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
  • Satisfactory completion of one graduate level methods course in or outside the department. This course should be approved in advance, before enrollment, by the student’s faculty supervisor and communicated to the Graduate Program Coordinator. The course satisfaction will be entered in the student's record by Director of Academic Services.
  • 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 the graduate level methods course 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.

Expected 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.
  • At the end of the quarter, discuss first-term progress and next-term plans, including choosing a faculty advisor, with Graduate Program Coordinator.


  • Early in the quarter, determine faculty advisor and confirm this with the Graduate Program Coordinator.
  • Begin discussions about possible thesis topics and IRB requirements with faculty advisor and other relevant faculty.
  • Discuss future coursework with faculty advisor, 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 in early winter quarter.
  • Defend thesis/research papers as early as practicable, but no later than the end of spring quarter.

Admission to Ph.D. Program

Students in the M.A. Program in the Department of Geography at the University of Washington who 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 describes progress on the M.A., the date or expected date of completion of the M.A., and a statement of purpose for the Ph.D (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.
  3. A letter from the student’ s M.A. Chair describing progress and completion or expected completion of the M.A (if the M.A. Chair is the same as the Doctoral Chair this information can be combined in one letter from the Doctoral Chair - see number 2 above).
  4. One additional letter of reference from a UW Geography faculty member willing to serve as a committee member.

These materials must be delivered by January 10 of the second academic year of a student’s M.A. Program for admission into the Ph.D. Program in the following Fall Quarter.

Students who do not complete the M.A. degree by the end of the first Fall Quarter of their expected entrance to the Ph.D. program must reapply to the department, using the process described above, in the quarter they defend the M.A.