Physical geography

Physical Geography Undergraduate Certificate

Physical geographers study Earth’s physical environment and its interactions with human activities across spatial and temporal scales. Through courses for the 12-credit certificate in Physical Geography, students will understand and be able to articulate the geographic patterns and physical processes attending Earth’s climate and landscape systems, including its hydrology, landforms, soils, and vegetation, along with the evidence for and impacts of past and contemporary environmental changes.

WHAT IS Physical Geography?

Physical geography is one of four key subdisciplines within geography (along with human geography, environment-society geography, and geographic information science). Physical geographers seek to understand Earth’s natural systems and processes and their interactions with human activities across spatial and temporal scales. Physical geographers conduct field and laboratory work and use geospatial technologies to explore and model environmental phenomena such as vegetation and wildlife, wetlands ecology and management, landscape dynamics, climate systems, and global environmental change. Some topics of study include the burning of fossil fuels and emissions of greenhouse gasses and particulates into the atmosphere, natural gas fracking and earthquakes, river diversion and dam construction, groundwater withdrawal and land subsidence, urbanization and the “heat island” effect, land clearance and deforestation, irrigated agriculture, wildland fire, the introduction of invasive species, and coastal overdevelopment.


Students earning the certificate in Physical Geography are well-positioned to find employment with diverse organizations spanning business, government, and nonprofit sectors.

Where Our Graduates Find Jobs

  • Conservation International
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • NASA
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • National Park Service
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Resources for the Future
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • U.S.  Forest Service
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • Local, regional, and state planning agencies
  • Environmental and engineering consulting firms
  • Policy research institutes
  • Private corporations
  • Humanitarian organizations

Student Clubs and Organizations