Graduate programs

The Department of Geography offers the degrees of Master of Arts, Master of Science, Master of Arts in Teaching, and Master of Science in Teaching (General Social Science). The department also participates in the Earth, Environment, & Society Ph.D. degree in the School of the Environment.

Areas of primary concentration are urban geography, physical geography, resource management, culture, environment and society, GIS, and cartography. The M.A. and M.S. degrees are in part designed to meet the needs of students preparing for careers in research or administration in government and industry, urban and regional planning, and in secondary education and community college teaching. The M.A. and M.S. degrees also provide a predoctoral program in geography for students planning to take advanced work leading to professional careers in university teaching, research, or public service. Students are encouraged to follow a program that combines breadth of knowledge with depth in one field of interest.

Admission requirements

Geography M.A./M.S.

Geography M.A.T./M.S.T.

Geography M.A./M.S.

See University master’s degree requirements. Specific departmental requirements are listed below.


The student will plan a program of study with an adviser and other members of the supervisory committee during the first term of residence (the first term after admission to the program). The program of study must include a minimum of 45 graduate credits for thesis students and 54 graduate credits for non-thesis students. Of these, a minimum of 36 graduate credits must be in geography for the thesis option, to include 6 credits of Geog 503 (Thesis); a minimum of 40 graduate credits must be in geography for the non-thesis option, including 3 credits of Geog 501 Research. Both thesis and non-thesis programs must include the following: Geog 521, Geog 522, and Geog 523.

Students seeking the M.A. degree must demonstrate their competence in the use of a foreign language for geographic research; those preparing for an M.S. degree must show proficiency in advanced skills in geography or an equivalent research technique (8 credits of Techniques/Skills coursework). 

Students in the M.A. program must complete a thesis. Those in the M.S. program may choose between thesis and non-thesis options. The thesis option requires the presentation of the student’s independent research into a topic approved by the student’s graduate committee. It normally involves field work and is an original contribution to knowledge in the field of geography. A final oral examination by the student’s committee includes defense of the thesis.

Candidates electing the non-thesis option must register for 3 credits of Geog 501 Research to rewrite, edit, and revise a research paper or project that must evolve from graduate coursework in geography at PSU. A final oral presentation of the paper is required for completion of the degree. All graduate students, whether in thesis or non-thesis programs, are encouraged to attend the department’s colloquia.

The Geography Department follows the University requirement for minimum and continuous enrollment.