MA in Geography

The Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (GRS) is no longer admitting students to the MA in Geography. Continuing students should note the stated degree requirements.

The master’s program in geography is designed for the student with an undergraduate degree in the natural sciences, or related social sciences, and provides students with fundamental knowledge in both the natural and social sciences required to understand the social and environmental aspects of global change. This program prepares students for further study in academia and establishes the skill set necessary for careers in environmental consulting, advocacy, and policy; sustainability and resource management; international aid and development; and environmental law.

The department offers two programs leading to the Master of Arts—one requiring coursework, a research paper, and a written examination; the other, coursework, an oral examination, and a thesis. Students and their advisors work together in planning an individualized program of study to meet these requirements. This program prepares students for further graduate work in the field or careers in cartography; environmental consulting, advocacy, and policy; development surveying, sustainability, and resource management; as well as international aid and development.

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate advanced knowledge of the fundamental concepts and topics in a specific subfield of geography and environment.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the quantitative and/or qualitative methods used in a specific subfield of geography and environment and use this knowledge to solve complex problems in geography and environment.
  • Critically evaluate scientific and causal arguments.
  • Communicate effectively about concepts and problems in geography and the environment.

Course Requirements

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

  • GRS EE 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.

Language Requirement

There is no foreign language requirement for this degree.

Master of Arts by Examination

Comprehensive Exam

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 normally 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.

Thesis/Research Project

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.

Colloquium Requirement

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

Thesis/Research Project

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. Regulations concerning preparation of the thesis are determined by the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and by the student’s advisor.

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

Colloquium Requirement

At some point prior to completing the thesis, each thesis candidate must make at least one presentation of ongoing research to the departmental community.

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 this oral examination constitutes the last major step toward the degree.