The graduate program of the Department of Geography offers both M.A. and Ph.D. degrees. The program’s basic purpose is to train scholars and professionals to produce and disseminate knowledge and to make outstanding contributions in the public and private sectors.

There are approximately 80-90 graduate students in the program.  The M.A. program was founded in 1930 and the Ph.D. program began in 1965.  The first Ph.D. was awarded in 1968.  The Department is ranked as one of the top programs among the nation’s doctoral-granting departments of geography. It also attracts some 3,500 undergraduates to its courses every year, and has approximately 200 undergraduate majors. 

Prospective students should have interests coincident with those of the faculty and strong preparation in the natural or social sciences, but not necessarily in geography. Prospective students may want to check the titles of recent theses and dissertations as well as information about current grad students.

How to Apply

Domestic and International Applicants:

  • Apply Online anytime after August 1.     
  • Applications must be submitted by December 1st 

Flexible Coursework

The curriculum is highly flexible; students’ programs are individualized as much as possible. Only three courses are required of all students: GEOG 5152, History and Theory of Geography; GEOG 5161, Research Design in Geography; and either GEOG 5023, Introduction to Quantitative Methods in Geography or GEOG 5722 Field Methods in Human Geography.   All students must take GEOG 5152 and 5161, normally within the first 2 semesters of residency, even if they have taken similar courses at other institutions. Students must earn a B or better in all of these courses in order to pass the Preliminary Exam required by the Graduate School.

New Student Orientation & Retreat

At the beginning of the Fall Semester, all entering graduate students are required to attend the Department’s Orientation and New Graduate Student Retreat. The Orientation is held on campus and includes a briefing on departmental organization, rules, and policies pertinent to graduate students. The New Graduate Student Retreat is held at the Mountain Research Station a few miles west of Boulder. The Retreat includes presentations by faculty members on their current research and professional activities, one or more field tours, and the traditional hike to Niwot Ridge.

Prerequisites for All Entering Students 

For admission without deficiency and to meet the Department’s mandatory requirements for a knowledge of basic geography, all entering graduate students are required to have the kind of knowledge presented in the Department’s introductory courses in physical geography (GEOG. 1001 Environmental Systems 1/Climate and Vegetation and GEOG. 1011 Environmental Systems 2/Landscapes and Water) and human geography (GEOG 1962 Geographies of Global Change, GEOG 1972 Environment and Society, GEOG 1982 World Regional Geography, GEOG1992 Human Geography). It is the responsibility of the student to obtain this knowledge prior to beginning their first graduate class. Students may gain the required knowledge by formally taking the introductory courses, by auditing the course(s), by reading the textbook on your own, or by any other means. This knowledge will enhance the student’s ability to perform at the level expected in the Geography 5152-5161 core series. In addition to knowledge of basic geography, it is desirable that the student has coursework in at least two areas outside geography in cognate fields in the social and natural sciences. Students are encouraged to have some background in college math, statistics, and computer skills.

Graduate Courses

A complete list of graduate courses is available on the University Catalog website. The entire catalog is also available.

Only a small set of the total number of courses can be offered each semester. Course scheduling is done about six months in advance of each semester. Double-listed courses (e.g., 4061/5061) are available for both undergraduates (4061) and graduate students (5061). All numbers carry the departmental identifying prefix, “GEOG.”; courses carry 3 credits unless otherwise indicated. Please go to the Registrar website to see "How to Search for Classes" to get the list of courses being offered in the current semester.