might take a course in air photo interpretation that prepares you to critically analyze photos of the earth’s surface to interpret the area’s physical characteristics. Other specialized courses might include spatial analysis, geospatial technology, and landforms.
Expect to spend most of your time on scientific subjects and courses. Your general education requirements may include extra mathematics and science courses. Many courses in a geography degree program require using calculators, advanced computer software, and measuring tools. You may also find that the best geography programs require field experience placements for practical parts of your studies. Fortunately, the best geography colleges typically work with you to find field experiences near where you live.
In addition to completing course requirements for graduation, you’ll need to maintain a satisfactory GPA during your online learning, like a 2.5 on a 4.0 scale. Some programs might require you to complete a capstone project or another research-based project as part of the graduation requirements as well.
As noted earlier, there are many careers you can pursue with a bachelor’s degree in geography. However, if you want to continue your higher education online, you can enroll in one of the top geography grad programs to further specialize your knowledge and skills. Many of the programs listed in our rankings offer graduate-level programs. For example, Arizona State University offers a 30-credit Master of Arts in geography that focuses your studies on GIS, urban planning, and climatology, as well as other specialized geography topics. Enrollment in most graduate programs in geography requires that you’ve already completed a bachelor’s degree program in geography or a related field.
See also: Best Online Master’s in Social Sciences
What are the Best Geography Schools?
OSR uses six data points to determine the best online geographical degrees. There are three school-wide factors and three program-specific factors. For school-wide factors, OSR uses student satisfaction, admission rates, and the number of programs the school offers online. For program-specific factors, OSR checks the median debt of graduates from that program, how many degrees are offered within that program’s umbrella department, and what percentage of learners at that school graduated from that department.
Each of the six statistics is displayed by each school. The sliding bar under each statistic represents how that school compares to other U.S. institutions. “Not reported” means a school did not release that information to the US Department of Education.
A more detailed description of the OSR ranking process can be found on the methodology page.
Arizona State University
- Tuition: $8,597(in state) / $18,187(out of state)
- 120 credit hours
- 7.5-week classes
- Multiple start dates throughout the year
School WideStudent SatisfactionNot ReportedAdmission Rate63%Programs offered online45
Program LevelMedian Debt$20,000Programs in Department4Popularity at School< 1%100%OSR Score
Arizona State University online has a robust geography program that places ASU in the top spot among the best colleges for geography.
This BA in Geography focuses on human and cultural traditions throughout the world. It emphasizes the effect geography has on human population and migration patterns. It’s much more socially focused than scientifically focused, so it’s a good choice if you want to go into urban planning or social research.
Financial aid is available for qualified online students and the other three geography programs offered by ASU online.
Upon graduation, you can pursue employment as a surveyor, a human behavior researcher, or a sustainability specialist, to name a few.
University of Arizona
- Tuition: $10,262(in state) / $31,067(out of state)
- 120 credit hours
- Teaches some programming for geographical interfaces
- No pre-major or prerequisites required
School WideStudent Satisfaction74%Admission Rate84%Programs offered online20
Program LevelMedian Debt$20,137Programs in Department4Popularity at School< 1%80%OSR Score
Second on our list of the best schools for geography is the University of Arizona.
This online degree program focuses on a STEM approach to geography, which many high school programs have implemented. Its courses emphasize cartography, web and mobile applications for geographical development, and geographical science, among others. Many of these courses include hands-on projects that complement traditional classroom learning.
Skills development emphasizes computational thinking, written and oral communication skills, and problem-solving. Using these skills and your knowledge of GIS programming, you’ll graduate with a complete skillset to pursue many different types of employment.
Tuition rates for a Bachelor of Arts is $500-$610 per credit. No out-of-state tuition is assessed.
Park University20-Year ROI$916,414
- Tuition: $8,232(in state) / $8,232(out of state)
- 120 credit hours
- Capstone project is required
- Delivered via Canvas e-learning
School WideStudent Satisfaction74%Admission Rate69%Programs offered online37
Program LevelMedian Debt$21,397Programs in Department1Popularity at School< 1%79%OSR Score
This 120-credit program bridges the natural and social sciences together. It emphasizes the discipline’s scientific aspects and geography’s social effects on human development. As a result, the classes you’ll take are interdisciplinary.
Core courses include:
- Global Sustainability
- Physical Geography
- Geography of North America
- Cultural Geography
- GIS I
You’ll add a variety of electives and courses for a required minor to the core curriculum. A capstone is part of the curriculum as well. The capstone relates directly to the courses listed above. It serves as a final assessment of your competence in these fields.
This online degree is the same as the on-campus program and is taught by the same faculty.
Oregon State University
- Tuition: $9,075(in state) / $27,735(out of state)
- 180 quarter credit hours
- Several start times are available throughout the year
- Oregon State’s ECampus consistently ranks in the top 10
School WideStudent Satisfaction72%Admission Rate79%Programs offered online20
Program LevelMedian Debt$21Programs in Department1Popularity at School< 1%75%OSR Score
This online Bachelor of Science degree from Oregon State University is a four-year program focusing on geography and geospatial science. As such, you’ll take courses related to the following:
- Web mapping
- Climate justice
- Physical geography
- Geovisual analytics
- Remote sensing
Additionally, this program requires that you complete nine credits of experiential learning. You can choose to complete an undergraduate thesis, an internship, or conduct research.
Your preparation in this program can lead to a career in any number of fields, including natural resource management, public safety, or business.
University of Florida
- Tuition: $4,477(in state) / $25,694(out of state)
- 120 credit hours
- Focused on career-ready skills
- Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Geosciences is also available
School WideStudent Satisfaction77%Admission Rate42%Programs offered online15
Program LevelMedian Debt$15,580Programs in Department2Popularity at School< 1%75%OSR Score
Studying at the University of Florida online gives you access to one of the nation’s top universities from the comfort of your home. You can pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Geography or elect to specialize in environmental geosciences if you prefer. Either way, you’ll take courses related to the following:
- Physical Geography
- Quantitative Analysis
- Digital Image Processing
- Foundations of Geographic Information Systems
- Dynamic Planet Earth
This program also focuses on building computer-related and technological skills, like those related to geographic information science.
What’s more, a required seminar course during your senior year further prepares you for entering the workforce. This course introduces you to the geography profession while integrating what you’ve learned throughout the program.