Four college students balancing on a wooden platform in a forest.

Geography and Why it’s Awesome

by Lauren Privette

Do you want to gain a hard skill in college—one that will make you extremely marketable? Do you want to get a meaningful job after graduation? Do you want grad school to be an option, not a necessity? Then allow me to introduce you to the Geographic Science major.

Clear away any stereotypes you may have; being a Geographic Science major does not mean that you will be memorizing all the countries and cities of the world. And, for the love of God, if someone tells you they are a Geography major, do not ask them if they know where this city or that country is; we are much more than walking maps and compasses.

I don’t know if you had trouble deciding on a major (maybe you were one of the lucky ones who knew coming in), but I certainly did. I was interested in graphic design, cinematography, philosophy, writing, and humanitarian affairs; but, most of all, I was interested in obtaining a hard skill— something to make me stand out when job searching. I looked at SMAD, Graphic Design, Justice Studies, Anthropology, but they all seemed to focus on maybe one or two of my interests. Then I found Geographic Science.

After doing some research about the major, it hit me like a slap in the face; I had found everything I wanted in a major. GIS (Geographic Information Systems) is the hard skill taught in this major. It opens up a whole new world for you. Primarily, GIS is map-making; this is an aspect that may appeal to you graphic designers out there. With GIS, you are using software to make beautiful maps that can be published in newspapers, magazines, presentations, etc. The maps you make can also be used to display a problem, like the frequency of crime in sections of New York City or to display a solution, like how to transport water to a refugee camp. By using GIS skills in situations like those you can make a difference in people’s lives.

Geographic Science is such a broad program that you can go practically anywhere with it. Whether you’re interested in graphic design, writing/editing, videography, the environment, humanitarian affairs, political science, intelligence analysis, or computer science— it incorporates all of these.

Graduates with this degree now possess jobs such as:

  • Park rangers, cartographers, and writers for National Geographic
  • Analysts for the NSA, CIA, FBI
  • Urban planners
  • Analysts for major corporations
  • Professors
  • Emergency management specialists
  •  Lobbyists
  • Climatologists
  • Writer/editors
  • Interpreter/translators

Am I saying that everyone needs to drop what they’re doing and become a Geographic Science major? In a word, no. What I am saying is directed to the undeclared, unsatisfied, and unaware souls who don’t have a predominate interest leading them to a particular major or career. Geographic Science is frequently overlooked at JMU because it is relatively unknown and sometimes misconstrued. But, as a smaller university program, the learning experience between students and faculty is more intimate, meaningful, and effective—you will not be lost in the crowd. So check it out. It’s your world, get to know it.

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