The Department of Geography offers a Master of Arts in Geography with a range of courses in human geography, physical geography, regional geography, and geographic techniques and methods. There are four broad concentration areas: environmental studies, geographic information science, places and cultures, and urban geography studies. The program accommodates students with a variety of professional backgrounds, and with academic training in social sciences, computer science, environmental science / engineering as well as traditional geography.
The program emphasizes geographic theory, skills, and analytical methodologies in social, physical, and environmental geography, as well as geographic information science. A limited number of research, teaching, and college assistantships are available. The MA degree can be completed through either a thesis or a non-thesis option. Full-time students may be able to complete the M.A. within three semesters, but the average time for degree completion is three years. Many courses are offered in the evening to accommodate part-time and working students.
An MA in Geography from Hunter can lead to employment with local and national governments, international agencies, non-government organizations, corporations, consultants and information technology companies. The New York area is home to diverse urban communities, dynamic economies and cultures, government structures of all levels (from local to international), and corporate headquarters. Located on Manhattan’s upper east side, Hunter College is close to these activities. Students who wish to continue graduate work at the PhD level will find themselves well prepared and equipped with the research and technical skills necessary for advanced research.
Admissions procedures as established by the Hunter College Office of Graduate Admissions dictate that candidates must have a BA or BS or equivalent, and an undergraduate GPA of at least a B minus, with a B in the major. Typically, a Geography applicant has completed at least 18 credit hours in geography. While a lack of a background in geography will not impede admission, all students are expected to gain basic knowledge of geography prior to graduation in consultation with the student's adviser. It is recommended that students enter the program with knowledge of basic statistics. All students are required to take the Graduate Record Examination. Foreign students whose first language is not English must pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language. Two letters of recommendation are required.
If you have any questions about the information in this catalogue, please contact the Geography MA advisor.
For fall semester: April 30 (February 1 for international students)
For spring semester: November 1 (September 1 for international students)
We encourage graduate application submissions by early deadlines of September 1 and February 1. This will help with allocation of scholarships and funding if these are available.
Requirements for the Master of Arts Degree in Geography
Students receiving a Master of Arts from the Department of Geography at Hunter College must choose one of two program options: the Thesis Option or Exam Option. The thesis option is recommended for students who will subsequently pursue a Ph.D. For other students, either option is acceptable. The requirements for each option, as well as department policies on a number of issues, are outlined below. These requirements may change over time, and each student is subject to the requirements that are in place at the beginning of the semester in which they begin taking classes as a matriculated MA student.
The MA consists of 31 (for the thesis option) or 36 (for the exam option) graduate credits. The department offers three types of courses: GEOG, PGEOG, and GTECH. GEOG classes cover human geography, nature/society, research methods, and regional geography, while PGEOG classes cover physical geography and environmental science. GTECH courses cover geographic methods and techniques, and include geographic information science, remote sensing, and cartography. Classes vary in their structure from laboratory classes to lecture/discussions and seminars.
A. Thesis Option: A minimum of 31 credits is required for the thesis option. The requirements are:
- (7 credits) GEOG 701, GEOG 702 and GEOG 701.54
- (11 credits) A minimum of 11 additional credits selected from GEOG, GTECH, and PGEOG courses. Most students choose a principal area of concentration (GEOG, PGEOG, or GTECH), in which they take most of their credits. Graduate students entering the program without a geography background are required to take at least six credits in geography outside of their principal area of concentration. Students are allowed a maximum of six credits from independent study courses, except in rare circumstances when the graduate advisor and the student's academic adviser agree to allow more.
- (12 credits) Some portion of the remaining 12 credits may be selected from outside this department, according to the policy outlined below.
- (1 credit) One credit of GEOG 799 (Thesis Research) leading to a thesis approved by the student's committee.
- A cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 is required.
- Formal approval of a proposal for thesis research. The student’s committee determines whether the proposal is of a breadth, depth, and quality consistent with the expectations for a Masters Degree thesis. (Students are advised to form a committee, and to submit a proposal for thesis research to their committee by the end of the semester during which they finish their 20th credit in the program. Guidance for choosing a committee is available on the Department web site.)
- A thesis of a breadth, depth, and quality consistent with the expectations for a Masters Degree thesis prepared in a format conforming with Hunter College guidelines. The student’s committee determines whether the thesis is acceptable.
