Master's Degree Programs

The purpose of the Master's program is to provide a framework for students to gain proficiency in at least one of the systematic branches of geography, and at least one primary research technique and a basic understanding of geographic information systems (GIS). Master’s degree work incorporates formal class work, seminars, and hands-on research experience.

We award Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS)* degrees to students who successfully complete our general requirements and choose one, or a combination of the following concentrations:

*International students who earn a master of science (MS) degree in geography are eligible for the F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) and the OPT-STEM extension if OPT conditions are met. Please visit these International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) website links for full details.


Admission to our Master’s degree program is restricted to those applicants who have demonstrated high academic ability (a ‘B’ average is a generally accepted minimum requirement). All applicants must apply through the Graduate College online portal and include the following items:

  • Personal Statement that addresses research experience and goals
  • Official transcripts from each academic institution attended
  • Three letters of reference
  • Effective for the Fall 2020 admission cycle, our Admissions committee will no longer consider Graduate Records Exam (GRE) scores when evaluating applicants to our graduate degree programs.
  • For international applicants:


Applicants are encouraged (but not required) to contact their prospective advisor(s) during the application process to share their research interests and inquire about available research opportunities.

In order to be admitted to the master's program, a member of the Illinois Geography & GIS graduate faculty must agree to serve as the student's primary advisor. The advisor will help the student choose courses according to the student’s background, interests, and career objectives.

The advisor and student should meet regularly to discuss progress and future plans. Effective communication between student and advisor are critical for success in the Master's program. Students and faculty advisors are free to request a change in advising assignment at any time during the program.

Links & Resources

Degree Requirements: Master of Arts (MA) in Geography

Degree Requirements: Master of Science (MS) in Geography

Sample Master's Timeline (MA/MS)