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.

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 GradProgram

The Graduate Program in Geography encourages work on a wide range of research specialties and fosters strong interdisciplinary ties. Topics reflected in the work of our faculty and current graduate students include: human geographyphysical geography, and human-environmental geography. Each of these core areas may be enhanced through training in advanced geographical techniques

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.

Graduate Student Pages

Faculty Pages

For Prospective Students

Outside the Classroom

  • Fenn, Tabby

    The selection, management, and fate of ecological communities within Protected Areas (nature reserves, parks, and preserved lands) are the focus of my research. My dissertation draws upon my interest in the interaction between human social processes and the ecological processes co-occurring within the landscapes where Protected Areas exist. New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the U.S., but land preservation efforts have brought a significant proportion of the forested land under some type of protected status.