Back to Top


Admissions Information

Application Deadlines

Degree Requirements


Financial Assistance







Justice, Christopher O., Full Member

Associate Chair

Dubayah, Ralph O., Full Member


Defloriani, Leila, Full Member

Dubayah, Ralph O., Full Member

Hansen, Matthew, Full Member

Hubacek, Klaus, Full Member

Hurtt, George, Full Member

Justice, Christopher O., Full Member

Kasischke, Eric S., Full Member

Liang, Shunlin, Full Member

Sun, Laixiang, Full Member

Associate Professor

Baiocchi, Giovanni, Full Member

Geores, Martha E., Full Member

Loboda, Tatiana, Full Member

Silva, Julie, Full Member

Assistant Professor

McKenzie, Grant, Full Member

Associate Research Professor

Huang, Chengquan, Adjunct Member

Professor Emeritus

Goward, Samuel N., Full Member

Prince, Stephen D., Full Member

Townshend, John R., Full Member

Associate Professor Emeritus

Brodsky, Harold, Non-Member

Cirrincione, Joseph M., Non-Member

Thompson, Derek, Non-Member

More GEOG Faculty Information

Geographical Sciences (GEOG)   

Program Title and Classification

Geographical Sciences

Graduate Degree Program

College: Behavioral and Social Sciences


The Department of Geographical Sciences offers graduate study leading to the Doctor of Philosophy, Master of Professional Studies in Geospatial Information Sciences, and five year, combined Bachelors of Science and Masters of Science in Geographical Sciences degrees.

The specific research specializations represented by the faculty include:

Human Dimensions of Global Change: Coupled Human and Natural Systems. The Departments ultimate research goal is to advance an integrated understanding of the coupled Earth system including spatially distributed human processes. Our research addresses both fundamental and applied issues in coupled human and natural systems, such as population, socio-economic development, consumption and production, poverty, climate impacts and adaptation, vulnerability and mitigation, as well as the examination of policy options and trade-offs on sustainability. Our scientists investigate both the human socio-economic system and the climate system, and their linkages.

Land Cover,Land Use Change. Land cover and land-use change is a key interface between human and natural systems. Our scientists are world leaders in the remote sensing of land-cover changes. This information is actively combined with human socio-economic data to study past land cover and land use change and to inform advanced modeling of spatially-explicit future scenarios. These methods are actively being used to simultaneously address social, economic, carbon, climate, biodiversity and other aspects of land-use changes. We develop agricultural monitoring systems and look at societal impacts, adaptions and vulnerability to fire, droughts, floods, desertification, and other catastrophic events.

Geospatial Information Sciences and Remote Sensing.Collecting and interpreting geospatial data is central to everything we do as geographers, whether on computers or in the field. From local events to multi-scale processes, our faculty are developing and applying advanced remote sensing capabilities and GI Science that will help us to develop the next generation of GI technologies and understanding of the worlds geography. Our strengths include advanced computer modeling, scientific and geographic visualization, sensor calibration and design, image processing, geocomputing, spatial statistics, and semantic learning.

Carbon, Vegetation Dynamics and Landscape-scale Processes. The department carries out a broad array of research focused on monitoring vegetation dynamics, with a particular focus on mapping and studying human and natural disturbances and their landscape-scale impacts, as well as changes to the earth surface as a result of climate variability. This research involves integration of field-based research with remotely-sensed observations to address key scientific uncertainties. Alterations to the global carbon cycle are changing atmospheric composition and climate with implications for human well-being and a particular focus of our research is on monitoring and modeling the terrestrial carbon cycle with unprecedented sophistication and resolution.

The Department contains several specialized groups, including the Global Land Cover Facility, as well as several smaller groupings of research interests. The Department also has close ties with cross-campus research initiatives, including the Earth Systems Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC) and the Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI). ESSIC is an initiative that brings together the Departments of Geography, Geology and Atmosphere and Ocean Science in a Research Institute to further encourage interdisciplinary studies to address contemporary questions in Earth Systems Science. JCGRI is a collaboration between the University of Maryland and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and is dedicated to understanding the problems of global climate change and their potential solutions.

Admissions Information

General Requirements:

Program-Specific Requirements:

The Department offers courses of study leading to the Ph.D. degree and the MPS (masters in professional studies in geospatial information sciences). The MPS program is administered separately and has different admission deadlines and requirements than the Ph.D. program. See the MPS GIS Program. The Department no longer offers an M.A. option. All students are admitted directly to the Ph.D. program.

