M.A. 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

  • GEOG 500: Contemporary Geographic Thought
  • GEOG 511: Contemporary Research Design In Geography, or another approved social science research design course from another department--for more information, consult the Graduate Program Director
  • One additional methods course, from the following:
    • GEOG 525: Advanced Qualitative Methods in Geography
    • GEOG 526: Advanced Quantitative Methods in Geography
    • GEOG 560: GIS Analysis
    • GEOG 561: Urban GIS
    • GEOG 562: Coastal GIS
    • GEOG 564: GIS and Decision Support
  • Satisfactory completion of at least three quarters of GEOG 598: Geography Colloquium.
  • Two departmental research seminars. These should be designated as “seminars” or “research seminars." GEOG 500, 502, 511 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 Director. 

Additional Requirements

  • The completion of at least 36 credits of graduate work, including 18 graded credits. At least nine of these credits must be GEOG 700 for thesis or research paper preparation.
  • A minimum of three full-time (at least 10 credits) quarters of residence credits. Part-time quarters may be accumulated to meet one quarter’s worth of this requirement.
  • 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.
  • A Final Examination constituting a defense of the thesis or papers.
  • All work for the degree must be completed within 6 years.

Suggested M.A. Timetable

Year 1


  • Decide appropriate class(es) to take in addition to GEOG 500 (5 credits) and GEOG 598 (1 credit).
  • Consult with relevant faculty about possible research interests.


  • Determine faculty adviser and confirm this with Graduate Program Director.
  • Begin discussions about possible thesis topics with adviser and relevant other faculty.
  • Discuss future coursework with adviser, including appropriate methods course.


  • Determine composition of master’s committee.
  • Prepare thesis proposal for consideration of adviser and other member(s) of the committee.


  • Conduct research, as possible, for thesis.

Year 2


  • Complete additional coursework, as necessary.
  • Continue to research thesis.
  • Begin writing thesis or research papers.

Winter and Spring

  • Register for GEOG 700 credits.
  • Write and revise thesis or research papers.
  • Apply for entrance to Ph.D. program and for funding.
  • Defend thesis/research papers as early as practicable, but no later than the end of spring quarter.

Admission to Ph.D. Program

Students completing their M.A. degree in the Department of Geography at the University of Washington and thereafter wish to enroll in the Ph.D. program must ensure delivery of the following materials to the Director of Academic Services 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 Chair of the Doctoral Supervisory Committee; and
  3. One additional letter of reference from a UW Geography faculty member.

These materials must be delivered no later than the quarter before they wish to gain admission to the Ph.D. program (excluding summer). Because of the timing of funding decisions, students are strongly encouraged to submit these materials by January 15 to ensure full consideration for a post-M.A. 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.