The Graduate Program

Students are accepted into the Master's and Doctoral programs in Geography on the basis of outstanding undergraduate records and because their interests match up well with the expertise of one or more of the graduate faculty members in geography at Rutgers. Based on this affinity, the Graduate Director assigns all incoming students a principal advisor, also known as the "main advisor" or "chair" (of a student's eventual thesis, exam or dissertation committee). For a PhD student, an advisor must be a full member of the graduate faculty in geography; for a Master’s student, the advisor may either be a full or an associate member. This assignment is provisional and may be changed, in consultation with all concerned and should be communicated in writing (or via email) to the Graduate Director and Graduate Administrative Assistant.

Students in the program should begin consulting with their principal advisors from the time they arrive, working together to determine appropriate general coursework. All new geography PhD and MA students are required to take two courses: Geography 450:601 “Geographic Perspectives” and 450:602 “Research Design.” Students should enroll in “Geographic Perspectives” during their first semester in the program. New terminal MA students and PhD students who hold an MA, should enroll in Research Design during their second semester in the program. Incoming PhD students who do not hold an MA (or equivalent graduate degree) should enroll in Research Design during their 4th semester (i.e., during the second semester of their second year in the program). While course work at the graduate level in cognate disciplines is encouraged, at least 12 credit hours counted toward any advanced degree must be in Geography courses (450:xxx). On rare occasion applicants who have insufficient background in geography or relevant cognate fields may be admitted with the requirement that they successfully complete specified courses to make up their deficiencies.

Within a year of entering the program, students should assemble a suitable advisory committee, and, working with their advisors, set a timetable and initiate plans for dissertation/thesis research, and/or comprehensive exam preparation. PhD students should also gradually work toward meeting other professional milestones such as obtaining teaching experience, making professional conference presentations, and publishing research findings in academic journals.

The Graduate Director typically meets with all incoming students during the second semester in the program to discuss any issues and to ensure that they are making good progress. In addition to this informal review of first-year students, all students in the program are also evaluated in an “annual review” by the graduate faculty each spring. Students are reminded of this review several weeks in advance and are asked to submit a “Self- Assessment” report and forward it to their advisor, the Graduate Director and Administrative Assistant. The graduate faculty members meet to review these statements, along with their records, and evaluate all students in the program. The Graduate Director informs all students of these evaluations in writing.

Students who are making clear progress toward their degrees and have a majority of A's in their coursework are likely to be positively rated. They are congratulated and provided with all possible program support.   Students more likely to receive negative ratings include those making slow or uncertain progress; those whose records have a majority of B’s and/or any grade of less than B; and students with two or more "temporary" or "permanent" incompletes (see below, under "Incompletes"). Courses that receive a grade of C or lower may not be counted toward any advanced degree in Geography. A student receiving a C+ in any course in his/her first 18 credits will be considered marginal in the program, and will be reviewed with special care. In addition, a student with two or more temporary incompletes on his/her overall graduate record will not normally be allowed to register for additional courses in geography, barring unusual circumstances. If students are not performing adequately, they are informed of this and given a specified time to resolve any issues. If they do so, they are returned to good standing. If they do not, they may be terminated from the program after full consultation with their advisors, their committee members, and the full graduate faculty. Such decisions can be appealed, either within the graduate program, or in the wider Graduate School.

Graduate Student Admissions FAQ


The geography graduate program offers the following degree options: Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).   For students seeking a terminal MA, the requirements for the MA and MS degrees are identical; students seeking the terminal Master's may opt for either designation at their discretion.

MA/MS Degree Requirements

Students seeking the MA/MS Degree in Geography must complete a total of 30 credit hours of graduate study. They may pursue the degree via one of two options:

Thesis Option: by taking 24 credits of course work and six research credits, submitting a thesis written under the supervision of the student's committee, making a public presentation of the thesis, and successfully defending it orally in response to questions prepared by the student's committee.

Exam Option: by taking 30 credits of course work, submitting a writing sample for approval by the student’s committee, and successfully passing written comprehensive examinations given and evaluated by the student's committee. The writing sample, typically a revised seminar paper, is expected to be substantial, though considerably less ambitious in scope than a thesis.

For more info check the following link:

Ph.D. Degree Learning Goals and Assessment

The doctoral program in Geography trains students at the highest level to assume leadership roles in research, teaching, and applied work in Human Geography, Human Environment Geography, and Physical Geography.

Learning Goal 1

Learning Goal 1 for Students: Master the existing scholarship in the study of Geography with the goal of using this scholarship in the pursuit of their own research.

