Geography vs. Geology

People are always mixing up geography and geology.  Both fields are not very well-known and they do have similar names as well as areas of study, but THEY ARE DIFFERENT!

Feels good to get that out there.

Ever since I got into both fields, I’ve had to constantly correct people.  It can get a bit tiring.  So in this post I will draw the line and tell you what makes them similar and what makes them different.

Image from Google
Image from www.unomaha.edu

To start, I’ll give you the dictionary definitions, and then I’ll give you some examples.  After reading this, you won’t ever make the mistake of confusing the two again (I hope).

GEOLOGY…  is how I got into geography so I’ll start with it.

Most people think geologists just study rocks.  In truth we study the earth and the processes that create it.  So it’s about a lot more than just rocks, but they are interesting too.

According to dictionary.com geology is “the science that deals with the dynamics and physical history of the earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the physical, chemical, and biological changes that the earth has undergone or is undergoing.”

So what exactly did I study in my geology classes?  Why everything!

We started by learning about plate tectonics because it’s the foundation of geology.  The movements occurring within the earth are what create and shape the surface of it.  After that we learned about the chemical compositions of earth materials.  We then identified three major classes of rocks: igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic.  Afterwards we talked about natural processes such as volcanoes, weathering, earthquakes, crustal deformation, mass wasting and water/ice’s effect on the land.  We also looked at the evolution of the earth in terms of geologic time.  Which can make you feel as insignificant as someone gazing up at the infinite stars and thinking, “Gee, I’m tiny.”

But the thing I loved the most about learning all of this was learning how the beautiful natural wonders of the world were created. It makes you appreciate them even more.

Mouse over images for source info.

GEOGRAPHY…

has more to do with the spatial arrangement of phenomena on the earth’s surface and the relations between people and their environment – both in terms of nature and rural/urban spaces.

Image from Google

Image from Ms. Flis’ Blog.

According to dictionary.com geography is “the science dealing with the areal differentiation of the earth’s surface, as shown in the character, arrangement, and interrelations over the world of such elements as climate, elevation, soil, vegetation, population, land use, industries, or states, and of the unit areas formed by the complex of these individual elements.”

I’ve taken several different geography classes, each emphasizing a different aspect of geography.  As I’ve stated in previous posts, there is human, physical, regional, and geospatial techniques.  Physical geography is much like geology only it doesn’t go into as much detail.  Human geography focuses on human relationships such as culture while regional geography is more international (learning about different countries) and geospatial techniques involves using GPS and GIS.

But wait!  There is more!  The Geography Department recently sent this article to all the students and I think it provides an even better understanding of what geographers do and the reasons why it is such an integral part of our lives today.

“…a degree in geography could be more useful than law or economics.”  

–Susan Spano, L.A. Times

Geography is covering new ground for travelers   Because what is geography without travel?

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8 thoughts on “Geography vs. Geology

  1. Pingback: Geography vs. Geology | SONIC GEOGRAPHY

      • I’ve been thinking about this awhile. My undergrad is in Geography and I have worked as a Geospatial Analyst for about 6 years give or take in a mostly GIS specialist/business analyst/IT role. I have also worked in environmental health/services, forestry, and planning. I am currently working on a Master’s in Public Administration and have been pondering for a long time whether to focus my degree on Environmental Management/Geology (my first love) or Geospatial Tech/Management Information Systems. I’m still deciding. All of this to say that in my experience, the more complex and rigorous work is definitely in GIS/MIS/IT. Geography seems simple to some, but applied Geography is anything but simple. It’s mathematically and technically very challenging.

  2. Thank You for the wonderful article! Now You’ve bring Me back to the right track. But my question is this, “A degree in Geography ,is it done in the University “? because many believed geography to be an educational course. How does one apply for geography in the university and how long does it take to obtain a degree in the university?

  3. Geography is often cited as the oldest academic scientific discipline. It is also known as the mother of modern science.

    As a geographer myself, I like to explain Geography to most as the methodology of using the location *or* geometry of *insert object of study* in comparison to some other *insert object of study*, to derive some conclusion.

    …..How does the location of this waste dump site relate to the health of the adjacent neighborhood?….

    ….. Does a changing climate explain the migration of the bark beetle (and the subsequent enviro impacts) …..

    ….. does living on the leeward side of a giant mountain impact precipitation rate? ….

    ….. does living in the center of a giant continent (the mid-western united states, central russia) have an effect on annual temperature variance? ….

    Geography is much much more than just knowing the states or countries, just as geology is much more than collecting rocks.

  4. Pingback: Land Subsidence vs. Sinkholes | GeoMaster

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