Graduate Studies


General Requirements

Thank you for your interest in the Graduate Program in Geography at Northern Illinois University.  The M.S. program develops professional competence as a geographer and spatial scientist.  The degree requires 30-36 hours of graduate credits, consisting of three core courses, coursework in the student’s field of specialization, and either a thesis or two Masters research papers. The M.S. in Geography can be pursued full-time or part-time and is suitable for students wishing to advance in a profession or those intending to pursue a Ph.D. degree.  The Ph.D. program allows for specialization in natural environmental systems, urban/economic geography, or geographic information science. The Ph.D. degree requires 60 hours of graduate credit beyond the Masters, including three core courses, at least 6 hours of advanced topical course work in geography, and at least 9 hours of cognate course work outside of geography.  The purpose of the Ph.D. in Geography is to provide an advanced graduate education that prepares students for independent learning, critical thought, and scholarly contributions through original research, application, and teaching.  Graduates of the program will have in-depth background in one or more substantive fields of the discipline, advanced research and spatial-analytic skills, and the ability to relate their geographic knowledge and skills to cognate fields.

Master’s Degree (Apply to the M.S. Program)

We welcome applications from those with the equivalent of a B.S. or B.A. degree in geography, agronomy, biology, business, civil engineering, earth science, environmental engineering, economics, geomatics, meteorology, planning, or soil science. Prospective students should have analytical skills and background equivalent to at least 1 semester of calculus and a course in probability and statistics.  For those intending to focus their studies in physical geography a 1-year sequence in biology, chemistry, and/or physics is recommended. 

Ph.D. Degree (Apply to the Ph.D. Program)

The Ph.D. is a highly individualized degree, where students work closely with faculty and members of their advisement committee.  The main foci of department curricula are human organization of geographic space, spatial environmental science, and geographic information science.  Within these foci, current areas of faculty interest include:  urban geography, economic geography, health geography, environmental management, and human impacts on the environment; biogeography, forest ecology, hydrology, water resources, climatology, soil science, geophysical hazards, and natural physical systems; and geovisualization, GI science, spatial analysis, geomatics and spatial modeling.

A unique aspect of the Ph.D. program in geography at NIU is the requirement that students participate in an applied research experience outside the university prior to the dissertation. Course requirements are determined in consultation with the student's advisement, but must include three core courses, at least 6 hours of advanced topical course work in geography, and at least 9 hours of cognate course work outside of geography.  Proficiency in spatial analysis and at least one additional research method relevant to the student’s field of specialization is required.  Admission to candidacy is awarded upon successful completion of written comprehensive examinations and defense of a dissertation proposal.

Research Strengths of the Department

The department specializes in urban geography, economic geography, medical geography, energy geography, fluvial geomorphology, climatology, meteorology, natural hazards, soil science, biogeography, environmental management, and Geographic Information Science.  For current and past research activities of departmental faculty you should consult the list of current faculty.   

Graduate Coordinator Ryan James