Assessment of graduate student achievement of Goal 1:

  • Grades in graduate courses
  • Completion of written and oral qualifying examinations assessing depth and breadth of knowledge in three defined fields of Geography
  • Review by faculty of student progress with close advising and mentoring
  • Placement in positions and careers that require ability and scholarship in this field

Roles of the Graduate Program in Geography in helping students to achieve Goal 1:

  • Close advising to assure that students are being prepared in a coherent and academically rigorous fashion
  • Effective monitoring of student progress by the faculty advisor, the dissertation committee, and the graduate program director, including an annual review of all students by the Graduate Faculty
  • Exit surveys completed by students upon graduation
  • Evaluations of teaching effectiveness of instructors in graduate courses
    • If effectiveness is below expectations, work with instructors to improve effectiveness
  • Periodic review of curricular offerings and assessment tools
    • By program faculty
    • In consultation with the office of the dean of the graduate school and/or the unit dean

Learning Goal 2

Learning Goal 2 for Students: Engage in and conduct original research

Assessment of graduate student achievement of Goal 2:

  • Preparation and defense of Ph.D. dissertation proposal
  • Engage in and conduct original research, using methods appropriate to the research project
  • Assessment of quality of Ph.D. dissertation:
    • Public defense of dissertation
    • Critical reading of dissertation by committee of graduate faculty members and a committee member from outside of the graduate program
  • Achievement of students as evidenced by professional placement, selection for conference presentations, peer-reviewed publications and individual grant attainment.

Roles of the Graduate Program in Geography in helping students to achieve Goal 2:

  • Provide early introduction to research methods and active research
  • Maintain adequate funding levels through the research phase
  • Provide comprehensive advising and assist in the identification of mentors
  • Provide assistance to students seeking external funding via GradFund-The Resource Center for Graduate Student External Support
  • Facilitate process of applying to the Graduate School for supplemental funding for graduate student travel and summer research

Learning Goal 3

Learning Goal 3 for Students: Prepare to be professionals in careers that require training at the highest level in Geography

Assessment of graduate student achievement of Goal 3:

  • Review evidence of scholarly activity
  • Evaluations of teaching effectiveness of graduate instructors
  • Participation of students in professionalization activities offered by the department
  • Collection of placement data
  • Review by external advisory committees, both inside of and external to the academy

Roles of the Graduate Program in Geography in helping students to achieve Goal 2:

  • Promote and provide experience and training in teaching
    • Encourage student involvement in programs associated with the Teaching Assistant Project (TAP)
    • Encourage enrollment in Introduction to College Teaching I and II
    • Evaluations of TAs by faculty supervisors
  • Foster the development of a scholarly community through regular programmatic offerings\
    • Host Workshops and other events that promote professional development programs in such areas as human subjects research, library use, course management software, interview skills, presentation skills, development of CVs, use of research tools, and proposal writing
    • Develop or enhance programs related to job and networking skills, including activity in professional societies and preparation for necessary certifications.
    • Offer frequent community-building activities such lecture series.
  • Facilitate flexible options for students with interdisciplinary interests, and encourage students to consider certificates in interdisciplinary programs
  • Acquaint students with non-academic career opportunities.

The leadership of the Geography graduate program will regularly review the structure and content of the PhD program and the feedback received from assessments and surveys. These reviews will be used to provide the best possible education to students in order to meet the needs for highly trained individuals in Human Geography, Human-Environment Geography, and Physical Geography.

Doctoral Degree Requirements

The doctoral program in Geography at Rutgers emphasizes preparation for a research-oriented career in academia, public service or the private sector. While most applicants to the PhD program have at least one prior degree in geography, applicants with degrees in other disciplines are nonetheless encouraged to apply. The PhD differs qualitatively from bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in its emphasis on research and the dissertation as a major, original contribution to knowledge. Accordingly, the doctoral program in Geography at Rutgers emphasizes preparation in the student’s area (subfield) of specialization, research as a problem-solving activity, and preparation of research results for publication.

For more information on degree requirements please check the graduate student handbook.


Graduate Program

4 Thomas Kim GradProgramThe Graduate Program in Geography encourages work on a wide range of research specialties and fosters strong interdisciplinary ties. Specific research topics reflected in the work of our faculty include: human geography, focusing on contemporary and historic dynamics of urban development; urban revitalization and gentrification; grassroots politics; citizenship; democratic theory and practice; housing, residential segregation, and community control of land use; globalization; international trade; gender and race; and international development; physical geography, including studies of climate; hydrology; snow-cover dynamics; glaciology; tropical forest disturbances; landscape dynamics; coastal geomorphology groundwater and water supply; and human-environmental geography, focused on human responses to environmental hazards; megacity disasters; human dimensions of global environmental and climate change; public health and risk communication; institutional and cross-cultural aspects of environmental management; political ecology; environmental justice; and forests, fisheries, wildlife, and agro-ecologies. Each of these core areas may be enhanced through training in advanced geographical techniques, consisting of remote sensing, geographic information science and spatial analysis.

The graduate program has a total of 28 faculty members. They consist of eight members of the “core” Department of Geography faculty and faculty members with geographic research interests located in other departments, such as Human Ecology, Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Ecology, Evolution & Natural Resources, Landscape Architecture among others.

Faculty Pages

Outside the Classroom

  • Leidman, Sasha

    My research uses hydrology, geomorphology, and remote sensing to investigate changes in Greenland. Specifically, I look at how changes to the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet caused by increased melting from global warming affects the albedo (reflectiveness) of the ice. I study this through extensive field campaigns at three different field sites in Greenland: high up in the accumulation zone where I drill shallow (20-25m) ice cores to look for signs of refrozen melt water, at the ice edge where I look at supraglacial streams (streams flowing on top of the ice), and on the tundra where our...