B. Examination Option: A minimum of 36 credits is required for the exam option. The requirements are:
- (7 credits) GEOG 701, GEOG 702, GEOG 701.54
- (17 credits) A minimum of 17 additional credits selected from GEOG, GTECH, and PGEOG courses. Most students choose a principal area of concentration (GEOG, PGEOG, or GTECH), in which they take most of their credits. Graduate students entering the program without a geography background are required to take at least six credits in geography outside of their principal area of concentration. Students are allowed a maximum of six credits from independent study courses, except in rare circumstances when the graduate advisor and the student’s academic adviser agree to allow more.
- (12 credits) Some portion of the remaining 12 credits may be selected from outside this department, according to the policy outlined below.
- A cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 is required.
- A passing grade on the comprehensive examination conducted by the student's graduate committee. (Students are advised to form a committee, and to declare the exam option, by the end of the semester during which they finish their 20th credit in the program. Guidance for choosing a committee is available on the Department web site.)
- A research paper of a breadth, depth, and quality consistent with expectations for a Masters Degree student prepared in the format of The Professional Geographer or its equivalent. The student’s committee determines whether the research paper is acceptable.
Forms and paperwork that are required for MA students
Links to most of the forms that may be required by an MA student can be found on the Department web site. Most of these are not required for every single student, depending on circumstances. However, here are the three things that every single MA student must have at some point. (Thesis option students also have to submit hard copies of their thesis, as discussed in more detail in the "procedures to file for graduation" section below.) Each of these is explained further in the appropriate section of the guidelines below.
1. The Graduate Faculty Committee Selection Form, which designates the student's adviser and other committee member(s), is filled out by the student, signed by each committee member and by the graduate adviser, and submitted to the department when the student and committee members agree to work together.
2. The Graduate Degree Audit Application Form (DAAF) is filled out by the student, signed by the graduate adviser, and submitted to the Records Office when the student has completed the required credits for graduation. It provides details on which credits the student has taken to fulfill the requirements for the MA degree, and should be completed as early as possible during the semester the student wishes to graduate, or any time prior to that.
3. A letter from the graduate adviser to the records department stating that the student has completed the requirements to fulfill the degree. For thesis option students, this would confirm that the student has completed the thesis. For exam option students, this will confirm that the student has completed the exam and paper requirements. This is especially important for exam option students, because the records department receives independent confirmation from the Dean's office when theses are completed, but receives no other confirmation for exam option students.
Policy for maintenance of GPA
In order to graduate with an MA in Geography at Hunter College, students must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0. Any student whose cumulative GPA is below 3.0 at the end of a semester is considered “on probation.” Students on probation are expected to initiate a meeting with their academic adviser, and the graduate adviser, to discuss strategies to raise the student’s GPA. It is the student's responsibility to initiate this discussion.
If a student’s cumulative GPA is below 3.0 at the end a semester a second time (whether or not the semesters were consecutive), the academic adviser and the graduate adviser may remove a student from the program. Such a decision is not taken lightly, and is taken only if the academic and graduate advisers agree that the student is unlikely to be able to successfully complete the requirements for the MA degree.
Policy for choosing an adviser and a committee
All Masters degree students, regardless of whether they choose the thesis or exam option, must have both an academic advisor and a committee. The committee consists of the academic advisor and at least one other member. The role of the committee for thesis option students is to guide students through their course work and thesis research. The role of the committee for exam-option students is to guide students through their course work and their research paper, and to administer their exam. The committee should have expertise related to the student’s research interests. The role of the department's graduate adviser, which is different than the student’s academic adviser, is to ensure that students are meeting their requirements and milestones in a timely fashion, to enter permissions for classes, and to help students with other bureaucratic issues.
The academic adviser must be a full time faculty member of the Hunter College Department of Geography. The second member (and any additional members) must have a Ph.D. in an appropriate field, and considered an expert in an area relevant to the student’s area of concentration. This may include full time as well as adjunct faculty of our department, faculty of other departments or institutions, or persons employed in the public or private sector. It is recommended that a student identify an academic adviser as early as possible in their career here, and consult with her/him on which courses to take, and on what research topics to pursue. Students are also encouraged to choose committee members as early as possible during their career so that the committee can help shape the student’s academic experience as much as possible.
