University of Wisconsin–Madison

Graduate Programs

Graduate study in the Geography Program is divided into four major thematic areas: Human Geography, Physical Geography, People-Environment, Cartography/GIS. In addition, students may focus on Area Studies and Global Systems as part of one of the thematic areas. The Geography Department faculty serves in prominent positions both within the University and in our larger professional communities. Our faculty have been recognized both by the university and within our profession with such honors as UW named chairs, and American Association of Geographers (AAG) lifetime achievement awards. We are also proud of the accomplishments of our graduates, many of whom have gone on to prominence within government, industry, and academia.

The Department of Geography offers four different degree programs:

  • Master of Science (MS) – Graduate students in our Master of Science programs are expected to acquire a broad foundation in geography in addition to specialization in one or more thematic areas. Students who earn the MS degree are prepared for teaching in some small colleges, and for applied geography posts or cartographic positions in government agencies, planning organizations, environmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private industry. Degree requirements for the MS-Geography are detailed here. Please note that significant requirement changes went into effect for students beginning the program in Fall 2014. This document includes details for students who began BEFORE Fall 2014 and AFTER Fall 2014. Be sure to pay attention to which requirements apply.
  • Master of Science (MS) – Cartography/GIS (Thesis Option) – Graduate students in our Master of Science programs are expected to acquire a broad foundation in geography in addition to specialization in one or more thematic areas. Students who earn the MS degree are prepared for teaching in some small colleges, and for applied geography posts or cartographic positions in government agencies, planning organizations, environmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private industry.
  • Master of Science (MS) – Cartography/GIS (Professional Online Option) – We offer an online Master of Science program designed for working professionals. Apply by April 15, 2017 for first consideration for Fall. The 32-credit GIS and Web Map Programming (GisWMP) degree teaches exactly what you need to advance your GIS career and stay relevant for years to come. Unlike many of our competitors, our program focuses on GIS Development. Topics include programming, mobile app creation, and web map scripting. Our courses are designed to build off of one another and reinforce your skills as you go through the curriculum. With your Master’s, not only will you earn a degree of distinction from a world-renowned geography department, you’ll graduate confident in your programming skills.
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) – Geography – The Doctor of Philosophy degree is founded primarily upon specialized advance training and research. Students normally specialize in a single sub-disciplinary area and are expected to engage in research leading to a dissertation that makes an original and significant contribution to geographic knowledge and ideas. Formal requirements include: completion of departmental course requirements, a skills package, and a minor. Students must also pass two qualifying exams (one general and one specific), defend a dissertation proposal, and write and defend a dissertation. The dissertation should make a significant and original contribution to geographic research. Incoming Ph.D. students should already have earned a Master’s degree and must provide evidence of the successful completion of the Master’s degree to the Graduate Director by the end of the first semester in residence. Degree requirements for the PhD-Geography are detailed here. Please note that significant requirement changes went into effect for students beginning the program in Fall 2014. This document includes details for students who began BEFORE Fall 2014 and AFTER Fall 2014. Be sure to pay attention to which requirements apply.