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When most people think of geography, they think of maps, continents, countries, and capital cities. A geography degree program, though, covers much more than this, because geography is both a physical and a social science. It is made up of two main branches: physical geography and human geography.
Physical geography is concerned with the Earth’s natural components and processes, such as water, soil, climate, and plate tectonics – the motion of the plates of the Earth’s crust. In simple terms, its focus is the land. Human geography examines the relationship between people and the land. It looks at human existence, where we live and work, and how we use the space in our cities and communities.
Although students may choose to major in either physical or human geography, they do not study one or the other of the two branches of the field exclusively. This is because physical and human geography are interconnected. They intersect where people’s behavior impacts the environment. An example of this is how CO2 emissions are causing climate change.
Courses in math, science, and geographic information systems (GIS) form the foundation of any geography curriculum.