Geography masters programs can be a strategic choice for students who are interested in learning more about how physical environments define human experiences, and vice versa.
Understanding geography is fundamental to many kinds of careers. For example, in order to design efficient and sustainable cities, urban planners must understand how landscapes, populations, and transportation are interrelated.
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Whether you hope to become a teacher, cartographer, geoscientist, or leader in your field, earning a masters in geography online may be the next step on the path toward your future career.
Online Geography Masters Programs
If you love learning about the physical world and how it is connected to the human experience, you may want to consider enrolling in an online masters degree program in geography.
Perhaps you have a passion for maps, a love of exploring new places, or a devotion to helping protect natural features and wildlife. Geography master’s programs can allow you to pursue any and all of these interests while also helping you to develop skills that are applicable to several different career paths.
The study of geography goes far beyond knowing the locations of the countries on the globe. In a graduate program, you can develop a thorough understanding of world cultures, environments, and governments, among other things. The focus of your studies will vary depending on whether you pursue an MA or MS in Geography. In either case, you will be learning about the Earth and the people who inhabit it.
More specifically, you are likely to study:
- Political structures
- Geological features
- Climate change
- Land formations
- Communities and cultures
- Urban development and planning
Depending on the concentration of your degree, you may also spend considerable time completing coursework in statistics, sociology, political science, and anthropology. Aspects of history, economics, and analytics can also be important. Through these areas of study, you may learn more about how to make crucial decisions that can shape the future of the world’s transportation, energy use, and environmental sustainability.
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A geography master’s degree may help you qualify for a wide variety of careers, including jobs in surveying, conservation, cartography, and geoscience. Many of these roles offer the opportunity to travel throughout the country or even the world. Students interested specifically in geoscience may want to opt for an on-campus or online geoscience degree.
In addition, many people who want to become geography educators pursue a master’s degree so that they can become qualified to teach at the junior college level. A degree in geography is desirable to many kinds of organizations. Private businesses, state and local governments, and federal agencies all seek people with expertise in these areas because they are essential to society’s ability to function.
Common Online Master’s in Geography Concentrations
When selecting your degree program, you may choose to complete a general geography masters or a more specialized concentration. Choosing a geography program with the right concentration may help better prepare you for a specific career aspiration.
Common specializations include:
- Geographic Information Science. This concentration typically focuses on topics like cartography, location intelligence, computer mapping, and environmental remote sensing.
- Human Geography. Specialized coursework for this concentration emphasizes human interactions within society and with the environment. Course topics might include geographies of social protest, popular cultures, economic geography, political geography, and feminist geography.
- Physical-Environmental Geography. If you are interested in climatology, conservation, geomorphology, and biogeography, you might consider a concentration in physical-environmental geography.
- Urban and Regional Analysis. In this concentration, you’ll typically learn about population dynamics, transportation systems, economic development, and industrial geography.
- Human-Environment Relationships. This concentration may be fitting if you have interest in how to conserve resources, create environmental policies, and analyze international development processes.
Researching program concentrations can help you discover which one would be best suited to your goals and interests.
Geography Careers & Salaries
Because geography is such a broad discipline, it can serve as the foundation for many different career paths. Based on the concentration of your degree, you may be well-positioned to apply for a job in urban planning, science, education, surveying, or political science.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many of the roles that are available to graduates of geography master’s programs have higher than average salaries.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|Urban and Regional Planners||$78,500|
|Environmental Scientists and Specialists||$76,530|
|Cartographers and Photogrammetrists||$68,900|
|Conservation Scientists and Foresters||$63,750|
The majority of these careers are expected to have steady growth over the next ten years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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The jobs you can qualify for may depend on a number of factors, such as your degree concentration, prior work experience, location, and employer.
Master in Geography Curriculum & Courses
The coursework for a master’s in geography program is focused on the study of the Earth, human populations, and interactions between the two.
