M.A./ Ph.D. Program








Programs of Study

SGD offers training in geography at the Master's (M.A.) and Doctoral (Ph.D.) levels.

The Master of Arts (M.A.) in Geography is designed as a two-year program of study (minimum of 33 units). Students elect either a thesis option (recommended for those pursuing a Ph.D.) or a non-thesis option (recommended for those pursuing a professional, non-academic career). At the Masters level, the School offers courses in a wide range of fields within Geography, as shown below. Many of our masters students continue on at SGD for a Ph.D., depending on their interests and accomplishments.

The Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Geography is a specialized, research-oriented degree which requires a qualifying examination (waived for students who meet certain minimum requirements), at least one year of coursework (minimum of 18 credits) in addition to a Masters degree, and approximately three years of independent study and research culminating in a dissertation. Under the direction of their faculty committee and in consultation with the graduate advisor, doctoral students design an individualized program of coursework and independent study in preparation for their comprehensive examinations, which are typically taken after two years of study. Upon successful completion of the exams, the student prepares a dissertation proposal which must be approved by the faculty committee. This proposal may also form the basis for requesting external funding for research. The final requirement for the Ph.D. degree is a dissertation involving original research. During students’ time in the School, they will gain an understanding of the history and core concepts of the discipline, and range of  research methodologies.  They also have opportunities to obtain  teaching experience and  training in professional skills,. Potential applicants should be sure to review these webpages and our faculty interests before applying. While some faculty have research grants and may offer students both employment and research opportunities related to those projects, the majority of students design their own Ph.D dissertation topics and are encouraged to seek their own funding for field research and writing up the results. Our students have been remarkably successful at securing funding for their dissertations.

SGD also offers a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) minor in Geography for Ph.D. students majoring in other disciplines at UA. This program consists of a minimum of 12 units of graduate coursework in geography, including a maximum of 3 units of independent study. Students considering the Ph.D. minor in geography should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies and with potential SGD committee members at an early stage about coursework and preparation for the comprehensive examination. For more information about the Ph.D. minor in geography, see the graduate program handbook.

As one of the leading geography departments in the United States, University of Arizona is distinguished by the broad spectrum of teaching and research interests among its faculty, providing ample opportunities for graduate students to specialize in many sub-fields. These include:


Analysis of Regional Development Processes

  • Quantitative Research
  • Population Dynamics
  • Transportation Systems
  • Industrial and Economic Geography
  • Economic Development


Critical Human Geography

  • Geographies of Identity and Difference
  • Citizenship and Politics
  • Geographies of Social Protest
  • Interpretative Approaches to Built Environments and Cities
  • Popular Cultures
  • Economic and Cultural Globalizations


Human-Environment Relationships

  • Resource and Community Conservation
  • Environmental Struggles in North America, Latin America, and Africa
  • Critical Studies of Environmental Policy
  • Political Ecology of Resource Use
  • International Development Processes


Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing

  • Wildfire Modeling and Management
  • Geovisualization Techniques


Physical Geography and Environmental Systems

  • Biogeography
  • Climatology
  • Resource Survey and Inventory
  • Land Cover Change


Geographic Methodologies and Techniques Available (also see SGD Facilities)

  • Spatial Statistics
  • GIS
  • Remote Sensing
  • Interpretative Methods
  • Participatory Action Research
  • Visual Methodologies
  • Discourse Analysis/Deconstruction
  • Archival and historical research
  • Physical Geography Field Methods
  • Climatological monitoring and modeling
  • Tree-ring analysis and climate reconstruction in UofA's Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research