MS in Geography

The Master of Science in Geography degree program trains young professionals in areas of human and physical geography, while building on students’ working knowledge of geospatial techniques. With a faculty-to-student ratio of 1-to-2, our graduate students have exceptional mentorship and research opportunities.

Students supplement required coursework in geographic methods and basic GIS with elective courses that match their specific interests. Possible elective topics include Arctic climate systems, methods for analyzing mortality and birth rates, water resource policy and city planning.

Recent graduates have gone on to prestigious PhD programs and jobs at the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the Brookings Institution and more.


"The professors are incredibly approachable, and I've made good friends. They do a lot of social events, which really contribute to making the department feel like a little family."

Natalie Armstrong
MA '16

Thesis and Capstone

To fulfill degree requirements, MS students choose either a thesis option (30 credit hours) or non-thesis/capstone option (36 credit hours). Students taking the non-thesis option must complete a geography capstone course, which can take the form of either an original research project supervised by a faculty member or a research and analysis assignment completed during an internship for an external client.

Capstone research can be considered for the department’s Campbell Graduate Research Grants. The grants fund travel and other costs associated with graduate research.

Funding Opportunities

Campbell Graduate Research Grants

The highly competitive Campbell Graduate Research Grants are awarded to several graduate students each summer. Past awardees have applied their funding toward research projects in the Arctic, Ghana, Panama, Alabama and around Washington, D.C. Recently, two students received Campbell funding for their capstone research project based out of Mixco, Guatemala. Their project used open-source mapping tools to help vulnerable communities reduce disaster risk and adapt to disasters.

Each March, the department puts out a call for Campbell Research Grant proposals to fund summer projects. Students are encouraged to submit research proposals at the end of their first year in the MS program.

Fellowships and Assistantships

The Geography and the Environment Department offers a number of graduate student assistantships as well as student “grader” positions. Applications for assistantships and grading positions are evaluated following admission to the program, and awards are made on the basis of academic qualifications. Awards are granted for one year, with the understanding that if assistantships are available and if the student maintains good academic standing, the award will be renewed for a second year.

Office of Graduate Student Assistantships and Fellowships

Other CCAS Graduate Student Funding

Columbian College offers additional funding options, including research grants, scholarships and military education benefits.

CCAS Graduate Student Funding

Course Requirements

The following requirements must be fulfilled:

The general requirements stated under Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, Graduate Programs.

Thesis option—30 credits, including 9 credits in required courses, 6 credits in thesis research, and 15 credits in elective courses. Non-thesis option—30 credits, including 9 credits in required courses, a 3-credit research or capstone internship course, and 18 credits in elective courses.

The student’s program of study is developed in consultation with the advisor and the graduate committee.

GEOG 6201Geographic Thought
GEOG 6304Geographical Information Systems I
GEOG 6292Qualitative Methods in Geography
or GEOG 6305 Geospatial Statistics
For thesis option only:
GEOG 6999Thesis Research (taken for a total of 6 credits)
For non-thesis option only:
GEOG 6295Research (taken for 3 credits)
or GEOG 6300 Geography Capstone Internship
15 to18 credits in any 6000-level Geography (GEOG) courses. * *

*Elective courses also can be taken through the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area with the permission of the advisor.

Current Electives

Class Number Title
6207  Urban Planning and Development
6208  Land Use and Urban Transportation Planning
6218  Arctic Systems
6219  Seminar: Climatology
6220  Seminar: Climatic Change
6230  Seminar: Environmental Issues in Development
6232  Migration and Development
6233  Social -Ecological Systems
6243  Seminar: Urban Geography
6244  Urban Sustainability
6261  Geographical Perspectives on Latin America
6262  Geographical Perspectives on the Middle East
6265  Geography of Russia and Its Neighbors
6293  Open Source: Geo-Programming II
6299  Internship
6303  Introduction to Remote Sensing
6306  Geographical Information Systems II
6307  Digital Image Processing
6308  Programming for Geospatial Applications
6309  GIS for Emergency Management
6310  Geovisualization and Cartography
6311  Open Source Solutions for Geospatial Project Management