Classes differ based on the school you attend and the concentration of your degree, but here are some common courses you may take:
- Cartography: In this class, you’ll learn about map design, geographic and grid coordinate systems, and scale and projections.
- Political Geography: This course focuses on global political geography, particularly with regard to migration, mortality, urbanization, malnutrition, and sustainability.
- Economic Geography: You’ll learn about world economic geography, particularly focusing on energy, population, agriculture, and transportation.
- Geographic Information Systems: This course explores concepts related to geographic data, such as geodatabase management, model building, and spatial analysis. Students specifically interested in a career in this field may opt for an on campus or online Master of Geographic Information Systems.
- Environmental Geography: In this course, you’ll most likely study the ways that human activities like resource use and pollution have affected the environment.
- Climatology: Courses in climatology focus on the study of the weather and climate, world climate regions, and methods of climatic classification.
- Transportation Geography: In this class, you’ll learn about the geographic analysis of transportation, specifically related to traffic demand and transport facilities.
- Conservation: This course focuses on methods of protecting and conserving water, soil, and wildlife.
- Urban Planning: Courses in urban geography and planning focus on how cities develop, the links between rural and urban areas, and the environmental effects of urbanization.
- Spatial Statistics: In this course, you’ll learn how to apply statistical methods to solve problems in geography, such as mapping.
In addition to these courses and others like them, you may also be required to complete practicums, independent studies, and internships directly related to your degree concentration.
Admissions requirements differ widely, but these are some of the most common criteria:
- GRE scores. Some colleges and universities require current GRE scores, but not all do.
- Statement of purpose. Many schools ask that you write a statement explaining your interests and future goals.
- Undergraduate transcripts. You’ll submit official transcripts for any undergraduate or graduate schools that you previously attended.
- Letters of recommendation. Letters from previous instructors or coworkers who are familiar with your skills can strengthen your application.
- CV or Resume. It’s helpful to document your academic and professional experience as well as any leadership roles, publications, and committee or organization memberships.
You will also likely be asked to submit an application and fee.
Geography Grad Programs Accreditation
When choosing which college or university to attend for your online geography masters degree program, it’s strategic to ensure that you are receiving the best possible education.
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Graduate schools in the United States can seek to be accredited, and outside accrediting bodies determine whether a program meets the necessary level of excellence. Regional accreditation is often viewed as the gold standard. It denotes a high level of academic quality and usually indicates a higher chance of transferring your completed credits to a different school.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
Attending graduate school can be costly, but there are several financial aid options to explore. First, submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) allows you to determine whether you’re qualified for federal aid. There may also be aid available through your state government, which will require a separate application process.
You might want to research scholarship opportunities as well. There are often scholarships designed for specific disciplines or for members of particular groups, such as first-generation college students. Finally, if you are already working in your field, your employer may offer a tuition assistance program. Some employers institute benefits like these to encourage their employees to further develop their skills and knowledge.
What Can You Do with a Masters in Geography Degree?
A masters program in geography may help prepare you for positions in a variety of industries, including forestry, real estate development, and urban planning.
Graduates with this kind of degree are often well-qualified for positions as high school teachers or community college professors. A geography program is also appealing to people seeking jobs in environmental science, natural resource analysis, and climatology. Additionally, if you are interested in becoming a surveyor or cartographer, a master’s degree in geography can help you master the necessary skills.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Masters in Geography?
The length of a geography master’s degree program is entirely dependent on the institution where you seek your degree. Many programs require between 24 and 36 credit hours, which can typically be completed in 1 to 2 years if you are attending full-time.
If your program requires a thesis, it may take you longer to earn your degree. Enrolling part-time could also extend your overall completion time. In some cases, you may be able to find an accelerated program or complete summer courses to finish more quickly.
What’s the Difference Between a Geology vs. Geography Graduate Program?
Both geology and geography graduate programs involve studying the Earth, but their focus is distinctly separate.
In many cases, students who have studied geography have also studied geology through geoscience courses.
Is a Masters in Geography Worth It?
