MA Degree Requirements

MA Degree Requirements

The Master’s Degree Program enables students to gain greater familiarity with the richness and rigor of advanced study in the discipline of Geography.  Students use coursework to develop familiarity with the discipline and their chosen subfield(s), and use an original research project to develop skills in data gathering and analysis.  Students may write either a thesis or two high-quality research papers as part of their degree requirements.  These original works are expected to meet high standards for research design and data analysis.

Required Courses

1. Geography 500, Contemporary Geographic Thought
2. Geography 511, Contemporary Research Design In Geography, or another approved social science research design course from another department–for more information, please consult the Graduate Program Coordinator.
3. One additional methods course, from amongst the following:, Geography 525 (Advanced Qualitative Methods in Geography), Geography 526 (Advanced Quantitative Methods in Geography), Geography 560 (GIS Analysis), Geography 561 (Urban GIS), Geography 562 (Coastal GIS), and Geography 564 (GIS and Decision Support).
4. Satisfactory completion of at least three quarters of Geography 598, Geography Colloquium.
5. Two departmental research seminars. These should be designated as “seminars” or “research seminars”. Geog 500, 511, 502 and 513 and any of the “methods” course listed above do not count toward this requirement. In some cases, a “directed readings” course (Geog 600) may count in lieu of this requirement. To petition for this substitution, the Geog 600 faculty member should write an appeal to the Graduate Program Coordinator. Please direct any questions about whether a specific 500-level Geog course counts toward this requirement to James Baginski.

Additional requirements

1. The completion of at least 36 credits of graduate work, including 18 graded credits. At least nine of these credits must be Geography 700 (Thesis Preparation).
2. A minimum of three full-time (at least 9 credits) quarters of residence credits.  Part-time quarters may be accumulated to meet one quarter’s worth of this requirement.
3. A grade of at least 3.0 in all departmental courses, and a grade of 2.7 in all related courses used to satisfy degree requirements. An overall grade point average of 3.0 must be maintained to remain in the program.
4. A Final Examination constituting a defense of the thesis or papers.
5. All work for the degree must be completed within 6 years.

Suggested M.A. Timetable

Year 1


1. Decide appropriate class(es) to take in addition to Geog 500 and 598.
2. Consult with relevant faculty about possible research interests.


1. Determine faculty advisor, and confirm this with Graduate Program Coordinator.
2. Begin discussions about possible thesis topics with advisor and relevant faculty.
3. Discuss future coursework with advisor, including appropriate methods course.


1. Determine composition of masters’ committee.
2. Prepare thesis proposal for consideration of advisor and other member(s) of the committee.


1. Conduct research, as possible, for thesis.

Year 2


1. Complete additional coursework, as necessary.
2. Continue to research thesis.
3. Begin writing thesis or research papers.

Winter and Spring

1. Register for thesis credits.
2. Write and revise thesis or research papers.

3. Apply for entrance to PhD program and for funding (see Admissions to PhD Program section below for deadlines and timelines)
3. Defend thesis as early as practicable, but no later than the end of spring quarter.

Forming a Committee

Students should work to determine the faculty member most appropriate to serve as the Chair their committee.  Ideally, this decision will be made by the end of the first quarter of the first year, but certainly no later than the middle of the second quarter of the first year.  One to three additional members may serve on the student’s committee.  Both the Chair and one other committee member must be on the Geography graduate faculty.

The student’s committee is responsible for ensuring that the student meets all the requirements for the degree.  More importantly, the committee provides the student guidance in developing and executing an original research project.  Ordinarily, the student works most closely with the committee Chair, who oversees the initial drafts of the thesis or research papers.  The committee is also responsible for conducting the student’s final oral examination.

Final Examination for the Master’s Degree

To schedule a final examination, the student must first determine availability from Supervisory Committee members to arrive at a mutually agreed upon date and time for the Final Examination. The student then reserves an appropriate room through the Geography graduate program coordinator).  Finally, the student submits a request to graduate through MyGradProgram.

Students must defend by the last day of the quarter (i.e., last day of the Final Examination Week) and be enrolled in at least two credits (e.g., Geog 700). The student is responsible for giving the complete, near-to-final draft of the thesis to Committee members far enough in advance to ensure adequate time for review.

The Geography GPA will give the student’s Warrant to the Supervisory Committee Chair. The Supervisory Committee should sign the Warrant at the conclusion of the Final Examination. Results of the Final Examination must be reported to the UW Graduate School (by the last day of finals week) by returning the signed Warrant to the student’s permanent file and reporting the exam results to the Geography GPA. A minimum of two Committee members, including the chair, must be present for the final exam to take place; any absent members of the Supervisory Committee must certify the results (i.e., send an email to the Graduate Advisor with her/his recommendation). If the exam is not satisfactory, the Committee may recommend to the Dean of the UW Graduate School that the student be allowed to take another examination after an interval of study.

In addition to the signed warrant (to be kept in the student’s permanent departmental file), the student must also get signatures on the Master’s Supervisory Committee Approval Form. This form must be signed after all committee members have seen the final version of the MA thesis, and submitted to the Graduate School by the end of the quarter the student wishes to graduate, simultaneously with the electronic submission of the MA thesis. Information about the thesis-filing process can be found at: As noted, enrollment in at least two credits (e.g., Geog 700) is required during the quarter in which a student takes the Final Examination (i.e., defends), submits the Master’s Supervisory Committee Approval Form, submits the thesis or research papers, and graduates. The only exception is when a student needs a limited amount of additional time after the last day of the quarter to submit the thesis to the UW Graduate School. Students who submit their theses within fourteen (14) days after the last day of the quarter in which they defended do not have to enroll in two credits if they meet the Graduate Registration Waiver Fee eligibility requirements and submit the thesis and waiver fee by the applicable deadline.

Admissions to PhD Program

Students completing their M.A. degree in the Department of Geography at the University of Washington who wish to enroll in the Ph.D. program must ensure the delivery of the following materials to the Graduate Program Assistant for consideration by the Graduate Admissions Committee:

1. A letter from the student requesting admission to the Ph.D. program that includes a statement of purpose (no more than 3 pages);

2. A letter of support from a UW Geography faculty member willing to serve as doctoral advisor; and

3. One additional letter of reference from a UW Geography faculty member.

Students must ensure delivery of these materials no later than during the quarter before they wish to gain admission to the Ph.D. program. Because of the timing of funding decisions, students are strongly advised to submit these materials by January 15 to ensure full consideration for a post MA funding award.  No applications will be accepted during Summer Quarter.

Students may submit these materials before completing the M.A. program, indicating the date of expected completion.  In no case will formal admission to the Ph.D. program occur before completion of the M.A.

Students who fail to complete the M.A. degree by the end of the quarter of their expected entrance to the Ph.D. program will be asked to reapply.