Potential advisors and committee members are not obligated to serve on the committee of any particular student. To choose an advisor or committee member, the student is expected to ask a faculty member if she/he is willing to serve in that capacity.
The Graduate Faculty Committee Selection Form must be filled out to officially choose an advisor and a committee.
Guidance in choosing a research topic, an adviser and a committee
Your choice of research topic and advisor are critical, and there are many issues to be considered. The issues depend very much on the circumstances of each individual student. However, here we mention some general questions that each student should consider.
- Am I a student who needs or wants a close working relationship with your advisor? Or, am I experienced enough to do most of your research independently, with less interaction with your adviser? On this spectrum, most students fall in the middle, and require some degree of interaction with their adviser. If you are such a student, the choice of research topic and the choice of advisor are not independent of each other. It is likely in your best interest to be somewhat flexible in the specific topic, even if you have a general area of interest. This way, when you find a potential advisor, you work with her/him to decide on a topic that is of interest to both of you. If you choose a topic that is closely related to, or a small piece of, a project that the professor is already working on, you are more likely to benefit from direct interaction with the professor. If your topic is only marginally related to the professor’s current agenda, she/he may be less able to commit the same number of hours to your project.
- How should I identify which professors are potential advisors for me? Get to know the professors, first on the department web site, then by taking their classes, taking GEOG 702 (where you meet many professors), and introducing yourself to them in other circumstances. This way you can get a feel for which professors have expertise related to your topic, and what specific projects the professor is working on.
- When should I start thinking about my research topic, advisor, and committee? As soon as possible. If you arrive here with a clear idea of your area of interest, start getting to know the appropriate professors immediately. Between your 9th and 18th credit is a good time to narrow it down and establish an adviser-advisee relationship with a professor. Then you have some time to choose a topic, and take the appropriate courses, before you have used up all your credits. However, some students will be able to accomplish this sooner, some will accomplish this later.
- Why should I choose my advisor early? Having an advisor early in your career (“early” means before you have taken too many credits towards your Masters degree) will give you an advantage. The professor can advise you on what areas of knowledge you need in order to work on a particular project. To do the best thesis or research paper possible, there are probably a number of skills and areas of background information, that you will need. If you start working with your advisor early in your career, you can take all the course work that you need, and independent studies if necessary, to cover all the bases. For students interested in pursuing a Ph.D., this should also make you a stronger candidate for admission to a Ph.D. program. If you approach your advisor when you have already taken, for example, 28 of your 31 required credits, and the advisor feels that you do not have the background necessary to accomplish a proper thesis in her/his field of study, you will either have to take extra classes or choose a different adviser.
- Can I switch topic and/or adviser? Yes. However, choosing and switching advisers is not something to be taken lightly. When a student and professor enter into an advisee-adviser relationship, they are each making a fairly significant commitment. Sometimes, however, things do not work out as planned, and you may need to choose a different topic and/or a different adviser. As long you are open and honest with your adviser about all frustrations that may arise every step of the way, give your project and course work the full attention they deserve, and try to work through the difficult moments that inevitably arise, you and/or your adviser may come to a reasonable decision about how to proceed. When you are first choosing an adviser, it may make sense for you and a faculty member to enter into a provisional, or temporary, advisee-adviser relationship. Then, after a semester or some other agreed-upon time, you can both decide whether to continue or not. Regardless of the details, both you and the faculty member must agree to the terms of the relationship.
Policy for credits taken outside this department
Masters degree students are allowed to take courses outside of this department, which includes both courses at other institutions as well as courses from other Hunter College departments. Courses acceptable for use towards completion of a degree in this department must meet the minimum requirements for Hunter College transfer of graduate credits. For courses taken outside of Hunter College, students must follow the Hunter College guidelines for transfer of graduate credit (both the requirements and the procedures can be found at" http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/graduateadmissions/applying/degree-application/transfer-credit. Note that among the requirements is that only courses for which a student received a grade of B or higher are accepted, and that there is a constraint on how far in the past these credits are acceptable. The graduate adviser, in consultation with the student’s academic adviser, determines which courses are acceptable for use towards completion of a degree in this department. For credits taken from other Hunter College departments, the grade will be transferred and will count towards the student’s cumulative GPA. For credits taken at other institutions, no grade will be transferred, and therefore the grade will not affect the student’s cumulative GPA. No credit is given for internships.
