MA in Geography

The department offers two programs leading to the Master of Arts degree—one requiring coursework, a research paper, and a written examination; the other, coursework and a thesis.


At least eight semester courses (32 credits) constitute the minimum requirement. Requirements are as follows:

  • GRS GE 516: Multivariate Analysis for Geographers, or its equivalent
  • Two courses on analytical methods
  • At least one topical research seminar in the department
  • One graduate-level course in a cognate field outside the department

A maximum of three semester courses in directed study is allowed for the Master of Arts degree. For more information on graduate course offerings go to the Graduate Course Descriptions pages.

Master of Arts by Examination

Each student pursuing the Master of Arts degree by examination must prepare a research paper of publishable length and quality. It will be evaluated by the student’s advisory committee.

At the beginning of the final semester of degree coursework, candidates must make a written request to the department to take the master’s examination. Such examinations are administered in October and March. Candidates are expected to demonstrate a thorough understanding of their major field of interest and of the material covered in the core courses.


Students in the master’s by examination program must, in addition, offer an oral presentation of independent research or seminar research to the departmental community before finishing the degree. This presentation, which is expected to demonstrate a professional approach in content, structure, and delivery, will be evaluated as either satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

Master of Arts with Thesis

A viable thesis topic must be selected no later than the third semester. Up to 4 credits (or one full course within the eight-course total required) may be earned by thesis preparation under the designation of directed study, at the discretion of the student’s advisor. A three-member faculty advisory committee, chaired by the major advisor, is selected to help guide the thesis research.

Each candidate must prepare a written research proposal and defend it orally before the full advisory committee.

Oral Examination

When the thesis is completed, the advisory committee examines the candidate orally on matters broadly relevant to the thesis. Successful defense of the thesis in the oral examination constitutes the last major step toward the degree.

Thesis Specification

Regulations concerning preparation of the thesis are determined by the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and by the student’s advisor. Guidelines for preparing illustrations are available from the department.