Yes, a masters in geography is worth it for many students. The study of the Earth is a subject that will always be relevant. Its importance is likely to increase as sustainability, conservation, and climate change become more dominant issues.
By studying geography, you can become part of an important conversation about the future of the world. Jobs in the field of geography are generally expected to have average growth over the next several years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 8% job growth for life, physical, and social science occupations.
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Careers related to this field of study include geographer, geography instructor, urban regional planner, cartographer, and environmental scientist.
Universities Offering Online Masters in Geography Degree Programs
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
Arizona State University offers an online program for a Master of Arts in Geography. The program requires a total of 10 classes, and each class is 7.5 weeks long. Classes include Geodesign and Urban Planning, Geographic Research Methods, Geography Problems and Context, and more. The program can be tailored to personal interests through elective choices and a capstone project.
ASU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Liberty University offers an MA in Geography that can be earned 100% online. The program requires the completion of 36 credit hours’ worth of 8 week courses. It can usually be completed in 1.5 years. Coursework includes Economic Geography, Demography and Populations, Human Geography, and more. All courses are taught from a Christian worldview.
Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Marshall University offers a Master of Arts in Geography that can be earned 100% online. The program offers optional tracks in Physical Geography, GIScience, Location Analysis, Environmental Analysis, Urban and Regional Analysis, Weather and Climate, and more. Accepted students can start in the fall, spring, or summer.
Marshall University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Northeastern University offers an online program for a Master of Professional Studies in Geospatial Sciences. The program can be attended full-time or part-time. Most students can finish it in 12 to 18 months. Students in the program have access to virtual lab machines and are given the option to participate in a co-op program to gain hands-on experience.
Northeastern University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Pennsylvania State University offers a Master of Geographic Information Systems that can be earned online. The program includes two optional specialized tracks: Geospatial Intelligence and Geodesign. Coursework includes Making Maps That Matter with GIS, Geographical Information Analysis, GIS Database Development, and more. Students can usually finish the program in about 3 years.
The Pennsylvania State University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Texas A&M University’s Master of Geosciences can be earned 100% online. The program offers concentrations in Geographic Information Science and Technology, Ocean Data Science, and Petroleum Data Management. Texas A&M’s calendar for online classes includes five 8 week terms each year, and there are three start dates for new students.
Texas A&M University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Texas State University offers a Master of Applied Geography with a concentration in Geography Education. The program requires the completion of 33 credits and does not require a thesis. Students may begin in the fall or spring. It typically takes 2 years to graduate from the program. The degree may be completed 100% online, but classes are also available on campus.
Texas State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Central Arkansas offers a Master of Geographic Information Systems that can be earned entirely online. Students must complete 30 credit hours, including a thesis, to graduate. The curriculum consists of courses like Health Applications of Geographic Information Systems, Spatial Analysis and Modeling, and GIS Research Methodology.
The University of Central Arkansas is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of North Alabama offers a Master of Science in Geographic Information Science. The program is 100% online and usually takes 2 years to complete. To graduate, students must complete either a thesis or a capstone project. The curriculum consists of courses such as Geographic Methods and Design, Seminar in Geospatial Science, and Advanced Quantitative Methods in Geography.
The University of North Alabama is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Oklahoma offers an MS in Geospatial Technologies that can be earned online. The program is designed for adult learners, and it can potentially be completed in just 21 months, even while working full-time. Coursework includes Fundamentals of Geographic Information Systems, Quantitative Methods, Spatial Data Management, and more.
The University of Oklahoma is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Getting Your Degree in Geography Masters Online
If you are interested in the planet, its impact on human populations, and how people’s everyday lives affect the environment, then you might consider earning an advanced degree in geography.
In a geography master’s program, you will likely complete coursework in some of today’s most pressing topics, including urbanization, climate change, and transportation. To get started on this next step in your academic and professional journey, you can begin by researching accredited universities that offer online geography degree programs at the masters level.
Finding the program that best fits your needs and goals can help you get the most out of your academic experience.