The Geography major is housed in the School of Integrated Sciences within the College of Integrated Science & Engineering.


Applied Geographic Information Science (AGIS)
Environmental Conservation, Sustainability and Development (ECSD)

Admission and Progression Standards

Visit the Major Snapshots site to learn more about the admission and progression standards of this major.

Description of Major

The Geography Program empowers students to address problems associated with the spatial patterns and processes of human and environmental change. It does this by taking a highly integrated approach that couples the study of people and the environment with the use of cutting edge tools such as digital mapping technologies and images of the earth collected from satellites and aircraft. This unique approach produces graduates who are ‘big picture’ thinkers and are valued by a wide range of employers and prepared for further study in geography and related disciplines.

More About the Field 

Geography is the study of the earth’s landscapes, peoples, places and environments. It is, quite simply, about the world in which we live. The focuses of geography, and its interdisciplinary approach, put it at the center of critical contemporary questions of globalization and environmental change.

As a discipline, Geography is unique in bridging the social sciences (human geography) with the natural sciences (physical geography). One of the key focuses of geography is the interaction between people and the physical environment. Physical geographers are especially concerned with processes and change in our climate, biosphere, landscape and waters.

Understanding the causes of differences and inequalities between places and social groups underlie much of the newer developments in human geography. Geography puts this understanding of social and physical processes within the context of places and regions - recognizing the great differences in cultures, political systems, economies, landscapes and environments across the world, and the links between them.

Geography provides an ideal framework for relating other fields of knowledge. It is not surprising that those trained as geographers often contribute substantially to the applied management of resources and environments.

Geography is at the cutting edge of the development and use of digital mapping technologies, helping to deepen the understanding of human and environmental issues. This discipline is at the forefront of the use of satellite and aerial imagery in spatial analysis.

In summary, Geography is a holistic, inclusive discipline, rooted in the exploration, analysis, and understanding of real-world human and physical environments. Through critical examination, and through the use of maps and geospatial technologies, geographers answer the questions: How is the world organized and how does the world work?


The Geography Program has two main focuses. You can decide to concentrate your studies in either or both:

  • Geospatial Technologies and Digital Mapping: AGIS Concentration
  • Environment, Conservation, Sustainability and Development: ECSD Concentration
Geospatial Technologies and Digital Mapping

Through the Geography program, you can become skilled with the latest geospatial technologies. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) allows you to:

  • Make maps.
  • Analyze spatial data.
  • Provide solutions for businesses, governments and non-profit organizations.

You will be an in-demand, highly skilled graduate ready to work with these technologies in a wide range of areas.

The Applied Geographic Information Systems (AGIS) concentration will introduce you to exciting, cutting edge technologies used to find out about the earth and to map it. The concentration will give you hands-on experience in three focus areas:

  • GIS uses computer-based map data to solve a vast array of problems such as wildlife conservation area boundaries or determining how to get food aid to a famine-affected area.
  • Earth observation uses satellite and aircraft images to help scientists better understand climate change, mapping forests, and obtaining intelligence information, among other things.
  • Cartography is the science of producing maps, which can be used for everything from helping drivers find their way around a city to helping scientists track the spread of diseases.

Demand for AGIS-related technologies has been growing exponentially over the past decade, and demand for graduates is high.

Environment, Conservation, Sustainability and Development

The Environment, Conservation, Sustainability and Development (ECSD) concentration allows students to explore human and environmental change in depth. With real-world experiences, you will learn to think critically about the problems facing humans and the environment today.

  • Our program emphasizes sustainability as a focus that brings together environmental and economic questions. Our geography students have recently developed new landscape designs for the new Harrisonburg hospital, helping to manage stormwater runoff.
  • Geography students at JMU understand how humans interact with their environment, and develop new ways of examining our natural world. Knowing how the physical environment works means you can offer valuable solutions and strategies for environments under pressure.
  • As a geographer, you can explore the realities of contemporary globalization and global inequality, and see first-hand the challenges facing the developing world. Geographers at JMU seek to understand the human contexts of urbanization, development, sustainability and conservation. With this understanding, and as future leaders and decision-makers, you will better direct the priorities of our changing world.

