Geography Graduate Program

Our graduate program in Geography offers the following degrees and options:

  • M.A. in Geography without Option (General Geography).
  • M.S. in Geography without Option (General Geography).
  • M.S. in Geography with Option in Cartography & GIS.
  • M.S. in Geography with Option in Community & Environmental Planning.

Some of our faculty members participate in the interdisciplinary graduate program in Systems Ecology (M.S. + Ph.D.).

Admission Semester(s) and Application Deadline(s): Autumn admissions only. Complete application packets must be received in CollegeNet by February 15. Application packets received after this date will be reviewed only on a space available basis.

Your Application Materials

Your application to be admitted to the University of Montana’s Graduate School is available for you to complete online at UM's Graduate School website. Complete the application form and follow the additional instructions on that webpage. If you wish to be considered for a Teaching Assistantship check the box in the online application asking if you wish to be considered for a Teaching Assistantship. Complete and send to the Geography Department statement of interest and qualifications concerning the teaching assistantship (maximum 350 words).

Additional application materials to be submitted to the Graduate School:

  • Official GRE scores with a test date that is within the past five years.
  • The TOEFL, IELTS or MELAB are also required of international applicants who are not graduates of an English-speaking university (please see information in the International Admission section on the UM Graduate School website).
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation - these may be completed online by your referees.

Additional application materials to be submitted to the Department of Geography:

  • Official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended.
  • A letter of intent (maximum 1000 words) explaining your objectives in graduate studies and why you wish to pursue those studies in the Department of Geography at The University of Montana.

Admission Application Instructions

Applying for admission to the graduate program in Geography is a two-step process:

First: Complete the Online Application (https://www.applyweb.com/apply/uomont/menu.html). As part of this process, applicants must do the following:

  1. Self-report GRE scores.
  2. Self-report all colleges and universities attended (including grade point average).
  3. Letters of recommendations.
  4. Upload a letter of intent (maximum 1000 words) explaining your objectives in graduate studies and why you wish to pursue those studies in the Department of Geography at The University of Montana.
  5. Upload resume.
  6. Pay the application fee.
  7. If you wish to be considered for a teaching assistantship, check the appropriate box on the online application and send directly to the Department of Geography a written statement of interest and qualifications concerning the teaching assistantship (maximum 350 words).

Second: Request Official Scores and Transcripts:

  1. Request that official GRE scores be sent to the University of Montana using code 4489.
  2. Request that official transcripts be sent to the Department of Geography from all colleges and universities you have attended (excluding University of Montana) Transcripts may also be transmitted electronically through the National Student Clearinghouse.

General Degree Requirements

Download a PDF of Graduate degree requirements.

Degree Options and Tracks

For the M.A or M.S. degrees, with or without option, students are required to complete one of the following tracks: 

  • Thesis track: Successfully complete and defend a thesis or one or more papers (i.e., articles) of publishable quality before an examining committee. 
  • Professional Paper track: Successfully complete and defend a professional paper or one or more papers (i.e., articles) of publishable quality before an examining committee. The difference between a thesis and a professional paper is that while the thesis is directed toward advances in the discipline, the professional paper may be directed toward advances in the profession. A professional paper may also consist of one or more papers of publishable quality intended for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. 
  • Non-thesis (Portfolio) track: Requires additional course work consisting of at least 6 credits (see below), and the successful completion of a portfolio and written and oral comprehensive examinations described in the addendum of the "PDF of Graduate Degree Requirements" downloadable through the link above.. 

In consultation with their advisors, students must select from among the three tracks by the end of their first semester in residence. This allows for the proper configuration of programs of study that will best meet students’ needs and interests.

Degree Credit Minimum

A minimum of 

  • M.A. or M.S. degree in General Geography:
    • 30 credits plus a thesis (typically 3-6 cr.) are required for the thesis and professional paper tracks.
    • 36 credits are required for the non-thesis (portfolio) track. 
  • M.S. CEP Option:
    • 33 to 34 credits plus a thesis (typically 3-6 cr.) are required for the thesis or professional paper track.
    • 39 credit hours are required for the non-thesis (portfolio) track. 
  • M.S. CGIS Option:
    • 34 credits plus a thesis (typically 3-6 cr.) are required for the thesis or professional paper track.
    • 40 credit hours are required for the non-thesis track. 

See specific requirements for the options for additional information on the thesis, professional paper, and professional degree tracks.

Background Credits

(do not count toward the degree)

Incoming students are expected to have appropriate undergraduate course work and skills needed to commence graduate studies in Geography. Students may need to take foundational courses, with credits not counting toward the graduate degree. 

  • All Geography graduate students are expected to have an understanding of Cartography and GIS (GPHY 284 or equivalent). 
  • Depending on course of study and program option, and with details determined by the advisor, courses may include one or a combination of the following:
    • Foreign language,
    • Quantitative methods,
    • Computer programming (GIS-related),
    • Upper-division systematic geography. 

Courses Taken Previously

The same courses taken previously or similar courses taken elsewhere will be evaluated by the advisor in order to determine whether or not they satisfy any of the requirements. Criteria for such evaluations include the course content, the date that the course was taken, and the grade received. GPHY 284 (GPHY 381/2), Intro to GIS and Cartography, is primarily concerned with the discipline of cartography. Previous GIS training will generally not be considered in substitution for this course.

Graduate School Requirements

Of the minimum number of credits required for the M.A. and M.S. degrees, at least 20 semester credits (including those earned for the thesis or professional paper), will be in your major discipline, and at least 50% must be at the 500 or 600 level (excluding a combined total of 10 semester credits for thesis and research). Students must be continuously registered for a minimum of 3 credits per semester, including the final term during which they complete all degree requirements. Please see Graduate School Policies on Credit Requirements and Continuous Registration.

Graduate Student Handbook

The Graduate Student Handbook includes additional information about our graduate program and its policies and procedures.