Frequently Asked Questions

Q. So, if you are a geography major,

Xavier Griffin conducts field research on a plantation.

Xavier Griffin conducts field research on a plantation.

 do you just study maps?

A. Geography encompasses many different areas of study. At UMW, Geography majors take classes that concentrate on cultural, political, economic, and physical aspects of places across the globe. We learn how humans interact with their environment. Maps are one tool that geographers use to study this interaction, but geography itself is not the study of maps.

Q. You’re a geography major? What are you going to DO with that?

A. UMW geography majors have gone on to a wide variety of careers. These jobs include teaching, working for GIS and mapping companies, consulting and engineering firms, as well as numerous non-profit and government organizations including Defenders of Wildlife, county Planning Departments, Federal Mapping agencies, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Army Corps of Engineers, NGA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA. Majoring in geography prepares graduates for work in many different areas, as students have experience studying both the human and physical dimensions of the world. Many graduates also choose to continue their education in graduate schools, studying everything from meteorology to political geography. In 2017, ’18, ’19 and ’20, College Factual ranked UMW the top geography program in the southeastern United States. A study by College Factual found that, of 227 programs offering a major in geography nationwide, UMW geography graduates rank the highest in earnings.

The United States Department of Labor has an Occupational Outlook Handbook where you can search different professions. This is confusing because you need to know the correct terms… Geographers are said to earn twice the median pay of all workers, but the profession is considered to be in decline (few jobs in future) – there just aren’t very many jobs with the title “geographer”! Cartographers and Photogrammetrists, however, are in a ‘high growth’ field, with an average growth rate well above average – and they earn almost twice the median pay of all workers. What is Cartography and Photogrammetry? Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “cartographers and photogrammetrists collect, measure, and interpret geographic information in order to create and update maps and charts for regional planning, education, emergency response, and other purposes” – in other words, it is GIS and spatial analysis.

Q. How many students major in Geography at UMW?

A. On average, the department has about 60 majors. We have about 30 graduate students at various stages of the MSGA program. In 2021-22 about 20 students earned the GIS Certificate.

Q. How many professors does the department have?

A. The department consists of ten full time faculty members and several part time professors, each of whom specializes in a different aspect of geography. From time to time visiting faculty will teach courses in their areas of specialization.

Q. How can I benefit from a geography class?

A. You might be surprised at the variety of classes the department has to offer. In fact, some of our courses are not only required for geography majors, but also for environmental science, international affairs, and historic preservation majors. If you are interested in business, why not take economic geography – an analysis of the development and characteristics of the world-economy? Interested in the weather? Take a climatology class where you will learn about the origins of thunderstorms and tornadoes, among other weather phenomena. For those seeking true adventure, why not try a short study abroad program? The Geography Department sponsors trips to Guatemala during spring break, and our faculty have led trips to Morocco during summer, and Cambodia over winter break. There is such a wide variety of classes offered within geography, that many students choose this major simply because their studies never become stale! Geography is all around us and is always changing.

Q: I’m a transfer student: can I major in Geography?

A: Yes. The geography major is very flexible, with relatively few pre-requisite classes, so it is possible to earn the degree in four semesters. You should try to take the science sequence GEOG 110-111 in your first fall-spring, so as to keep other courses open to you. Please speak with a geography professor as early as possible to help you with planning!

Q: I’m a transfer student: can I earn the GIS Certificate?

A: Yes. The GIS Certificate requires 4 4-credit classes and a 3-credit internship or individual study, so as long as it fits in with your degree program, you can complete it. Students can complete the certificate after graduation, or can enroll in the certificate as a stand alone program.

Q: Can I get a copy of the ArcMap GIS software for my own computer?

A: Yes. Downloads are available for students enrolled in UMW’s GIS courses: see detailed information here.

Q:What kind of computer do I need for GIS courses?

A: At UMW, GIS courses primarily use Esri’s ArcGIS Pro software. Esri is the industry leader in GIS and their software is commonly used in workplaces. We are able to provide a free version to registered students. System requirements for ArcGIS Pro can be found here: this software uses Windows, so runs on PC computers only – unless you choose to partition your Mac.

Q: Do you have a different question? Email to ask! We might post the answer here!