Masters Program Curriculum & Requirements

Masters Program

Note: Credit hour requirements listed below have not been updated from the quarter system to the semester system. We will update this information during Fall 2013. 

The Department of Geography has two MA degree options; an accelerated one-year, non-thesis program, and a two-year, thesis program. The MA non-thesis program has been structured primarily for students who have an undergraduate degree in geography and who desire to enter the job market upon completion of a master's program. The MA thesis program is recommended for students who wish to continue graduate work in a PhD program. The MA thesis program also may be appropriate for students who do not have an adequate background in geography and who wish to take additional course work over a longer time period (2 years). A student may select the thesis or non-thesis option program no later than the beginning of the spring semester of the first year of matriculation. The faculty reserve the right to approve the selection. Students selecting the thesis option may not choose the non-thesis option after course credit is taken for thesis research.

Candidates for the Masters of Arts degree are expected to show broad mastery of the field, with a focus on the areas of departmental strength, including economic, urban and historical-cultural geography. Also available is a concentration in physical geography, with slightly different requirements and options. Students are expected (i) to complete satisfactorily certain required courses and seminars, (ii) to complete additional work in areas related to their special interests (either within or outside the department) and (iii) to write a thesis and defend it successfully, or write a research paper and successfully conclude a field problem (non-thesis option).

Students whose background preparation for the required graduate-level courses is weak, or who lack certain of the background skills for conducting research, are expected to repair these deficiencies by taking appropriate courses, if necessary, at the undergraduate level.

The normal time taken to complete the MA program is two academic years for the thesis option and one calendar year for the accelerated, non-thesis option. Full-time candidates are expected to register for 12 hours of graduate credit, exclusive of audit credits, during each semester in residence. Every semester, a student's course schedule is worked out in consultation with the director of graduate studies, whose approval is required before registration.

At the end of the second academic semester of residence, all MA students must select a faculty adviser, or the Graduate Program Director will appoint a faculty adviser. It is the faculty adviser's responsibility to assist graduate students in the completion of all degree (thesis or non-thesis option) requirements in a timely manner, to monitor student academic progress and to mentor students during their graduate career.

As an essential part of their educational experience and as a condition of admission to a degree program, all full-time graduate students are given certain responsibilities within the department as research, teaching, fieldwork, cartographic or computer assistants. These responsibilities are in addition to the specified curricular requirements.

The department evaluates student performance regularly at the end of the first semester, in each course and seminar, and through a written progress report submitted by each graduate student during the spring semester (by April 1) of each year.

Non-Thesis MA Program

Students selecting the non-thesis MA program must complete the following requirements:

  • complete 46 credits of graduate courses;
  • write an acceptable extended research paper; and
  • successfully conclude a field problem

Course requirements for the non-thesis MA program are at least 46 credits of graduate courses. Students should follow the MA program course schedule that includes Introduction to Graduate Geography, Quantitative Geography, Computer Applications, Geography Seminars, elective classes and Staff Seminar. See the "Table of Requirements" for more details of these requirements. Students may petition out of certain core requirements (with the permission of the graduate adviser). Students petitioning out of core requirement courses must take an equivalent number of graduate credits in other courses.

An extended research paper is a requirement of the non-thesis MA program. The following guidelines should be adhered to:

  • a length of approximately 25 pages (including bibliography) is suggested;
  • the paper must conform to University of Cincinnati graduate school standards as stipulated by Thesis Guidelines;
  • the extended research paper may be an extension of a seminar paper, or the paper can be a "new topic." If the paper is an extension of a seminar paper, the topic and format must be approved by the professor to whom the paper was originally submitted and by the graduate studies director.

The paper is read by two faculty chosen by the director of graduate studies. A letter indicating successful completion is entered in the student's file.

A field problem is given to all MA non-thesis option students. The problem is given upon conclusion of the spring semester no earlier than two weeks prior to final exams week and no later than one week after the exam week. Students have one week (seven consecutive days) to conclude the field problem and write a report, which must be submitted to the graduate director. The field problem is selected from a list of field problems submitted by faculty. The field problem is designed to test the student's skills in conducting research, data acquisition, data testing, field mapping, and reporting the results, including maps, etc., in brief, professionally prepared paper. At least two faculty persons evaluate the report. A letter indicating successful completion of the field problem is entered in the student's file.

MA Thesis Program

Students selecting the MA thesis program must complete the following requirements:

  • Satisfactorily complete 50 hours of course requirements. Course requirements for the thesis program are similar to those for the non-thesis option. See the "Table of Requirements" for details.
  • Write and successfully defend an acceptable MA thesis. During the summer between their first and second years, students should plan to pursue their thesis research and gather much of the necessary data. In most cases, preliminary analysis of these data should also be started during the summer. Credit may be obtained for such work under the Summer School courses "Problems in Geography" (15-041-501, 502, 503).

The second year requirements include:

  • Required to take 4 seminars/approved 6000 level courses or computer techniques courses and also register for research credits.
  • Complete course requirements.
  • Complete and defend thesis.