Geography Department Funding

Students on terraceAll graduate students who want financial aid must apply for departmental aid. Decisions about aid for the coming academic year are usually made during the Spring semester, although applicants should be forewarned that the filling of some positions often extends well into the summer months due to budget uncertainties, enrollment increases, resignations and the unexpected need to replace people who suddenly receive alternate support. Students should feel free at any time to ask the chair of the Graduate Program Director for the number and kind of anticipated positions and individual chances for receiving departmental aid.

Departmental teaching assistantships (TA) are awarded at a variety of appointment levels (though they will be at least 33% of a full time appointment). All departmental assistantships (at level 33% or above) carry tuition remission, a salary and health insurance benefits.

Some students are admitted with long term support guarantees from the Department. Typically, these guarantees are for 2 years of M.S. support and 3 years of Ph.D. support and are most commonly teaching assistantships.

Several types of financial aid are available, including:

Teaching Assistantships

The Department employs just over 20 TAs in the Fall and Spring. These positions are administered by the Graduate Studies Committee.

International applicants to graduate program who are not native English speakers are required to take the TOEFL as part of the application process. Upon arrival in Madison, these students must take the SPEAK test if they wish to be considered for TAships. The department adopts the following guidelines for evaluating the spoken English proficiency:

  1. Students with a SPEAK test score greater than or equal to 50 may teach with no further English language testing requirements.
  2. Students with a SPEAK test score of 45 can perform instructional duties that require spoken English only if also enrolled in a program to improve English skills.
  3. Students with a SPEAK test score lower than 45 cannot perform instructional duties that require spoken English.

Project and Research Assistantships

Many faculty members have research grants that carry graduate assistantships. Applications for project assistantships (PAships) and research assistantships (RAships) are made directly to the faculty member holding the grant. They are not governed by the Graduate Studies Committee, although they qualify as alternate support and count towards the Department's commitment of support. Students may also apply for PAships and RAships outside the Department. Check with individual departments or the UW Student Job Center. PAships and RAships carry tuition remission and health insurance benefits.

The Cartography Lab, the State Cartographer's Office, and the History of Cartography Project are additional units in Science Hall that employ graduate students as project assistants. Qualified students may apply directly to the respective directors.

Graduate School Fellowships

The Graduate School holds an annual university-wide fellowship competition. The University Fellowships are offered to new graduate students. It is the responsibility of the Graduate Studies Committee to nominate the Department's best graduate applicants for these highly competitive awards. Nomination decisions are made in early January. University fellowships include a stipend, tuition remission, health insurance benefits and a commitment of support from the Department.

Extramural Fellowships

A large number of foundations and organizations (e.g. the National Science Foundation) offer graduate fellowships. Announcements concerning extramural fellowship opportunities are disseminated by email and posted online. Application for these extramural grants or fellowships are the responsibilities of graduate students, but applications must be processed through the Department first. The grant application will be routed through the College of L&S and then through Research and Sponsored Programs — see for more information.

Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship

FLAS fellowships are awarded each year to students interested in the study of specific languages and the regions in which they are spoken.