Best Master’s in Geography Programs

Geography might appeal to people interested in the relationship between people and landscapes. Learn more about an online master's in geography.

portrait of Juliann Scholl, Ph.D.
by Juliann Scholl, Ph.D.

Published on July 29, 2022

Edited by Kristina Beek
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Geography involves the study of the Earth and the distribution of people, political structures, communities, geological features, and land formations. Most geography careers require at least a bachelor's degree. But many individuals go to graduate school to get a master's so they can pursue leadership and other higher-level positions.

A master's in geography program cost an average of $20,000 per year in tuition and fees, in 2019-2020. Tuition for online programs often is about the same. However, distance learners might not pay for housing, transportation, or some on-campus student services. Many students save money on college costs by enrolling in online programs, attending public schools, and applying for financial aid.

www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to start your journey?

Most programs offering a master's in geography take about two years to complete. Online students typically take about the same time. But if they enroll in accelerated online classes, distance learners may graduate sooner.

The U.S. economy continues to demand geography professionals. However, the job growth rate might lag behind or remain on par with other careers. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that positions for urban and regional planners will grow 7% from 2020-2030, compared to 8% total for all occupations.

Some online master's in geography graduates can obtain relatively higher-paying jobs. According to the BLS, urban and regional planners earn a median annual salary of $78,500, as of May 2021. Cartographers and photogrammetrists earn a median annual wage of $68,900. These figures exceed the total median salary of $45,760 for all occupations.

Our Top Pick

University of California, Los Angeles

Why It's #1: The geography program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) boasts a 92% graduation rate, one of the features that put this school at the top of the list. The average net price of $15,720 makes this program economically competitive, with others in the top 10. Applicants must hold a minimum GPA of 3.3, which reflects the school’s strong academic rigor. Also, the master's program provides a fast track for students wanting to pursue a doctorate.

Read Our Rankings Methodology

Best Accredited Master's in Geography Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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#1

University of California-Los Angeles

School Information
Location Los Angeles, California
Admission Rate 12%
Graduation Rate 92%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 5% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Academic Quarter
In State | $3,900
Out of State | $3,900

Credits to Graduate
36

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

UCLA offers a master of arts in geography. With a 92% graduation rate, this program prepares students with a strong foundation and the skills necessary to pursue rewarding careers or advanced education. The master's in geography offers a fast track for students wanting to pursue a doctorate.

To apply, students must submit official transcripts, three academic or professional recommendation letters, and a purpose statement. Applicants with bachelor's degrees must have a 3.3 GPA or a 3.5 GPA if they have a master's degree.

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#2

The University of Texas at Austin

School Information
Location Austin, Texas
Admission Rate 32%
Graduation Rate 86%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 25% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,210
Out of State | $1,863

Credits to Graduate
30 for Thesis Option
36 for Report Option

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

With an 86% graduation rate, The University of Texas at Austin offers one of the best master's in geography programs. The Department of Geography and the Environment allows students to choose between a thesis track and a report option to complete their degrees.

An application to the program requires a Graduate Record Exam (GRE) score, official transcripts from all previous postsecondary schools, a statement of purpose, and three recommendation letters.

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#3

University of Georgia

School Information
Location Athens, Georgia
Admission Rate 45%
Graduation Rate 87%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $370
Out of State | $1,050

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

Students in the master's in geography program opt for a master of arts or master of science track. This department reports an 87% graduation rate and offers non-degree options. Students can pursue research in environment and climate, geographic information science, or human geography.

Applicants must submit official transcripts from prior institutions, three letters of recommendation, a CV, and a personal statement. Incoming students for the fall 2023 term do not need to submit GRE scores. Applicants may submit optional documents like writing samples, presentations, or other evidence of scholarship.

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#4

Florida State University

School Information
Location Tallahassee, Florida
Admission Rate 36%
Graduation Rate 83%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 47% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $479
Out of State | $1,111

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

Florida State University's master's in geography program allows students to choose the thesis or non-thesis track to pursue a master of arts or master of science. The program also offers a master's in geographic information science. Florida State reports an 83% graduation rate. The department emphasizes statistics, geospatial sciences, and critical analysis in its curriculum.

Prospective students must submit unofficial transcripts for review. Accepted students should provide official copies of their transcripts before the start of classes. They also need to provide a writing sample and three letters of recommendation.

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#5

University of Wisconsin-Madison

School Information
Location Madison, Wisconsin
Admission Rate 54%
Graduation Rate 88%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 18% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $811
Out of State | $1,644

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

The University of Wisconsin Madison offers a master of science in geography program that has been in existence for over 100 years. Students can choose a concentration in geography or cartography and geographic information science.

The program accepts 10-15 new students each year, and they only take applications for the fall semester. Applicants must submit three letters of recommendation and meet the minimum requirements of the graduate school.

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#6

University of Miami

School Information
Location Coral Gables, Florida
Admission Rate 27%
Graduation Rate 83%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $2,310
Out of State | $2,310

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

The Department of Geography and Sustainable Development at the University of Miami offers a master of arts in geography and a master of professional studies in urban sustainability and resilience. The department also offers a certificate in sustainable development. The program reports an 83% graduation rate and allows students to choose a thesis track or an advanced independent study option.

Applicants to the program must hold a bachelor's degree in geography or a related field. They must also have a minimum GPA of 3.0.

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#7

University of Maryland-College Park

School Information
Location College Park, Maryland
Admission Rate 44%
Graduation Rate 87%
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 19% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $812
Out of State | $1,769

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

The Department of Geographical Sciences offers a master of science in geospatial information science and a master of science in geospatial intelligence. Geospatial information science students can participate in a joint program between the University of Maryland, College Park and Nanjing Normal University in China.