Ph.D. Program

The Department admits students to our doctoral program that have already completed a masters degree and exceptionally well qualified students who have only completed a bachelor’s degree. Admitted students are required to either possess or shall develop a strong foundation in the discipline of Geography. Admission to the Ph.D. program is not limited to students with a Geography degree. Those with degrees in related disciplines such as environmental, physical or biological sciences, anthropology, economics, history and social science are encouraged to apply but may be required to undertake additional background study. Some knowledge of data processing and statistics is necessary for all applicants.

Applicants proposed program of study must clearly draw on the research strengths of existing faculty members. All applicants are strongly encouraged to contact individual faculty members (in person, by phone, or by email) to discuss their research interests and to identify potential advisors, as they will need a faculty to sponsor them for admission.

In general, the Department admits between 10-15 students each year into the Ph.D. program. Virtually all students accepted are fully-funded through assistantships and fellowships. While there is no longer a formal M.S. program, a terminal masters degree may be received for qualified students who are unable to complete the Ph.D. program.

Combined BS/MS Program

The Masters of Science degree is only earned through the Department's combined five year BS/MS program. The combined BS/MS program enables some of the better performing students pursuing an undergraduate Geographical Sciences major to earn both their BS and their MS in five years by counting up to 8 credits of their Geographical Sciences graduate courses towards both degrees, thus significantly reducing both the time and cost of earning both degrees.

Most students apply to the program at the end of their Junior year to begin graduate courses and be part of the program as of their Senior year. Admission into the program is strongly competitive. Students will be admitted with an undergraduate degree in Geographical Sciences, including those with an ENSP concentration in Geographical Sciences. Minimum requirements are: 3.5 GPA overall, three letters of recommendation, and a statement of research.

Applicants' proposed statement of research must clearly align with the research strengths of existing faculty members. All applicants are strongly encouraged to contact individual faculty members (in person, by phone, or by email) to discuss their research interests and to identify potential advisors, as they will need a faculty member to sponsor them for admission.

In general, the Department admits between 5-10 students each year into the combined BS/MS program. There is no Departmental funding available.

Ph.D. Program

Admission into the program is strongly competitive. Students may be admitted with either an undergraduate or masters level degree. Minimum requirements are:

  • GPA B (3.0) average in junior and senior year;
  • A combined total GRE score of 320;
  • three letters of recommendation, preferably from academic reviewers.

For international students, the following additional minimum test scores apply: Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) [internet-based test total 100]. International students who are applicants for teaching assistantships must also pass an International Teaching Assistant Oral Evaluation by the University’s Maryland English Institute (MEI).

Closing date for applications into the Ph.D. program is December 15. Applications are reviewed from December to February for Fall entry; there is no Spring entry. The Graduate School will accept applications up to May 1 for certain visa categories. However, applications received by the Department after December 15 have a reduced chance of being considered for Fall entry and financial aid. The following are required for application into the program:

  1. GRE General
  2. 3 Letters of Recommendation
  3. Undergrad and Grad transcripts
  4. Statement of Goals and Research Interests and Statement of Experiences
  5. International applicants: TOEFL or IELTS (also MEI oral exam for TAs)

In addition we strongly encourage the following: evidence of contact with faculty members, an example of writing or scholarship, and a current CV.

B.S./M.S. Program

Closing date for graduate school applications into the combined Bachelor of Science and Master of Science program is December 15 for Fall entry; there is no Spring entry. The following are required for application into the program:

  1. 3 Letters of Recommendation
  2. Undergrad transcripts
  3. Statement of Goals and Research Interests and Statement of Experiences

In addition we strongly encourage the following: evidence of contact with faculty members, an example of writing or scholarship, and a current CV.

For more admissions information or to apply to the program, please visit our Graduate School website:

Application Deadlines

Type of Applicant Fall
Domestic Applicants:
US Citizens and Permanent Residents
15 Dec
International Applicants:
F (student) or J (exchange visitor) visas
A,E,G,H,I and L visas and immigrants.
15 Dec

Other Deadlines: Please visit the program website at

Degree Requirements

Master of Science (M.S.)

Total CreditsCore Requirements

Non-thesis only: 30 credits required

GEOG 601: The Nature and Practice of Science (3 credits)

GEOG 606: Quantitative Spatial Analysis (3 credits)

GEOG 789: Independent Readings (6 credits)

GEOG 798: Selected Topics in Geography: Seminar Series (3 credits)

GEOG 6xx: Technical Elective (3 credits)

GEOG 6xx: Physical Elective (3 credits)

GEOG 6xx: Human Elective (3 credits)

GEOG 6xx: Electives (6 credits)

*Students are also required to complete a scholarly project.


