How to Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Geography Online
An online bachelor’s degree in geography prepares students for careers as geographers who can work in fields such as cartography, climatology, surveying, or government policy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects geography jobs to grow by 3% between 2018 and 2028.
Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in geography online provides an affordable, flexible, and convenient educational path. This page details important information for prospective geography students, including curriculum and concentration options, funding resources, and potential jobs and salaries for graduates.
How Much Can You Make in a Geography Career?
An online bachelor’s degree in geography includes courses such as geographic information systems (GIS), mapping, and remote sensing. Programs also typically include field research or capstone projects to apply knowledge and skills to practical projects. Graduates with a bachelor’s in geography can choose from diverse career options. While a degree does not guarantee employment, this section outlines potential jobs and salaries for geography graduates.
Cartographers and Photogrammetrists
These professionals create and update maps. Cartographers gather geographic data and design and revise maps and charts. Photogrammetrists use aerial photography and satellite images to develop digital maps that allow GIS layering. These maps may inform decisions about environmental studies, demographics, engineering projects, land use, and national security. These roles involve time in the office in addition to fieldwork.
Median Annual Salary: $64,430
Job Growth (2018-2028): 15%
Surveying and Mapping Technicians
These technicians assist surveyors, cartographers, and photogrammetrists, operating surveying equipment, entering survey data into computers, and producing and updating maps. Some professionals may work as GIS technicians who integrate data into digital formats and manage databases. Working for engineering, surveying, or mapping firms, technicians split their work hours between field sites and computer terminals.
Median Annual Salary: $44,380
Job Growth (2018-2028): 5%
Surveyors use measuring instruments to determine property boundary lines and features, usually in the context of real estate development, transactions, or disputes. They use GIS and GPS technology to prepare maps, plots, and reports. They may also testify as expert witnesses in court. These professionals work in the field and the office.
Median Annual Salary: $62,580
Job Growth (2018-2028): 6%
Environmental Scientists and Specialists
This career involves knowledge of GIS, computer modeling, data analysis, and natural science. Environmental scientists and specialists gather and analyze data samples — including air, food, soil, and water — and design plans to safeguard the health of humans and the environment. Their duties may include preparing a written report on their findings or advising businesses and governments on the environmental impacts of a proposed action.
Median Annual Salary: $71,130
Job Growth (2018-2028): 8%
Geographers explore relationships between humans and their physical surroundings. They use technology on a daily basis — including GIS, GPS, and remote sensing — to gather and analyze data, develop maps, and write research reports. Geographers may review issues like the impact of proposed economic development or infrastructure on the landscape. This job involves fieldwork.
Median Annual Salary: $80,300
Job Growth (2018-2028): 3%
Job growth and potential salaries vary by factors such as location and employer. For instance, geography job-seekers in Maryland (particularly Baltimore) and California typically enjoy the most opportunities and highest pay compared to other states. Additionally, geographers in the federal government and higher education often enjoy higher salaries and stronger demand than geographers in other industries.
What Courses Can Be Taken for an Online Geography Degree?
Geography students can choose from two types of degrees: a bachelor of science in physical geography (with a focus on the impact of humans on the natural environment) or a bachelor of arts in human geography (which examines the effects of landforms and geographic features on humans). Curricula vary by program, but the following table outlines common courses among many bachelor’s in geography programs. Physical Geography
During this course, students explore the distribution and development of climate, landforms, minerals, soils, and water resources, while also studying the human impact on these resources. Introduction to Human Geography
This class focuses on global cultural, economics, populations, and resource distribution, examining their effects on humans and the different impacts on technologically advanced and less developed countries. Natural Disasters
This course examines the triggers and regional variations of earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, and other natural catastrophes, along with their effects on human populations. It also addresses natural disaster prediction, prevention, and response. Introduction of GIS
In this hands-on course, students learn the basics of GIS technology. They examine and use ArcGIS desktop software, studying its functions and capabilities. They also study topics like global positioning, remote sensing, and statistical analysis. Cartography
Students learn the symbols and terminology used in designing, creating, and updating maps. This class covers the use and function of maps in human societies, different types of maps, and emerging technologies in mapping.
How to Choose the Best Online Geography Program
When researching online geography schools, prospective students should consider various factors to help narrow their choices, such as a program’s reputation, cost, accreditation status, and faculty. This section includes information on how to find online bachelor’s in geography degrees that align with a prospective student’s needs, interests, and goals.
What are the best strategies for choosing geography courses?
