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Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Geography

Explore a Master’s Degree in Geography

Online master’s degrees in geography are graduate degrees designed to produce competent geographers who are capable of conducting high-quality research pertaining to the Earth, its land, and its inhabitants. Students in such programs gain a greater breadth of geography knowledge, as well as greater depth of knowledge in a particular area as they pursue a specialization, which could be anything from physical geography to environmental geography to geographic information systems. If you have a strong academic background in the sciences, an aptitude for scientific research, and an interest in using geospatial technologies, you might want to consider a master’s degree in geography.

Most master’s degree programs in geography can be completed in two years of full-time study, but students may have up to seven years to fulfill all the program requirements, as thesis work may take longer than expected. Part-time students will also take longer to complete a program. A few master’s programs in geography are accelerated and can be completed in fewer than two years. Students may also be able to complete the program more quickly if they took all required prerequisite courses at the undergraduate level or have transferable, graduate-level credits.

Class Curriculum

Graduate-level geography courses vary greatly, depending on the concentration or specialization you select. For instance, a GIS specialization may include courses in locational analysis, remote sensing, GIS algorithms and data structures, and GIS design, while an environmental geography specialization may include courses in conservation biogeography, ecohydrology, and integrated environmental management. Nearly all master’s programs will include course work in research methods and design. Students may also take the following courses:

  • Introduction to Graduate Geography. In this course, students are introduced to what is entailed in graduate-level work in geography. Emphasis is on research techniques, the scientific method, and some of the most relevant and promising areas of research in geography.
  • Geostatistics. This course teaches students methods of data analysis in which the data follows an irregular pattern, with a particular emphasis on spatial data. Students will also learn the many applications of geostatistics in industries such as mining, hydrology, forestry, environmental control, and geology.
  • Introduction to Graduate Cartography. In this course, students are introduced to the essential concepts involved in cartography, or the study and practice of making maps. Students learn the essential principles of cartographic design, laboratory methods, mapping using computers, and the history of cartography.

Master’s programs in geography may offer thesis and non-thesis options. A thesis is a sizable document that showcases a student’s original research and findings in an area of geography. Students pursuing a non-thesis option may need to complete an applied project instead that requires them to gain practical experience designing a solution to a geography-related problem. Students who complete applied projects produce a product, such as a GIS system or component, or perhaps a comprehensive plan designed to meet the needs of a client or organization. In addition to this project, students may be required to give a public presentation of their plan or product. Students who pursue specializations in areas of applied geography may be required to assemble a competency portfolio.

Building a Career

Graduates of geography programs may continue their education at the doctoral level to become better qualified for careers in academia that involve research and teaching. However, many go on to work as geographers in the public or private sector. Geographers may specialize in a variety of fields, including physical geography or human geography (which encompasses fields like economic, medical, political, and urban geography). Most geographer positions require a minimum of a master’s degree and proficiency in GIS technology, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The median yearly wage for geographers was $72,800 as of May 2010, the BLS notes. However, your salary is dependent on a number of factors, including your level of experience and education, the region of the country you live in, and the size and type of organization you work for. Your salary is also dependent on the industry you work in. For instance, geographers who work for the federal executive branch earned $75,820 on average, while those working for professional, scientific, and technical services earned $69,700 on average.

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