Human Geography Concentration

An Overview

The study of human culture and society in its spatial and ecological contexts has long represented a core tradition of geography. Today, geographers investigate an array of socio-economic, political, and cultural patterns and activities, in many cases using geographic skills and techniques to solve local and regional problems. In this concentration, you will explore this tradition through the geographic subfields of cultural, economic, and political geography.

Cultural geography examines the characteristics, distributions, movements, interactions, and landscapes of the world's many peoples. Core topics of investigation include religion, language, settlement patterns, political movements, ethnicity, and settlement patterns. Some very specialized studies consider what is known as cultural ecology--the way groups of people interact with and alter the environment in which they live. Part of the cultural geographer's understanding comes from familiarity with the geography of times past, and studies in historical geography often provide critical context for today's conditions in a given country or region. Cultural geography has strong ties to anthropology, history, and archaeology, but much of today's cultural geography focuses on cities and their rich cultural makeups.

Economic geography concentrates on the distribution and location of economic activity, particularly topics like industrial location, world trade, transportation, and resources. An intense area of recent growth in the field has been business geography--an area of study focused on the spatial organization and operation of business activity. By combining their understanding of geodemographics, landuse, statistical analysis, and transportation, economic geographers excel in business/industry location siting, market research, and traffic/shipping management. Economic geography has strong ties to economics, marketing, business administration, and international business.

Political geography studies the spatial dimensions of political activity and decision making, from global scale issues like geopolitics and the balance of power to local scale issues like municipal zoning and annexation. Prominent areas of investigation at the international level include the political interaction between the world's countries, the interplay between nations and states in tense areas like the Middle East, the emergence of supranational units like the European Union, and the law of the sea. Closer to home, political geographers have researched voting patterns, reapportionment, and gerrymandering at the local, state, and regional levels. Political geographers have made especially valuable contributions to our understanding of spatial conflicts and their resolution, including cases like the conflict in Northern Ireland. Political geography has strong ties to political science and international affairs.

Human geography makes abundant use of geography's emerging technical tools, especially geographic information systems, as well as traditional skills in statistics. At the same time, because of the many international career opportunities, human geographers often require advanced foreign language training. They also need a good background in basic physical geography given their interest in the environment.

Geography Courses

Both of the following:

  • GEO 101: World Human Geography
  • GEO 102: Globalization and Development

Two of the following:

  • GEO 200: American Ethnic Geography
  • GEO 201: Economic Geography
  • GEO 210: Current Themes in Geography (when appropriate)
  • GEO 274: North American Indian on Film
  • GEO 280: Geography of Cyberspace

Four of the following:

  • GEO 301: Regional Geographies of the World (one from an appropriate region)
  • GEO 320: Urban Geography
  • GEO 385: Field Study (one when appropriate)
  • GEO 420: Rural Geography
  • GEO 470: Political Geography
  • GEO 474: Historical Geography of the United States
  • GEO 475: Culture, Nature, Landscape
  • GEO 490: Selected Topics in Geography (when appropriate)
  • GEO 492: Research in Geography.


  • GEO 104: Geomorphology
  • GEO 204: National Parks
  • GEO 215: Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
  • GEO 285: Natural Hazards
  • GEO 415: Advanced Geographic Information Systems
  • GEO 460: Data Analysis
  • GEO 486: Internship in Geography

Recommended Complementary Courses

  • EAST 115: Cultures of China and/or Japan
  • ECON 335: Urban Economic Problems
  • ECON 336: Economics of Developing Nations
  • HIST 327: History of Chicago
  • POLS 320: Politics of Urban and Metropolitan Areas
  • POLS 330: Politics of Industrialized States
  • POLS 335: Politics of Developing States
  • POLS 361: Public Policy
  • POLS 380: Problems in International Relations
  • SOC 325: Urban Sociology
  • SOC 340: Gender
  • SOC 347: Race and Ethnic Relations

Minors/Second Majors
Many minors and/or second majors complement this concentration. They include: American Studies, economics, education, ethnic studies, history, liberal arts business, political science, and sociology. Students may also participate in the Chicago Urban Semester, an interdisciplinary program that can serve as an individualized minor.

Career Fields
This concentration is particularly appropriate for students interested in graduate work or employment in American and other regional studies, geodemography, international affairs, international development, marketing, public affairs, and urban studies, as well as geography itself.

More Information
For more information on careers in geography and on internships, visit the home page of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) and follow the Careers link.