The combined BS/MS degree is only granted to students who have successfully completed the 120 hours of undergraduate coursework, 30 hours of graduate coursework, and a scholarly paper. For more information in the course sequencing and credits applicable to both the undergraduate and graduate degrees, see the Department’s website:


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Core Requirements

Doctoral students are required to complete a set of coursework and dissertation research. In addition, students must pass a portfolio assessment. Students without a Geography background should complete an additional 9 credits in the following areas: Environmental and Biological Aspects of Earth Systems Science, Human Dimensions of Global Change, and Geospatial Information Sciences. 

Required courses:

GEOG 601: The Nature and Practice of Science (3 credits)

GEOG 606: Quantitative Spatial Analysis or GEOG 636: Qualitative Methods in Geography (3 credits)

GEOG 608: Comprehensive Portfolio Assessment Summary (1-3 credits)

GEOG 788D: Selected Topics in Geography (3 credits)

GEOG 798: Selected Topics in Geography: Seminar Series (2 credits)

GEOG 899: Doctoral Dissertation Research (12 credits)


For those entering with a Master's degree in Geography, the PhD should be completed withing 4 years; For those entering with Bachelor's or without a Geography background, the PhD should be completed within 5 years. Part-time study takes longer, but at least 1 year full-time attendance is required. Students entering with a B.A. or without a Geography background will take one course each in the following areas: Human, Physical, and Methods. See the PhD Handbook for further details.


Facilities and Special Resources

The Washington, D.C. metropolitan area is an exceptional location in which to pursue geographic research. Many national and international agencies are within a short distance of the campus, including the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the USDA Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, the National Archives, Bureau of the Census, National Institutes of Health, USGS, National Geospatial Imaging Agency, Smithsonian Institution, and NOAA. International and non-governmental agencies are located within easy reach, including the National Geographic Society, the Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, World Bank, and many others. Corporations, businesses and nonprofit organizations that use geographical applications are also well represented. Libraries on campus and nearby are unrivaled elsewhere in the world. The University is also located in a region of extraordinary geographic diversity, including two major urban centers (Baltimore and Washington, D.C.), and the superb, continuous section from the Appalachian mountains, through the Piedmont, Coastal Plain, and Chesapeake Bay to the Atlantic Coast.

Many opportunities exist for students to participate in externally funded research projects. Graduate students find these research programs a rich source of ideas for dissertations as well as providing opportunities to join projects as paid research assistants and, often, identifying openings for employment on completion of their studies.

The Department is housed in over 35,000 sq. ft. on the main College Park campus. Teaching laboratories include facilities for cartography, GIS, and the Turner laboratories dedicated to computer-based instruction, while other facilities needed for virtually any type of investigation are available through collaborations with other departments. There are two primary computer environments, namely PC and UNIX, with over 100 machines dedicated to teaching and graduate research. The research laboratories support UNIX, Linux, and high-end PC machines, including very high performance processors and peripherals and large volume RAID arrays. There are a large number of printers, magnetic disk farms, tape libraries, etc. An extensive range of software is available, including satellite data processing, image analysis, and ESRI GIS packages. Field research, remote sensing, global positioning systems, and other types of equipment are available.

Financial Assistance

Teaching Assistantships, Research Assistantships, and various Fellowships are available. Salary is for 9.5 months per year. Assistants work 20 hours per week. Fellowship recipients have no work assignment. Depending upon resources, the department will provide up to four years of funding, provided the student meets the department’s benchmarks (see the PhD Handbook). Applications are made on the University Graduate Admission Application and further information about Financial Aid is given in the Application. Note, residents of certain Southern States without equivalent Geography graduate programs may be eligible to receive tuition at the lower, in-state fee rates.

Funding is not available for students in the combined BS/MS program.

Contact Statement

More detailed information on the MPS and Ph.D. programs can be obtained by reviewing the Department’s Graduate Programs Program Web Site. Call or e-mail Assistant Director of Academic Programs for more information. To arrange consultations with the Graduate Director and individual faculty, call the Department at (301)-405-8085.



Rachel Berndtson, Assistant Director of Academic Programs

2181L LeFrak Hall

MD, 20742

Telephone: 301-4059149


Associated Information




Earth Systems Science; Human Dimensions of Global Change, Cultural, Social, Population, Transportation, and Urban Geography. Geographic Information Systems, Remote Sensing, Digital Cartography and Spatial Analysis, Land Use, Land Cover, Carbon Cycle, Vegetation Dynamics.