Most geography programs post course lists or catalogs on their websites. Students should make sure that a program offers classes aligned with their interests and goals, such as human or physical geography, GIS, or cartography. Students should also research the general education and elective credits required for graduation. Some school websites post a sample curriculum timeline, from the start of the program to graduation.
How do online courses work and how do they differ from on-campus classes?
Reputable online programs provide the same degrees and educational quality as on-campus programs. Students can choose from entirely online programs or hybrid options that feature a mix of online and in-person classes. Online programs may deliver courses asynchronously, allowing students to attend class at any time, or synchronously, which requires set login times.
How do required internships and fieldwork work for online students?
Most geography programs require an experiential learning element, such as an internship or fieldwork. Some programs may require in-person attendance at a site near the school, while others allow distance learners to find placements in their own communities. Because program requirements vary, prospective students should contact their prospective schools to ensure that they can meet all in-person requirements.
How do I find a reputable program?
Reputable online geography schools hold accreditation, which means that the institution voluntarily received an assessment of its quality by a third-party agency. Research universities usually obtain regional accreditation, while vocational colleges often receive national accreditation. Regional accreditation is generally considered the more prestigious of the two. Programs within a school may also receive programmatic accreditation. Students who attend accredited schools typically have better employment, financial aid, and education opportunities.
What should I pay attention to when looking at faculty?
School websites often post faculty biographies with information on their academic background, publications, employment, and research. Students should look for faculty with interests and expertise that align with their career goals. Learners can reach out to prospective schools to learn more about faculty members and potentially speak with individual professors.
How will this degree help me reach my goals?
A bachelor’s degree in geography prepares graduates for entry-level employment and graduate study. Most entry-level jobs in geography require a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor’s programs give students valuable work experience through internships and coursework that covers GIS software, making candidates more competitive in the job market. A bachelor’s degree also positions graduates to pursue graduate school, which can further expand employment opportunities and salary potential.
What do online bachelor’s degree programs typically cost?
Online programs may offer lower rates than on-campus programs, sometimes allowing out-of-state students to pay in-state tuition. Online students can also save on transportation and housing expenses incurred by on-campus students. Tuition for top online geography schools typically ranges from $150-$600 per credit. Online students can apply for financial aid, such as grants and scholarships, to help lower costs.
Scholarships and Financial Aid for Geography Programs
Online geography students can apply for financial aid, such as loans, grants, and scholarships, to help offset the cost of tuition. Grants and scholarships are the best awards because they do not need to be repaid. The following table outlines a few scholarship opportunities for undergraduate geography students.
Abraham Anson Memorial Scholarship
Presented by the Imaging and Geospatial Information Society, this award consists of $2,000 and a one-year student membership to the society. Applicants must attend (or plan to attend) a U.S. college or university and study geospatial science and technology and photogrammetry remote sensing surveying and mapping. Applicants must submit a list of applicable courses (planned or taken), transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.
EPP/MSI Undergraduate Scholarship Program
Provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Educational Partnership Program and Minority Serving Institutions, this scholarship funds two years of undergraduate study for juniors in STEM disciplines related to NOAA’s mission. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or nationals attending minority-serving institutions with a minimum 3.2 GPA. In addition to the monetary award, recipients receive two paid summer internships with NOAA, culminating in a presentation of their projects at the Education and Science Symposium.
Marble-Boyle Undergraduate Achievement Awards in Geographic Science
Each year, the American Association of Geographer’s Marble Fund awards up to three $1,000 scholarships to full-time geography/computer science undergraduate students studying at accredited North American colleges or universities. Students must be no more than one year away from graduation and must submit academic transcripts, a letter of recommendation from a faculty member, and an 800-word essay outlining their career goals and how their education will help them meet those goals.
National Society of Professional Surveyors Foundation
This foundation awards $30,000 in scholarships for college students studying GIS, mapping, and surveying and photogrammetry. Funded by companies, organizations, and individuals, scholarships were awarded to 14 students in 2019. The foundation also hosts an annual student competition in which teams of students from undergraduate programs in mapping, surveying, and geomatics complete a project, prepare a poster and a report, and present their work to a panel of judges. The top three teams receive monetary awards.
USGIF Scholarship Program
The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation partners with Reinventing Geospatial, Inc. to award a $10,000 scholarship to an undergraduate student studying engineering and geospatial intelligence and technology, including GIS, remote sensing, cartography, visualization, and related fields. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and demonstrate financial need, strong academic achievement, and participation in extracurricular activities.