Master of Science (MS) Geography

The M.S. in Geography will aim to expand the student's knowledge of how earth systems work and how humans interact with its components. The program requires a 30-credit hour minimum. Students must pass an oral examination and write and defend a thesis.

The program requires a 30 credit hour minimum. Students must pass an oral examination and write and defend a thesis.

Required courses

  • GEOG 805 Perspectives in Geography - 2 credit hours
  • GEOG 716 Advanced Geostatistics or an equivalent course in statistics and experimental design - 3 credit hours
  • GEOG 980 (Colloquium) for 1 credit hour during each of the first two semesters in residence at KU - 2 credit hours
  • GEOG 899 Thesis - 6 credit hours
  • Responsible Scholarship (non-credit 8-hour session at start of Spring semester)
  • Half-day (non-credit) orientation before classes begin the fall of your first semester


Additional courses, with no less than 6 credit h ours within the Department, for a total of 30 credit hours or more; at least three courses should be in the area of Physical Geography or Method and Techniques.

A maximum of 6 credits of 500 and 600 level courses may be included in the program.

Ideally, work on the M.S. thesis should begin during the second full-time semester so that field, laboratory, or library work can be done the following summer. During this second semester of the M.S. program, the student should decide on the general area of thesis research and select a member of the Geography faculty who is competent in that area and is willing to supervise the thesis and serve as the student's general advisor. In consultation with the faculty advisor, the student should invite two additional members of the graduate faculty to serve on the M.S. Committee. At least one of the additional committee members must be a member of the Geography faculty - all committee members must be approved by the GSC. Additional committee members beyond the minimum of three may be appointed to the M.S. Committee if desired and if approved by the GSC. Members of the M.S. Committee conduct the proposal defense, read the thesis, and conduct the final thesis defense.

Proposal Defense. 

Each M.S. student will undergo a proposal defense with members of his or her M.S. committee to demonstrate that he or she is prepared to conduct research that will result in a satisfactory thesis. This examination should take place after a substantial portion of the coursework is complete and after at least one full draft of the proposal has been submitted to the advisor for review. The proposal defense may address all components of the proposal, including the problem statement, the literature review, and, particularly, the methods of research and analysis to be applied.

At the conclusion of the proposal defense, the committee awards an evaluation of either Satisfactory or Needs Revision. In cases where the committee determines that the proposal needs to be revised, the student is provided specific criticisms that need to be addressed. Once the criticisms have been addressed, the proposal is circulated to the advisor and then to the committee members. There is no need for the committee to formally meet again unless the advisor deems it necessary. Once the proposal is determined to be satisfactory by all committee members, the advisor forwards the decision to the Graduate Studies Committee.

M.S. Final Examination. 

A final general examination in geography is required of all M.S. students. This examination, a defense of the thesis, is normally held during the semester of the student's final enrollment in course work but cannot occur until the entire thesis has been completed and has received approval from the advisor. The examination should be scheduled for a two-hour time slot, and in no case is it to extend beyond three hours. This final examination is separate from, and should not be confused with, the proposal defense, which is held earlier in the program when the proposal is complete and the student is ready to begin research.

Continuous Enrollment. 

All master's students who have completed required coursework for their degrees are required to be continuously enrolled until all requirements for the degree are completed. No enrollment is necessary for the summer term unless the degree will be completed at that time. The Graduate School has established a maximum time limit of seven years between initial graduate enrollment and completion of all degree requirements.

Submission of Thesis. 

When the thesis has been completed, a thesis defense is scheduled. The student must submit a list of committee members, the proposed date and time of the defense, and the thesis title three weeks prior to the scheduled defense. After a successful defense, both electronic and hardbound copies need to be prepared. Both should include an abstract of no more than 150 words. A hardbound copy (8 1/2" x 11") is required for the department. The KU Libraries recommend the following binders that can bind paper copies of your thesis and additionally offer print-from-electronic file services: 1)Heckman Bindery  or 2) Acme Bookbinding.  Bound copies can also be obtained through UMI Dissertation Publishing. The student must turn in a receipt showing that arrangements have been made for such work prior to the deadline for graduation set by the Graduate School.  It is also customary for the student to provide a bound copy for the advisor.

The thesis must be submitted to the Graduate School and UMI Dissertation Publishing electronically using Portable Document Format (PDF). Instructions for this process are available at the KU graduate school website. See also UMI’s website. In addition to this electronic submittal, a student must submit a paper copy of the title page and an “acceptance page” with original signatures to the College Graduate Studies office in 102 Strong Hall. Formats for both of these are at the graduate school website. A copy of the title page should also be turned in to the Geography office.

KU M.S. Students Continuing for the Ph.D. 

Departmental M.S. students desiring to continue at KU for their Ph.D. studies must apply to the Graduate Studies Committee. The application consists of a letter requesting admission accompanied by letters of evaluation from at least two KU faculty members in a position to judge the student's performance at the graduate level; one of these letters must be from the chair of the student's M.S. committee. A student is eligible to apply any time after successfully passing his or her M.S. examination. No more than nine hours of coursework completed within the M.S. program and in excess of the thirty-hour minimal requirement therein will be allowed to count toward Ph.D. requirements.