Geography in the UK - vital skills for the modern world

With growing interest in issues such as climate change, migration, environmental degradation and social cohesion, geography is one of the most relevant courses you could choose to study, as Dr. Catherine Souch explains.

There has never been a better or more important time to study geography. Often the top media stories of the day concern topics related to geography such as climate change, crime statistics, spread of disease, wind farms and other renewable energy resources and pressures on the environment.

Geographers’ abilities to understand such issues from a breadth of different perspectives, and the implications these issues have locally and globally, mean that their knowledge and skills are highly sought after in the workplace.

Geography in the UK

“Across the UK, more than 90 universities offer degree courses in geography at undergraduate, master’s and PhD levels”

In a world where much of our information is now spatially based, from postcodes to sat-navs, geographic information science (GIS) has rapidly grown to become an essential tool in business organisations and government, creating even more opportunities for those with geographical skills and knowledge.

Across the UK, more than 90 universities offer degree courses in geography at undergraduate, master’s and PhD levels. Among these are the leading geography departments in the world. Students from a wide variety of backgrounds and qualifications study geography, full-time and part-time. Applications from overseas students are welcomed.

The range of options is large and constantly developing - from single honours degrees in geography (that stress different dimensions of the natural and social sciences and humanities), to joint degrees with, for example, economics, business, chemistry or tourism, to more specialised degrees in geohazards, climate change, international development, or computer based mapping and GIS.

Most degrees are three years; four years in Scotland. Most programmes offer opportunities for fieldwork, often in a wide range of locations. Some programmes are large, whilst others are small. Each has a slightly different emphasis, particularly in the more advanced courses taught and the research undertaken.

The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) has developed a number of resources to support everyone interested in studying geography. The Study Geography web resource provides information on university courses, how to apply, guidance on key issues to think through when choosing the best programme of study for you and advice on writing a strong application.

The careers brochure 'Going Places with Geography' highlights a range of careers and opportunities in which geography graduates flourish, examining what these jobs involve and the value of geography.

Whatever your passion in the world - fascination with the environment or concerns about inequality - geography in the UK will provide you with the knowledge, experience and transferable skills that will reward you personally and advance you professionally.

To find out how the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) can help you, visit -

Written by Dr. Catherine Souch (2010)
Head of Research and Higher Education
Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)