B.S., Anthropology and Geography

The Anthropology and Geography major provides students with the skills for understanding and examining patterns of human activity and resource utilization across space and time, as well as the interactions between humans and the natural environment. Interdisciplinary in nature, this program focuses on the applied areas of cross-cultural studies, international development, ecological research design and method, the evolution of humans, environmental assessment, and sustainability.

Courses in Anthropology and Geography train students to examine human ecology from the ancient past to the modern present through courses in biological evolution, cultural adaptations, behavioral ecology, environmental impacts, and the ecology of human health and disease. In addition, students gain an understanding of the physical environment in which humans are placed, through courses in physical geography, resource management, biogeography, and climatology. Students are trained in relevant skills, including Geographic Information Systems, remote sensing, and quantitative methods.

Students interested in this major should be curious about the relationships between humans and the environment (including biology, behavior, climate and landscapes) from a broad hands-on perspective. Our students typically have particular interest in study abroad and involvement in international opportunities.

The program offers a four-year curriculum leading to a BS degree that prepares students for careers in environmental and regional planning, cultural resources management, archaeology, international development, climatology, science education, international health research, paralegal, and federal government work in behavioral analysis.

For more information about learning objectives, degree requirements and curriculum, major courses and electives, concentrations and GE requirements, please see the Cal Poly Catalog website.

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand and appreciate the cultural and physical attributes of major world regions, key regional issues and linkages between regions, the processes that shape cultural change and interaction, and international development issues. 
  2. Demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of human ecology with specific emphasis on the ecological, demographic, genetic, developmental, and epidemiological dimensions of modern human adaptations and their evolutionary foundations over time and space.
  3. Comprehend the historical place of humans around the globe and apply acquired skills for cultural resource management and conservation.
  4. Analyze the processes that shape the earth's physical environment (e.g. climate, landforms, water, soils, biota, and ecosystems), the distribution of natural resources, and the ways in which humans utilize natural resources and impact the environment with an emphasis on sustainability.
  5. Apply scientific research methodology and design, including the ability to collect, synthesize, and interpret qualitative and quantitative cultural and ecological data using a variety of methods including the utilization of geo-spatial technologies (GIS, remote sensing, and GPS).
  6. Critically analyze issues from multiple perspectives and communicate results effectively.
  7. Synthesize information and utilize acquired skills locally and globally to improve the state of the environment and the human condition by applying cultural, ecological, and spatial knowledge, methods, and techniques.

Internship or Study Abroad Requirement

As a means of promoting relevant job skills, hands-on learning, and field experience, majors are required to complete either an approved internship or study abroad program. Students who do an internship will receive a minimum of 4 units of credit (ANT 465 or GEOG 465 Internship). The department will assist students in identifying suitable internships. However, students are encouraged to explore options for themselves based on their interests. In place of an internship, students may choose to participate in a study abroad program. Four units of approved coursework taken while studying abroad will be substituted for the internship course.

Please see the internships section of this website for more information about Anthropology and Geography internships.


Students may select one of the following concentrations or the individualized course of study. 

  • Cross-Cultural Studies and International Development
    Provides students with the theoretical knowledge and applied skills necessary for the study and practice of inter-national development in cross-cultural settings. Students attain an in-depth knowledge of the social, political, eco-nomic, and ecological dimensions of international develop-ment and gain practical skills through research projects, international study, and applied internships. The concentra-tion provides expertise and training for internationally-focused careers including public and private development institutions, the Peace Corps, the public health field, educa-tion, and numerous careers where cross-cultural under-standing is essential.
  • Environmental Studies and Sustainability
    Provides students with an understanding of human environmental relationships, resource utilization, and the human impact on the Earth. Current environmental issues are explained and evaluated in a global and historical context. Students learn the importance of sustainable land use practices and techniques for their successful implementation. Applied and  technical skills important to assessing the environment and promoting sustainability are emphasized.
  • Human Ecology
    Students learn about the natural environ-ment, human behavioral and cultural systems, and the com-plex interrelationships between the three. Major concepts and practice emphasize broad spatial and temporal perspectives. Students acquire knowledge and skills related to global and regional climate and physical geography, human evolution, cultural ecology, behavioral ecology, prehistoric and recent environmental change, indigenous cultures of the new world, methods for analyzing climate change and related human responses in the past and present.
  • Individualized Course of Study
    An opportunity to pursue a course of study which meets  a student’s individual needs and interests. It consists of 28 units at the 300–400 level that are selected by the student in consultation with an advising faculty member. The student must also provide a written justification for the courses and the way they constitute a cohesive, integrated course of study. The list of courses is a contract between the student and the Department.
  • Teaching
    With additional coursework as prescribed by the College of Education, students may pursue the Multiple Subject Credential (for elementary school teachers) or the Single Subject Credential (for secondary school social science teachers of anthropology, economics, geography, government, history, political science, psychology, or sociology). This concentration prepares a candidate for Subtest I of the CSET Multiple subjects exam and strengthens a candidate’s knowledge in all 16 History-Social Science Content Standards established by the California State Board of Education. For more information regarding teacher credential programs, please see the College of Education section.

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