The department reports an 87% graduation rate, making it competitive with other schools on this list. Students applying to either on-campus or online programs must submit a statement of purpose, transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a CV or resume.

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#8

CUNY Hunter College

School Information
Location New York, New York
Admission Rate 35%
Graduation Rate 57%
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 7% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $470
Out of State | $855

Credits to Graduate
31 for Thesis Option
36 for Non-Thesis Option

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

The Department of Geography and Environmental Science offers a master of arts (MA) in geography through a thesis or non-thesis option. Other degree offerings include an MA in environmental studies and earth science, a geographic information science (GIS) certificate, a master of science in geoinformatics, an MA in the teacher education program (TEP) in earth science, and an MA TEP in social studies. Students can choose a concentration in urban geography studies, environmental studies, GIS, or places and cultures.

Students interested in the program must possess a bachelor's in geography or a related field. They must also hold a minimum B-minus overall and a B in a major. The program requires a GRE score and recommends that applicants exhibit basic statistics knowledge.

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#9

University of South Florida-Main Campus

School Information
Location Tampa, Florida
Admission Rate 48%
Graduation Rate 75%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 55% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $435
Out of State | $881

Credits to Graduate
33 for Thesis Option
36 for Non-Thesis Option

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

The Department of Geography, Environment, and Planning offers a master of arts in geography. Students typically specialize in environmental geography, geographic information science and spatial analysis, or human geography. The program reports a 75% graduation rate.

To apply to the master's program, students must provide a letter of intent, two or more recommendation letters, academic transcripts, and GRE scores. Individuals applying for an assistantship need to complete an additional application form.

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#10

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

School Information
Location Champaign, Illinois
Admission Rate 59%
Graduation Rate 85%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus, Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Term
In State | $6,720
Out of State | $14,517
Online | $500 (per credit)

Credits to Graduate
32 

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers a graduate degree program in geography available as a master of arts or a master of science. Students can choose from three areas of specialization: river, watershed, and landscape dynamics; geographic information science; or cities, space, and society.

Potential candidates who choose to apply to the program must include a personal statement, transcripts of any degrees they hold, and three letters of reference. GRE test scores are no longer required as part of the application. Once an application is submitted, the applicant is also automatically considered for fellowships and teaching or research assistant positions. 

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Popular Online Geography Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

How We Rank Schools

Each year, the BestColleges Ranking Team evaluates hundreds of programs to produce our annual Best Master's in Geography ranking. In 2022, the team sourced the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. We identified 128 schools that qualify for our ranking list based on the following criteria.

To ensure the accuracy and quality of our final ranked list, the ranking team reviewed each qualifying school to ensure it met the criteria for our ranking, and then applied our proprietary ranking methodology to identify the best schools offering this program in the nation. Each school is ranked based on a formula measuring academic factors (60%) and affordability (40%).

The BestColleges Ranking Team is made up of contributors from our data science and product management teams. These contributors operate independently from the editorial team. All BestColleges school rankings are produced by the ranking team and are free of editorial influence. Read our Editorial Policy and Standards to learn more.

BestColleges' Ranking Factors

Frequently Asked Questions About Geography Programs

Is a master's in geography worth it?

People passionate about protecting the Earth or learning about the interconnectedness of people and physical landscapes might find geography attractive. Some careers in this field prove lucrative, in demand, and meaningful for many graduates.

Private companies, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations focused on environmental issues tend to value professionals with geographic information science (GIS) backgrounds and skills in geotechnologies.

While geography professionals might not see as much job demand as other career paths, some positions can lead to expansion in other areas like market research or environmental science.

What can I do with a master's in geography?

Individuals interested in conservation and environmental issues might benefit from an online master's in geography. Graduates can use their skills and knowledge in public policy, mapping and imaging, addressing environmental issues and problems, and urban planning.

Some professionals work as cartographers, urban and regional planners, environmental scientists and specialists, landscape architects, and surveyors. Geography's interdisciplinary nature can provide access to career paths in nonprofit organizations, government, private business, research, emergency and crisis management, and education.

While many graduates can get entry-level positions with a bachelor's, a master's can qualify some people for management and other higher-level jobs.

What continuing education is available for geography graduates?

Graduates with a master's in geography can continue their education in various ways. Professionals wanting to expand their professional prospects might pursue a master's in urban and regional planning, GIS, or environmental management.

Some individuals get a doctorate in geography or a related field to conduct academic research. Regardless of their educational goals, geography professionals typically attend conferences, stay updated on research in the discipline, and enroll in continuing education classes and workshops to broaden their knowledge.

Some online master’s in geography programs offer certificates in GIS, education, environmental science, and other topics.

How much money can I make with a master's in geography?

With a master's in geography, graduates can pursue jobs offering higher pay than the average median salary in the U.S.

For example, the BLS reports that cartographers and photogrammetrists earned a median annual salary of $68,900, as of May 2021, compared to the average median salary of $45,760 for all U.S. occupations. Also, urban and regional planners made a median annual salary of $78,500.

Salaries for geographers and other professionals in this field vary depending on occupation, experience, location, and education.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a master's in geography?

A master's in geography can open up opportunities in leadership and other high-level jobs, which tend to offer higher salaries.

According to the BLS, the top 10% of earners among environmental scientists and cartographers and photogrammetrists made median salaries of more than $129,070 and $103,450, respectively, as of May 2021.

Government work can also prove relatively lucrative. For example, the BLS reported that geographers in government positions, not including the postal service, earned a median of $93,640 in the same year.

Feature Image: Cavan Images / Cavan / Getty Images

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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