Master of Science (MS) – Geography

If you are interested in the MS-Geography degree program, we recommend that you explore the department website, including faculty and student webpages, to learn more about UW-Madison Geography before you apply. Feel free to contact the Graduate Program Director by email ( or phone (608-262-3861) for additional information. Be sure to tell us about how your interests intersect with ours and ask any questions you may have about the program. You’ll learn the most about program logistics and funding from the Grad Director; you’ll learn the most about academic content from your interactions with faculty and students.

If you’re interested in arranging a visit, contact the Graduate Program Director. We’re happy to meet with you while you’re here, arrange for departmental tours and answer any questions you may have. We encourage you to work independently to set up meetings with faculty and students, but are happy to assist in making those arrangements.

Each spring, once admissions and funding decisions are made, the department makes special arrangements for admitted applicants to visit in late March or early April. Ask our Graduate Program Director about these visit opportunities.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is widely regarded as one of the best public universities in the country, and the Geography Department is considered strong, not only on campus, but also within the discipline.

Geography is broad and we welcome students with different backgrounds into our graduate programs. We have found that students from different backgrounds do very well in our graduate programs once they have completed breadth requirements in geography.

Prospective graduate students who have thought about the details of their graduate study, such as the names of individual faculty members with whom they might want to work, courses they might take, and research that they might pursue, are often at an advantage over students who have not given these matters any thought.

The University has special funds for fellowships for U.S. students from minority groups and we encourage such individuals to apply to our program. Applications from international students are also welcome.

GPA Requirement

Minimum grade point average (GPA) for admission required by the Graduate School is 3.00 (4.00 scale). Because of strong competition within the Geography Department, our standards are somewhat higher. Applicants with less than a 3.25 GPA should have particularly impressive letters of recommendation; other types of excellence may also help a student who lacks a high GPA.

Application Deadline

December 15
Please note – this program does not admit in the spring and summer.

GRE(Graduate Record Examinations)

Not required

English Proficiency Test

Proficiency with the English language is vital to functioning in the University classroom. Students whose native language is other than English need to submit the TOEFL scores along with the application. The TOEFL score for students admitted into this department is much higher than that required by the Graduate School, typically over 615 (paper based test), 260 (computer-based test), or 105 (iTOEFL). An international student whose native language is not English but wishes to be considered for teaching assistantships will need to have taken the speaking part of the TOEFL test and have the score reported on the application. See the UW Graduate School Policy on English language proficiency as well as university policies related to TA spoken English proficiency.

Prospective graduate students who have thought about the details of their graduate study, such as the names of individual faculty members with whom they might want to work, courses they might take, and research that they might pursue, are often at an advantage over students who have not given these matters any thought.

The University has special funds for fellowships for U.S. students from minority groups and we encourage such individuals to apply to our program. Applications from international students are also welcome.


Face to face


Minimum Credit Requirement – 30 credits

Minimum Residence Credit Requirement – 16 credits

Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement – Half of degree coursework (15 credits out of 30 total credits) must be completed graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university’s Course Guide.

Overall Graduate GPA Requirement – 3.00 GPA required.

Assessments and Examinations – A formal thesis is required.

Language Requirements – No language requirement.


Breadth Requirements
Most students complete the coursework for breadth requirements prior to entering the program. Students who begin the program lacking one or more of the breadth courses are expected to complete such coursework during the master’s program. One course taken for breadth can also be used to fulfill degree requirements. Typically, these courses are not seminars. Students must complete the equivalent of one undergraduate-level course in each subarea (Physical Geography, Human Geography, People-Environment Geography, Cartography/GIS).

GEOG 765 Geographical Inquiry and Analysis: An Introduction (1 credit) + GEOG 766 Geographical Inquiry and Analysis: Techniques (3 credit); two geography graduate courses 300-level and above: one can double count for breadth, cannot include seminars; two (3 credit) geography seminars with two different faculty members.

Before Applying:

• Read the program overview.
• Visit our faculty webpage to identify potential shared research interests and contact faculty to discuss your interests.
• Make a visit to UW-Madison, if possible. (You are welcome to contact our Graduate Program Director if you want to visit.)

Online Application:

• Complete the Graduate School online application.

  • When specifying “Intended Field Study,” select:
    • “Geography MS” for Master of Science in Geography
      • If you are applying to the MS-Geography or MS-Cartography/GIS program and intend to pursue a Ph.D. in Geography, we recommend that you indicate that by checking the appropriate box on the application form. Some funding opportunities are only available to students who are Ph.D.-bound.
      • If you are applying for the master’s program and your primary area of interest is Cartography/GIS, you should specify “Cartogr & Geog Info Sys MS” as your Intended Field of Study. Please do NOT apply to BOTH the MS-Geography and MS-Cartography/GIS programs!
      • You must have, or be in process of completing, a Master’s degree to apply directly to the Ph.D. program. (The degree does not have to be in Geography.) Students with a Bachelor’s degree who plan to pursue a Ph.D. in Geography should apply to the MS-Geography or MS-Cartography/GIS (Thesis Option) and indicate their intent to continue to the Ph.D. in their statement of purpose and by checking the appropriate box on the application form.
  • Required Documents:

