M.A. Requirements

The M.A. curriculum requires 33 units and is designed to encourage your participation in research seminars and in formal geography coursework. We offer opportunities for specialization in many areas of geography that reflect the teaching and research interests of the faculty.

The information on the M.A. requirements is taken from sections 1 and 2 of the Geography Graduate Program Handbook. See the Geography Graduate Program Handbook for full details and updated information. 

Courses Offered

The School offers four types of courses: (1) core courses; (2) other graduate credit courses; (3) jointly convened graduate/undergraduate courses; and (4) independent studies.  Unless otherwise noted, all courses are worth three (3) units per semester. (sections 1.1.1 to 1.1.5)

Course Load

Graduate research and teaching assistants employed by the School are required to register for at least six (6) units of coursework (not including audited classes) and are normally expected to register for nine (9) units (three courses) each semester, in addition to the Colloquium (GEOG 695A).  Four courses (12 units) per semester constitute a normal load for full-time students who are not employed.  The maximum allowed is 16 units per semester. (section 1.2)

Advising and Mentoring

If you are a new student, you must be available for orientation several days before the beginning of classes.  Upon arrival in the School, you will be assigned a faculty mentor, based on your stated research interests. 

All students eventually have a major advisor (i.e. committee chair) and several committee members.  If you are a new student, you will meet with the Director of Graduate Studies and your initial mentor at the start of your first semester to discuss educational objectives and a tentative plan of study. (section 1.3)

Satisfactory Academic Progress

Satisfactory academic progress towards completion of a degree will be assessed each Spring semester by the School’s Graduate Committee, as part of the annual review of current graduate students.  The School follows the Graduate College in defining satisfactory academic progress as maintaining at least a B average and having a major professor/advisor.  As a graduate student, you must file an annual progress report as part of this process, which is due in February and covers the preceding calendar year, and mentors/advisors are asked to evaluate the progress towards your degree requirements. (section 1.4)

Leaves of Absence

You may apply for a leave of absence for academic, medical, or personal reasons, for one semester to one year, as determined by the Graduate College.  If you are on leave do not register for classes or other units. (section 1.5)

Plan of Study

The Graduate College requires that a Plan of Study be filed by the end of the second semester. The Plan of Study should identify any courses you intend to transfer from other institutions, courses already completed at the University of Arizona which you intend to apply towards the M.A. degree, and additional courses you plan to complete to fulfill degree requirements. The Plan of Study must have the signature approval of your advisor (committee chair) and the Director of Graduate Studies before it is submitted to the Graduate College. The Plan of Study can be modified later if necessary. (section 2.1)

M.A. Committee

By the time you have completed the core courses, and following consultation with your advisor, mentor, the Director of Graduate Studies, and other appropriate faculty, an M.A. committee will be recommended to the School Director. The Director will then appoint the committee (with modifications, as appropriate, after discussion). You should work with your committee towards preparation of the thesis proposal and thesis, or towards preparation for the professional master's degree exam. (section 2.2)

Thesis Option

The thesis option is strongly recommended (indeed virtually required) for students who intend to pursue the Ph.D. Doing a thesis is also valuable experience in any field that values good research, analysis, and writing, whether academic or professional. Students choosing the thesis option should present a thesis proposal to their committee for approval, with revisions if necessary; this should occur by the end of the second semester, especially for those planning summer fieldwork.  Following approval of the thesis proposal, students are allowed to take up to six (6) thesis units (GEOG 910). Students are allowed to apply up to three (3) of independent study or other electives towards this requirement for graduation. Students who do not have a proposal approved by the end of the third semester may be required to take coursework to pursue the professional (non-thesis) option.

The School expects students to complete the thesis option within two years. The M.A. thesis defense should be successfully completed by the deadline established by the Graduate College in the 4th semester. (section 2.3)

Professional (non-thesis) Option

The professional, non-thesis option is recommended for students who intend to pursue a non-academic career in public or private sectors. Instead of thesis units, professional-option students typically take courses in a specialty area of interest. Students choosing this option take a comprehensive examination near the end of their course of study. The exam is administered by the student's committee and includes two parts: a four-hour written portion followed by an oral exam. The precise format of the written exam is left to the committee, but it is a comprehensive examination of your degree program, and not only an examination of the identified individual field of specialization or concentration. These examinations may only be scheduled in your final semester.

The School expects students to complete the professional degree within two years. The M.A. final exam should be successfully completed by the deadline established by the Graduate College in the 4th semester. (section 2.4)

Optional Certificates

Within the constraints of these requirements, you are encouraged to develop a master's degree program tailored to your individual needs. You are advised to consult with the relevant faculty members and the Director of Graduate Studies about informal tracks of study in different sub-fields of geography, including Critical Human Geography, Human-Environment Relations, Physical Geography, Regional Development, Methodology and Technology, and Water Resources and Policy, and others.

The School is also involved in several of University of Arizona’s graduate certificates in specialized areas. Current certificates include GIS, Professional GIST, and water policy. These are distinct graduate offerings that may include considerable overlap with degree programs, and may be a useful additional qualification for some students. (section 2.5)

Moving from M.A. to Ph.D.

M.A. students who are finishing their degrees in SGD and who want to continue in the same program for their Ph.D. must apply by January 31, during the period when the Program is considering new graduate student applications for the following Fall. For application details see section 2.6 in the graduate handbook.

In general, the School encourages our M.A. students to continue here if their goal is a Ph.D., and new students are often recruited and/or admitted to the M.A. program with that understanding. The procedure described here fosters orderly information-gathering and allows systematic review of Ph.D. applicants.

M.A. students progressing to the Ph.D. in Geography must have completed and passed the M.A. thesis before the start of their first semester in the Ph.D. program. Failure to do so will result in the student becoming ineligible for Ph.D. funding. (section 2.6)

See the Geography Graduate Program Handbook to learn more about committees, thesis and dissertation formats, School admissions requirements, teaching and research assistantships, funding for travel and conferences, School activities and graduate degree timeline.