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
- Urban geography
GIS Masters Programs
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.
- Ypsilanti, MIYpsilanti, MI
Eastern Michigan University
- San Diego, CASan Diego, CA
San Diego State University
In addition to the general M.A. program, it is possible to pursue a concentration in either resources and environmental quality or transportation. The Master of Arts degree is designed to provide advanced training for (a) students who plan to terminate...
- Denver, CODenver, CO
University of Colorado Denver
The Geography and Geospatial Science MA program emphasizes the integration of the natural/physical and social sciences with geospatial technical skills.
- Edwardsville, ILEdwardsville, IL
Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville
- Detroit, MIDetroit, MI
Wayne State University
The master's degree in Geography provides opportunities to develop skills in advanced geographicresearch and analysis that can lead to doctoral studie...
- Knoxville, TNKnoxville, TN
University of Tennessee
The Master's program is viewed as a professionalizing experience in a relatively broad sense, but concentrations are possible in many areas. At the Ph...
- Stanford, CAStanford, CA
Graduate programs give specialized training for professional work in exploration, research, and education, and lead to degrees...
- Bozeman, MTBozeman, MT
Montana State University - Bozeman
- Baton Rouge, LABaton Rouge, LA
Louisiana State University
The degrees of master of arts (MA), master of science (MS) and master of natural science (MNS) are offered in geography. Students concentrating in cultural, economic, urban or historical geography enroll in the MA program, while those in physical geogra...
- Washington, DCWashington, DC
The George Washington University
Established in the heart of the nation's capital in 1821, GW provides innovative programs in more than 200 fields of study, including graduate certifi...
- Dekalb, ILDekalb, IL
Northern Illinois University
- Columbia, SCColumbia, SC
University of South Carolina
Research-oriented programs emphasizing geographic information processing, human and physical geography. Graduates find research-oriented and teaching careers in higher education, business and government.
- University Park, PAUniversity Park, PA
Pennsylvania State University
The Pennsylvania State University offers M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Geography. The faculty encourage graduate students to arrange courses of study appropriate to their individual needs and aspirations. Programs in geography may be directed toward a caree...
- Boston, MABoston, MA
- Binghamton, NYBinghamton, NY
Binghamton University (S.U.N.Y.)
The Department of Geography at Binghamton University offers a Master of Arts (MA) in geography. We seek to foster and advance teaching, research and publication in the discipline of geography as well as train students to provide their expertise to th...
- Gainesville, FLGainesville, FL
The University of Florida
In addition to its areas of specialization, the department offers close contacts with related interdisciplinary units on campus including, Latin American Studies, African Studies, Hydrologic Sciences, Wetland Center, Gerontology and the Institute of Foo...
- Gainesville, FL
- Atlanta, GAAtlanta, GA
Georgia Institute Of Technology
The Georgia Tech School of City and Regional Planning now offers a professional masters degree in the rapidly growing field...
- New York City, NYNew York City, NY
City University of New York (CUNY) Hunter College
The Department of Geography offers a master of arts in geography with emphasis on analytical geography.
- Seattle, WASeattle, WA
University of Washington
The University of Washington Geography Dept. is one of North America's leading graduate programs (urban, social, and political geography; economic geography; development studies; cartography and GIS; and society and environment). Located in Seattle.
- Lawrence, INLawrence, IN
University of Kansas
The Department of Geography is committed to graduate education, research, and innovative teaching. The graduate program integrates course work with te...
- College Park, MDCollege Park, MD
University of Maryland - College Park
- Bloomington, INBloomington, IN
- Cincinnati, OHCincinnati, OH
University of Cincinnati
Objectives are to provide graduate work leading to the degrees of Master of Arts, Doctor of Philosophy and a joint Master of Community Planning with the School of Planning. The Department specializes in spatial analyses of human and physical environment...