Journey over all the universe in a map, without the expense and fatigue of traveling, without suffering the inconveniences of heat, cold, hunger, and thirst.
--Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote de la Mancha
Geography is a rich, diverse, and integrative discipline that brings together both the physical and human dimensions of the world. In studying people, places, and the environment, a geographer will emphasize features of the earth's surface and the processes that shape it, the relationship between people and environments, and the connections between people and places.
The word geography itself is derived from two Greek words that mean to write about or describe features of the earth. In fact, the ancient Greeks were one of the first cultures to systematically describe features of the physical environment (landscapes, climate, vegetation, etc.) and the human environment (cultures, cities, languages, etc.). There contribution to the development of geographic knowledge emphasized three important components:
- Describing the world
- Viewing the world from a spatial perspective
- Recognizing the interrelationship and interdependence of the elements of the world
Today, there are several definitions for geography, but for many the definition of geography is the study or analysis of the locational attributes and spatial variation of phenomena on the earth's surface. That is, geography is the study of distributions. More broadly, geography is the study of human and/or physical phenomena as distributed across the earth's surface, to include not only the manifested patterns of these phenomena, but also the forces giving rise to these phenomena and the interactions and inter-relationships of these phenomena to one another.
Additionally, any inquiry that assumes a spatial point of view, or investigates something which implies, pertains to, or involves space or place, may be considered an exercise in geography. In essence, if the spatial distribution of the myriad physical and human elements of the world can be mapped, then it's geography!
In general, geography can be sub-divided into two broad branches - areas of study within which geographers seek to answer specific questions about the world. Physical geography is primarily concerned with the study and spatial distribution of environmental phenomena. Human geography is primarily concerned with the study and spatial distribution of humans and human activity.
Another way geography can be sub-divided is through a topical or systematic approach. Thus, someone who concentrates within the physical realm may specialize in geomorphology (study of landforms), climatology (study of climates), and biogeography (study of plants and animals). Someone who concentrates in the human realm may specialize in economic geography (study of economic activity), population geography and demographics (study of populations and their characteristics), and urban geography (study of cities and their impact on human activity).
Geographers may also focus on a particular area or region of the Earth. For example, someone who concentrates on the North America region would be primarily concerned with the study and spatial distribution of the physical and human elements of the region as a whole.
Finally, geographers who study either the physical realm or human realm rely on methods, techniques, and technologies that also constitute geography as a discipline. Examples include cartography (map making), geographical information systems (integrated computer information systems that can store, retrieve, analyze, and display data geographically), and geodetic science (study and accurate measurement of the Earth).
Why Study Geography?
Geography is unique among academic disciplines as it involves the study of both the physical world and the human realm. As such, the field of enquiry for a geographer is as diverse as it is broad (the whole world and all that is in it!). More importantly, it is one of the few disciplines that seek to study and explain the interactions and inter-relationships between the physical and human realms. Studying geography affords the student the opportunity to not only gain a better understanding of the world and processes that have shaped it, but also his/her place within it.
Geography Course Descriptions
Columbus State offers these courses in Geography.
Career Opportunities in Geography
You may not be aware of it, but people who get degrees in geography are employed in an array of diverse fields and vocations, both in the public and private sectors. Some of the following are a sample of the careers or jobs that geographers are often involved in:
- Cartography (mapmaking)
- Environmental Issues
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Natural Resource and Wildlife divisions of State Agencies
- City and Regional Planning
- Department of Transportation (DOT)
- Economics, Finance, and Banking
- Communications and Technology
- Geographical Information Systems (GIS)
Global Positioning System (GPS)
- Geographical Information Systems (GIS)
- Bureau of the Census
- Teaching and Education
- Medicine and Health Care
- And Many Other Areas!!
Even people who have no formal training as geographers end up employed in career fields or jobs that have a geographic basis to them. Think of people involved in real estate. They are intimately concerned about geography – location, location, location!!!