Whatever your focus, you will have the opportunity to travel the world, and become an accomplished graduate, ready for employment in any field with a demand for globally intelligent, widely skilled, critical and analytical thinkers.

Complementary Majors and Minors 

Geography majors commonly combine a double major or minor in Geology, Anthropology, Biology, Computer Science, Economics, Environmental Studies, Geophysics, History, Integrated Science and Technology, International Business, Marketing, Materials Science, Mathematics, Modern Foreign Languages, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, Statistics, Urban and Regional Studies, or Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication.

Characteristics of Successful Students

JMU Geographers are globally intelligent, widely skilled, critical and analytical thinkers.


Geography graduates find opportunities and careers from a diverse array of employers. As a graduate, you can apply the knowledge, skills, and perspectives gained from your geographical education in the private, governmental, and non-profit sectors. Keeping that spirit of adventure associated with geography, both national and international employers are ready to use your technical skills and global understanding. The JMU Geography Program also has an excellent track-record of placement in some of the best graduate programs in the United States.

Students who concentrate in AGIS have found opportunities in industry with companies such as Earth Satellite Corporation, GeoEye, Lockheed, SPOT Image, Logicom, SAIC, Sanborn, Booz-Allen Hamilton, Boeing, and many others.

Private environmental organizations and consulting firms, as well as government agencies, have all hired students completing the environmental studies concentration (ECSD) at JMU. Principal employers include the Environmental Protection Agency, Dewberry, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey and non-profit organizations including the Nature Conservancy and Peace Corps.

Many graduates choose typical career paths associated with this major. However, some graduates choose unrelated careers that utilize skills and experiences developed during their years in college. Keep in mind, that some fields will require graduate study or further training. Example of potential careers include the following:

  • Cartographer
  • Climatologist
  • Environmental Scientist
  • GIS Analyst
  • Global Spatial Intelligence Analyst
  • Geospatial Analyst
  • Information or Imagery Analyst
  • Intelligence Analyst
  • International Development
  • Meteorologist
  • Nautical Cartographic Analyst
  • Oceanographer
  • Park Ranger
  • Quality Assurance Coordinator
  • Satellite Imagery Scientist
  • Systems Engineer
  • Urban Planner
  • Wildlife Manager
  • Wind Analyst

Who Employs Graduates?

Airlines, Book Publishers, Bureau of Census (Fed Gov), CIA (Fed Gov), Colleges / Universities, Construction Companies, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency(Fed Gov), Environmental Consulting Firms, Environmental Organizations, Environmental Protection Agency (Fed Gov), Map Publishers, Mining Companies, NASA (Fed Gov), National Park Service (Fed Gov), Real Estate Developers, Research Institutes, Space Imaging Companies, Service Organizations - Peace Corps, State Department (Fed Gov), Surveying Companies, Travel/Tour Companies, US Forest Service (Fed Gov), US Geological Survey (Fed Gov), and Utility Companies.

Internships and Experiential Opportunities 

Internships or a Senior Project and other forms of individual study are available to all students who are both interested and qualified. Students should contact faculty coordinators in their areas of interest to gain further information. The Geography Club or Gamma Theta Upsilon (International Geographical Honor Society) are two organizations worth consideration as well. 

View our list of internship coordinators for each major.

Career Profiles 

Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Additional Resources to Research Careers
  • Handshake: view new internships and jobs that employers are looking to hire JMU students from your major 
  • Career Outcomes: see where alumni worked or studied right after graduating.
  • GoinGlobal: learn more about employment opportunities overseas as well as H1B visa information for international Dukes pursuing jobs in the U.S.
  • O*NET: browse occupational profiles to learn about thousands of different careers, pulling data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 
  • CareerOneStop: explore thousands of different careers by looking at career profiles 
  • Utilize the LinkedIn Alumni tool to see what others have done with their majors and what their career paths look like. Reach out to alumni via LinkedIn and conduct an informational interview.

© University Career Center, James Madison University

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from the JMU University Career Center. Content for each major has been written/reviewed by faculty in the respective department and is revised each year. Requests to update content can be submitted to career@jmu.edu

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