Study Physical Geography at the University of Montana
Earn your bachelor’s degree in geography at the University of Montana and discover opportunities for hands-on, field-based learning you won’t find anywhere else on Earth.
The physical geography concentration of the geography major at UM focuses on the landscapes, ecosystems and climate of our planet, offering unique opportunities to study mountain geography, one of our program’s specializations.
Focus areas include paleo-environments, environmental change, glaciers, periglacial, geomorphology, environmental rehabilitation, environmental hazards and vulnerability, and water resources.
of W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation graduates are employed or in graduate school
acres of land managed for faculty and student research and learning
estimated average salary of UM bachelor’s in geography graduates
Other degree options for geography at UM
- Bachelor of Science in Geography
- Bachelor of Science in Geography – Community and Environmental Planning
- Master of Science in Geography
- Minor in Geography
- Minor in Mountain Studies
What can you do with a geography degree?
As a geography major, you’ll learn how to use data to answer pressing questions that affect places and regions. You’ll also develop strong communication and leadership skills and learn how to apply those skills to help communities navigate their futures. Alumni of our bachelor’s degree program go on to diverse careers in business, industry, government, education and natural resources, as well as pursue graduate study in wide-ranging disciplines.
What is physical geography?
Physical geography is the study of our planet and its systems, including activity found in the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and lithosphere. It’s a diverse field of study that deals with seasons, climate, atmosphere, soil, streams, landforms and oceans — all of the natural features that occur at or near the Earth’s surface. Physical geographers also look at how activity and changes in the systems affect people and ways to help plan for the future.
Potential careers with a geography degree (with a concentration in physical geography) include:
- GIS analyst
U.S. News and World Report ranks geographer ninth in Best Science Jobs, and reports a median salary of $81,540 for this career. Average salaries for related careers include:*
- Geographic Information Systems (GIS) manager: $74,000
- Cartographer: $65,470
- Surveying and mapping technician: $45,010
*Based on recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Beyond the classroom: Experiential learning in the geography degree program
Explore Glacier National Park and the North Fork of the Flathead River in a field-based course that examines physical geography, winter ecology, geography vs. geology and more. Learn field techniques used by geographers and planners to collect data. Investigate water-resource issues in the western United States. As a geography major at UM, you’ll have access to exciting field-based learning opportunities that will make the world into your classroom.
Undergraduate research for geography majors
Access 25,000 acres of land managed for student and faculty research and learning — including Lubrecht Experimental Forest and Bandy Ranch at the south end of the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex. You’ll also have the opportunity to work in state-of-the-art geospatial computer labs designed for GIS studies at the Franke College of Forestry and Conservation.
Career development in the physical geography concentration
As a geography major, you’ll have numerous opportunities to connect with potential job opportunities and develop your professional network — through internships, field experiences, student organizations and more. You’ll also benefit from close faculty mentorship, in a program distinguished by a strong sense of community. When you graduate, you can look forward with confidence: 97% of W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation graduates are either employed or pursuing advanced study in their fields.
Student organizations for geography majors
Meet professionals in diverse fields of geography, build your network and make new friends. Here are a couple great opportunities to get you started:
Geography degree scholarships
The W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation offers a number of scholarships to help with tuition. Majors in geography are also eligible for Franke Sustainability Fellowships, which fund study abroad and research experiences focused on sustainability. Explore scholarship opportunities for geography majors at UM.
Explore classes for the geography program
In addition to completing the general requirements for a Bachelor of Science in Geography, the concentration in physical geography includes focused coursework covering topics such as weather and climate, geomorphology and global mountain environments. You’ll also need to complete an additional mathematics course above the 150 level.