  • Three (3) letters of recommendation from recent employers or faculty are required.
    • Letters of Recommendation are submitted online by your references. Each recommender will receive an electronic invitation to submit a letter on the applicant’s behalf. You can check to see if your recommendations have been submitted in the online application status system.
  • GRE scores are not required.
    • Effective Fall Semester, 2020, the Department of Geography at UW-Madison no longer requires (nor considers) the GRE for admission to all Geography and Cartography/GIS MS and PhD programs. 
  • Official TOEFL/IELTS scores.
    • TOEFL/IELTS scores are required of all applicants whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English. TOEFL scores are sent electronically from ETS. Use ETS institution code 1846
  • Submit a one or two page “statement of purpose” or “reason for graduate study.” This document should be uploaded as a PDF directly into the online application.
    • It is extremely important to clearly identify your topical or methodological interest within the field of geography. If you know your research topic, please state it in the document. Also see the graduate school’s guidelines on preparing a statement of purpose.
  • Submit transcripts for all post-secondary coursework to the Dept. of Geography.
    • Unofficial copies of these documents should be uploaded electronically as PDFs directly into the online application. Please include the issuing institution in the file name of each transcript you upload.(e.g., UWMadisonTranscr.pdf). Official transcripts or academic records from each institution attended will be requested from applicants who are recommended for admission. Please do NOT send official documents until requested.
    • International academic records must be in the original language accompanied by an official English translation. Documents must be issued by the school with the official seal/stamp and an official signature.
  • Complete the supplemental application form to indicate your primary and secondary area of interest within Geography. This form is contained within the online application for MS-Geography and PhD-Geography applicants.
  • Upload a CV/resume. Please include your name in the file name of the document.
  • Application fee paid to the Graduate School ($75) – Note that an additional fee is required of international applicants due to the additional processing required.

To apply for financial aid, please visit the FAFSA Website and complete the online registration. When applying for aid you will need the University of Wisconsin – Madison Institution Code: 003895.

For more information about Federal Student Aid, please visit the UW Office of Student Financial Aid.

Further funding information is available from the Graduate School at
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Your Advisor, who is also the chair (or co-chair) of your Committee must be
graduate faculty in Geography (or affiliated with Geography).

Your Committee must have a minimum of 3 members.
•Two must be graduate faculty (or former grad faculty up to one year after resignation/retirement)
•Two must be affiliated with the Geography Department

See Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the Graduate Study Applications Process.

For more information about admission or the application process, please contact the Graduate Program Director by email ( or at (608) 262-3861.

The Geography grad handbook is updated every year with faculty changes and any policy changes implemented by the Program or the Graduate School. Students are held to the terms of the handbook that is in effect when they matriculate, unless changes in University or Graduate School policy require otherwise.

Please note – this handbook is associated with the MS-Geography, MS-Cartography/GIS (Thesis Option), and PhD-Geography programs. Please visit the GIS Professional Program website for the handbook associated with the professional programs.

  • Graduate Student Handbook – Version 21-22.0 – published September 2021
  • Graduate Student Handbook – Version 20-21.0 – published August 2020
  • Graduate Student Handbook – Version 19-20.0 – published August 2019
  • Graduate Student Handbook – Version 18-19.0 – published August 2018
  • Graduate Student Handbook – Version 17-18.0 – published September 2017
  • Graduate Student Handbook – Version 16-17.1 – published February 2017
  • Graduate Student Handbook – Version 16-17.0 – published August 2016
  • Graduate Student Handbook – Version 15-16.0 – published August 2015
  • Graduate Student Handbook – Version 14-15.0 published August 2014
  • Any questions, comments, edits for this handbook should be directed to the Graduate Program Director.

    Finishing your Master’s (Thesis Option)

    The Graduate School has a very useful webpage that discusses the steps to completing your master’s degree, including deadlines, details, and instructions about formatting and finishing your thesis.

    A few notes about these pages:

    • Don’t forget to enroll in the semester (fall, spring or summer) in which you intend to complete your degree.
    • Don’t forget to request your warrant at least 3 weeks before your defense. Work with the Graduate Program Director to make this request.
    • When “department style requirements” are referred to, consult with your advisor or use the AAG format.
    • The Advisor’s Approval page used in the Geography Department looks like this. The Graduate Program Director will include copies of this page in your file, along with your warrant, for signatures at your defense.
    • You are required to deposit your thesis in the Memorial Library as well as the Geography Department. The Geography Department will require a printed copy as well as an electronic file of your thesis.

    Exit Interview

    All graduating students are expected to have an exit interview with the Graduate Program  Director. The purpose of the interview is for us to get some feedback from you on the effectiveness of our graduate program.