Program Description

Berkeley Geography offers the highest quality graduate training for future scholars and teachers at the collegiate level, as well as for those going into professional careers in government, NGOs and consulting. The program is divided into three major areas: Development & Environment, Local & Global Relations, and Global Environmental Change. Within these domains a wide range of faculty interests are represented, such as political ecology, economic geography, cultural geography, modernity studies, urban studies, geography of race and gender, climatology, biogeography, and geomorphology. Faculty come with a broad spectrum of regional specialties as well, including Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Arctic, the Pacific Basin, California, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America. The faculty has been expanded in recent years to include a number of affiliates in other departments with expertise in such fields as GIS, natural resources, fluvial geomorphology, archeology, cognition, paleo-environments, and urban architecture.

Berkeley students are expected to be independent, and we welcome those who have had professional experience and wish to return to deepen their education. Students are encouraged to range freely through the curriculum and to follow their inspiration where it leads, working in tandem with faculty advisors. Students choose their own mentors, often utilizing two or three faculty in equal measure; these may include faculty affiliates and members from other departments. While faculty have their own research agendas and teaching specialties, and often collaborate with students, we believe students should march to their own drummer. We expect students to read extensively, develop the necessary research skills, and produce well-crafted thesis and dissertation. Many students publish their findings along the way, as well.

The University of California at Berkeley is the premier graduate research and education institution in the United States, and Geography students can take advantage of a wealth of corollary programs and faculty. Geographers regularly interact with faculty and students from the College of Natural Resources, College of Environmental Design, Energy and Resources Group, Geology & Geophysics, Biological Sciences, Departments of Anthropology, Sociology, Economics, Women’s Studies and Ethnic Studies in the Division of Social Sciences, and with Art History, English and others of the Humanities. The campus is rich with interdisciplinary Centers and Institutes in International Studies, Latin American Studies, Labor Studies, Atmospheric Sciences, Southeast and East Asian Studies, Humanities, European Studies, and many more. Collaboration with the Lawrence Laboratories is also common. Geographers direct several of these centers and students benefit from research programs, grants and symposia organized under their aegis. Geographers also provide core teaching in Development Studies, Environmental Sciences, and American Studies.

Geography is housed in the renovated (and seismically reinforced) McCone Hall, near the lively North Gate of campus. The Earth Sciences and Map Library is downstairs. Across the glade is the Main Library, center of the system housing 11 million volumes, and the exceptional Bancroft Library, the greatest archive of materials on Western and Central America. The Department facilities include classrooms, offices for faculty, students and visiting scholars, research laboratories, cartography, GIS and remote sensing teaching labs. Central to our operations is the Department Computer Facility, one of the best of its kind on campus and a hub of everyday faculty, staff and student operations. Its main lab, specializing in graphics and cartography, includes scanners, digitizer, and color printers, backed up by a Web Server, extensive software library, and the campus TCP-IP network. We have a large range of low-tech wall-maps, projectors and copiers, as well. The Department staff provides excellent support in all areas, including student services, grants, equipment, computing and cartography.


Geography is an inquiry into the patterns and processes that make up the surface of the Earth. It is a broad field of inquiry that, in our department, includes glaciers and climate change, the origins of agriculture and the evolution of plant life, the culture of cities and the dynamics of the global economy. Such a wide range of themes gives each student great freedom to choose a research topic, develop an intellectual style, and select approaches to gathering evidence and making persuasive arguments. That freedom also includes opportunities to go outside of the department and make use of the tremendous resources of the campus as a whole. Our goal is to help each student find his or her own combination of intellectual rigor, creativity, and independence.