The number of such credits that are acceptable for use towards completion of a degree in this department depends on a student’s background.
- For students entering the program with an undergraduate degree in Geography from Hunter College, a maximum 12 credits outside this program are acceptable for use towards this degree.
- For students entering the program with an undergraduate degree in Geography from another institution, a maximum nine credits outside this program are acceptable for use towards this degree.
- For students entering the program with an undergraduate degree other than Geography, a maximum six credits outside this program are acceptable for use towards this degree.
Policy for credits previously earned in this department by a Masters degree student, at a time when the student had either non-matriculated or undergraduate status
Credits previously earned in the Hunter College Geography Department by a Masters degree student, at a time when the student had non-matriculated status, may be acceptable for use towards completion of a degree in this department. A maximum of two courses or eight credits, whichever is greater, are acceptable. The credits will be accepted only if the cumulative GPA of the transferred credits is at least 3.0. Grades received for these transferred credits are included in the students’ cumulative GPA.
If the student had undergraduate status when the courses were taken, then only courses that were not used to fulfill an undergraduate requirement will be accepted.
The only situation where a greater number of credits will be accepted is if the courses were taken to complete the Hunter College GIS Certificate Program, which are subject to the Policy for credits taken to complete the GIS Certificate Program. Note that, if the GIS Certificate has not been completed, then the policy stated in this paragraph apply.
Policy for credits taken to complete the GIS Certificate Program
Up to 15 credits taken for the Hunter College GIS Certificate may be counted towards a Masters Degree in Geography at Hunter. Students must apply to the GIS Certificate Program separately. The transfer of credits can work in several ways:
- Students may be enrolled in both programs simultaneously, in which case the credits are acceptable for both the Masters degree and the GIS Certificate.
- Students may have completed some (but not all) of the credits for the GIS certificate program prior to matriculation in the Masters Program. In this case, the policy for credits earned in this department previously by a Masters degree student, at a time when the student had nonmatriculated status, is in effect.
- Students may have successfully completed the GIS certificate program prior to matriculation in the Masters program. In this case, a maximum of 15 credits are transferrable, provided that the cumulative GPA of the transferred credits is at least 3.0.
- Students may have completed some or all of the credits for the Masters program prior to enrollment in the GIS Certificate Program. In this case students may apply to the GIS Certificate Program. Students must consult with the GIS Certificate Program Advisor to discuss the transfer of credits into that program.
Policy for graduate level regional geography courses
Our department does not offer graduate level regional geography courses. However, we provide an opportunity for graduate students to take such a course. GEOG709.00 is listed as "Geography of Selected World Regions." This is not actually a course. This is a course number that allows graduate students, in some circumstances, the option to take an undergraduate regional course, and to arrange with the instructor to do extra work to make it worth graduate credit. This is typically used by students in the Adolescent Education in Earth Sciences program, but not usually by Geography MA students.
Availability of funding for MA students
Unfortunately there are no scholarships available from the college for our MA students. Financial support is generally available to MA students from two sources: Teaching Assistantships (TAs) and Research Assistantships (RAs). Most TA positions are as lab instructors for the introductory undergraduate courses in Weather & Climate and Geology. If you are interested in applying for a TA position please inquire in the department office (1006 Hunter North). RA positions are available when individual professors have external funding to hire students. Students may hear about such positions on the department email listserv (geo-l), or can approach individual professors to inquire whether they have funding for such positions.
Procedure to file for graduation
All students must file a Degree Audit Form near the beginning of the semester during which they intend to graduate (or prior to that semester). You can find the links to instructions, and to the forms, on the Department web page.
For either the exam or thesis option, the graduate advisor must submit a letter to the records department confirming that the student has fulfilled all requirements. When an exam option student passes both the exam and the paper; and when a thesis option student has the thesis completed and approved; it is the student's responsibility to make sure that the grad advisor is aware of it, so that the grad adviser can write the letter to the records office.This is especially important for exam option students, because the records department receives independent confirmation from the Dean's office when theses are completed, but receives no other confirmation for exam option students.
For the thesis option, two hard copies of the thesis and a binding fee must be submitted prior to graduation. It is recommended that the thesis be submitted three weeks prior to graduation. The student must be actively enrolled or enrolled for maintenance of matriculation during the semester that the student files for graduation. Hunter College School of Arts and Sciences Master's thesis guidelines can be found here.