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Programs / Arts / Geography (BA)

Program Details

The BA Geography program at Carleton focuses on human and environmental geography, exploring and analyzing a wide range of topics such as local food systems, urban poverty, cultural landscapes, adaptation to climate change and natural resource management. A separate concentration may be taken in Physical Geography, which studies the Earth’s natural systems, processes and environmental change. Our professors have extensive expertise in social, political and cultural geography; resource management and environmental assessment; and the study of physical processes of the Earth’s vegetation, climate, water and soil systems. Field courses, workplace opportunities (1 day a week practicum; full term co-op), and training in tools like geographic information systems, remote sensing and cartography also provide an opportunity to gain practical experience while you study. A Bachelor of Science in Physical Geography is also available.

During your studies in Geography at Carleton, you will develop a combination of skills that will make you highly employable. This program will enable you to analyze problems thoroughly, to use computers effectively, to tackle issues of varying complexity, to work productively in teams and to communicate professionally.

Our professors have extensive expertise in 1) human geography, including urban environments and issues, community engagement and activism, impacts of resource extraction and environmental change on communities, gender issues, globalization, geopolitics, and economic, historical and cultural geography; 2) physical geography, including resource and environmental assessment, soil science, geomorphology, permafrost, biogeochemistry, climatology, hydrology and biogeography; and 3) geomatics, including Geographic Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing and cartography. Many professors also have regional expertise in various places such as the Arctic and Latin America.

Extensive learning and research facilities

You will have access to the latest in teaching laboratories at Carleton, including computer labs for GIS, remote sensing and cartography and labs for physical geography courses. In addition, the Carleton University Library houses extensive resource materials for geographers, including a collection of over 166,000 digital and paper maps.

Ottawa is rich in study resources vital to the geographer, such as Library and Archives Canada, the Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation, Statistics Canada, and other federal government departments. Ottawa’s extensive research and information technology activities also provide exciting opportunities.

Human Geography

Bachelor of Arts in Geography (Honours and General)

The Department of Geography and Environmental Studies offers programs leading to the four-year Bachelor of Arts (Honours and Combined Honours) and the three-year Bachelor of Arts (General) in Geography. These programs focus on human geography, including such topics as urban geography; social science perspectives on the environment, natural resources, sustainability, and climate change; and globalization, health, culture and development.

Physical Geography

Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Geography with a Concentration in Physical Geography

Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Physical Geography

Physical Geography is the study of the nature and processes of the Earth’s surface and atmosphere, including climate and climate change, geomorphology and landscape formation, soils, permafrost and natural hazards, as well as their importance to society and society’s impact on these natural systems. You will gain field and laboratory experience, and learn the specialized techniques (including Geomatics) for collection and analysis of environmental data.

The BA (Honours) Geography degree with a Concentration in Physical Geography includes an integrated set of human and physical geography courses as described above. The BSc Physical Geography program focuses on environmental and geographic science and includes certain science course requirements. A BSc in Earth Sciences and Geography with a Concentration in Terrain Science may also be taken.

Hands-on learning

Our interest in your future has led us to build practical learning experiences into our programs. As a BA (Honours) Geography student, you will gain valuable field experience by participating in the Honours Field Course in third year. Geography Honours students also have opportunities for workplace experiences through our practicum courses in:

  • private industry (e.g., waste management, environmental assessment and monitoring, geomatics companies);
  • government departments, such as the Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Environment Canada, National Defence, Foreign Affairs and International Development; and
  • non-governmental organizations (NGOs) related to environmental, social and cultural issues.

Co-op opportunities                                       

In addition to a practicum program, the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies offers co-op opportunities for eligible Honours students. Co-op jobs are paid, full-time positions that give students a chance, over three four-month work terms, to put their learning into practice and gain new skills and contacts. Graduating with co-op work experience can give you an advantage in today’s competitive job market.

Honours field camp and research project

As an Honours Geography student, you will gain valuable field experience by participating in the Honours field course in third year. You will also have the opportunity to develop a research project in your area of interest. Fourth-year Honours research courses allow you to work one-on-one with a faculty supervisor, developing an area of independent research. You will graduate with a defined area of expertise, as well as valuable research experience.

First-year Seminars

BA students are strongly encouraged to include a First-year Seminar (FYSM) in their first-year course load. Our First-year Seminars will get you away from the lecture hall and give you the chance, in a small class of about 30 students, to discuss and debate topics with your classmates and professors. You will get early and frequent feedback on class assignments and will work on research, writing and study skills. Although some FYSMs count as courses leading to a major, you do not have to choose a FYSM in your major discipline. Currently, there are three First-year Seminars in Geography: Sustainable Environments, Social Justice and the City, and Location is Everything.

First-year Bachelor of Science students are encouraged to enrol in our unique seminar course Seminar in Science, designed specifically to introduce you to the latest scientific issues and to help you develop the kind of communication, analytical thinking and research skills you will need for your science studies. If you choose this elective, you will attend several special lectures given by prominent Canadian researchers, as well as small group seminars led by a professor who acts as both your mentor and teacher.

Following first year, Geography courses become more prominent in your course load, with specialization courses beginning in third year.

A sample first year for BA Honours in Geography

  • 0.5 credit in Global Environmental Systems
  • 0.5 credit in People, Places, and Environments
  • 0.5 credit in Maps, Satellites and the Geospatial Revolution
  • 2.5 credits in courses outside Geography
  • 1.0 credit in a First-year Seminar

The workplace

As a geographer, you will have a strong social and natural science base that makes a range of career possibilities available to you. Here are some positions that have been secured by our recent graduates:

  • urban recreation planner;
  • geomatics analyst;
  • transportation planner;
  • environmental scientist or consultant;
  • coastal geomorphologist;
  • agriculture researcher;
  • waste management coordinator;
  • resource planner;
  • community services manager; and
  • international development worker.

Graduate studies

Graduates of any of our Honours programs in Geography may also be eligible to go on to graduate studies in a variety of fields, including Physical Geography (MSc), Human Geography (MA), Land Resource Use, Management and Appraisal (MA or MSc) or Geomatics (MA or MSc).

If you are considering an advanced degree, you are encouraged to investigate graduate programs early in order to ensure that your Geography program meets the relevant graduate-level requirements.

Professional programs

Many professional programs, including law and teaching, encourage well-rounded applicants from a variety of backgrounds to apply. Geography provides a strong foundation for such programs, and you are encouraged to pursue interests you may have in these fields after completing an undergraduate degree.

What students are saying about Geography (BA)


I have enjoyed my time within the Geography program. The individual specialties of my professors and varied course offerings have allowed me to develop an interest in a broad array of subject areas from global migration to Canadian resource rights. I take with me a greater understanding of issues of space, place, and identity and how they are interwoven in our everyday experience.
Elizabeth Nelson, Anthropology and Geography student