United States Geography Masters Programs
Geography masters programs teach students the study of the people and places on the planet. Geography is commonly called the “mother of all sciences”. This is because geography's disciplines include: anthropology, geology, and astronomy developed from this initial area of study. Geology is divided into two branches. Physical geography, the study of the earth’s structure: land, air, water, and living inhabitants. And, cultural geography which explores human impact on earth.
Interested individuals can choose between earning a masters in geography or a Ph.D. in geography. Online geography graduate programs may be a good option for those needing flexibility in their academic schedule.
Prospective applicants to a masters in geography program should ideally possess the following characteristics:
- Fascinated by science and life on earth
- Curious about the interplay between people and environment
- Strong math skills
Geography Masters Programs Application Process
Applicants who anticipate studying physical geography may benefit from experience with biology, geology, or climatology. Those interested in cultural geography might benefit from coursework in social sciences. GRE scores, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and TOEFL scores, if applicable, are general requirements for admission.
Masters in Geography Program Curriculum
Before applying to any geography masters programs, it is important to identify an area of concentration. Are you drawn to physical or cultural geography? Do you anticipate studying a particular region in-depth? Do you want to become knowledgeable in geographic technologies? The following is a partial list of geography sub-disciplines to consider:
- Biophysical geography
- Economic geography
- Medical geography
- Natural resource geography
GIS Masters Programs
Coursework for graduate degrees in geography will differ by school and area of concentration. Some common courses include:
- Geographic information systems
- Biogeography and conservation
- Fluvial forms and processes
- Markets and nature
- Land and landscape
- Geography and social theory
- Natural disasters
Geography masters programs can take two to three years to complete, and often requires a thesis, while the Ph.D. can take five to seven years and involves a dissertation based on original research.
Resources for Geographers
There are many professional organizations for geography professionals. The Geographic Information Systems Certification Institute (GISCI) offers geographers professional certification, in geographic information systems. The GISCI certification considerations include but are not limited to; level of education, coursework taken, conferences attended, professional experience, publications, awards received, volunteer efforts, and other contributions to the field.
Geography Career Paths
Geography may lend itself to a wide variety of career paths. While many geographers find work in the government, others work at environmental agencies. Those familiar with geography technologies such as GIS may be qualified for positions at telecommunications firms and utility companies. Urban planning, cartography, and climatology may also be options for those with graduate degrees in geography. This specialized knowledge could also lead to a career as a science writer or editor.
Geography Future Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, geographers are projected to enjoy a 29% increase in job growth between 2012 and 2022. This growth can be attributed to an increased need on the part of certain agencies for maps or imaging of land structures, as well as the ongoing need to repair infrastructure.
Geographer Salary Potential
In 2012 the median annual salary for geographers was $74,760, the top 10% of earners made more than $103,870, while the bottom 10% of earners made less than $41,910, according to BLS reports.
The BLS also states employment for cartographers and photogrammetrists is anticipated to rise by 20% from 2012 to 2022. The median annual wage of a cartographer or photogrammetrists in 2012 was $57,440. Surveyors are expected to see 10% job growth from 2012 to 2022. The median annual salary of a surveyor in 2012 was $56,230.
The graph below provides 2012 median salary information for geographers, cartographers, and surveyors in select industries.
- Muncie, INMuncie, IN
Ball State University
Specialized Master's program focused on geographic information science and/or atmospheric science (meteorology and climatology)...
- Northridge, CANorthridge, CA
California State University, Northridge
- Lincoln, NELincoln, NE
University of Nebraska - Lincoln
Geography offers the following areas of concentration: geographic information analysis, human geography, historical-cultural geography, meteorology-climatology, and environmental studies.
- College Station, TXCollege Station, TX
Texas A&M University
- Long Beach, CALong Beach, CA
California State University, Long Beach
- Morgantown, WVMorgantown, WV
West Virginia University
- East Lansing, MIEast Lansing, MI
Michigan State University
- Chicago, ILChicago, IL
Northeastern Illinois University
The program is designed for students who are interested in a career which spans the human and natural environments.
- Manhattan, KSManhattan, KS
Kansas State University
The Department of Geography offers the Ph.D. in geography with an emphasis in rural geography. The thematic emphases within the program include the spatial dimensions of agricultural activities, rural economic development, natural resources evaluation a...
- Dekalb, ILDekalb, IL
Northern Illinois University
- Grand Forks, NDGrand Forks, ND
University of North Dakota
The mission of the Department of Geography’s Masters of Arts graduate degree program is to provide a solid foundation in the concepts and theories of human geography, and to prepare students for careers in community and local economic development, land...
- Oxford, OHOxford, OH
The Department of Geography offers the Master of Arts (M.A.) degree.
- Stillwater, OKStillwater, OK
Oklahoma State University
Interdisciplinary work is strongly encouraged, particularly in environmental science, resource management, urban and regional studies, and historic preservation. Particular emphasis is placed on the applied aspects of geography to prepare students for e...
- Las Cruces, NMLas Cruces, NM
New Mexico State University
The Department of Geography offers graduate study leading to the Master of Applied Geography degree.
- Mankato, MNMankato, MN
Minnesota State University - Mankato
- Macomb, ILMacomb, IL
Western Illinois University
- Norman, OKNorman, OK
University of Oklahoma
Although we're a small group at the University of Oklahoma Geography Department, we've got a surprising amount of depth in some parts of the discipline, and we're unusually supportive of our students. Our greatest strengths at the moment are cultural an...
- Reno, NVReno, NV
University of Nevada, Reno
- Cedar Falls, IACedar Falls, IA
University of Northern Iowa
The department's graduate programs prepare students to carry on creative and productive research in selected areas of geography involving the use and...
- Los Angeles, CALos Angeles, CA
California State University, Los Angeles
- Newark, DENewark, DE
University of Delaware