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M. S. Geography


The Department of Geography offers a Master of Science (M.S.) degree program in Geography based on innovative research and strong collaboration between faculty and graduate students. The M.S. degree in Geography develops specialists for academic, agency, and industry positions through emphasis on:

  • Cutting-edge geographic methods for analyzing and interpreting spatial and temporal processes.
  • Formulation of original research questions in response to critical debates and gaps in the scientific literature.
  • Conducting research grounded in primary and secondary data, and communicating findings to contribute meaningfully to geographical science.

Governed by the Virginia Tech Graduate School, the degree program consists of a 32-credit hour curriculum that is designed for completion within two years. Explicit course requirements are limited to allow for flexibility in creating an individualized program, although spatial thought and analytics are central elements. The degree is most commonly earned through the thesis option, in which coursework is complemented with rigorous, faculty-guided research of a geographic nature that culminates in a written thesis that is formally defended, faculty approved, and submitted to the Graduate School. The less-common path to degree completion is the non-thesis option, which combines more extensive course work with an abridged faculty-guided geographic research project that culminates in a faculty-approved written project report. A third path for earning the degree is through the Accelerated M.S. degree program. Specific to Virginia Tech undergraduate students, the accelerated degree program allows for overlap of the final year of undergraduate study and the first year of graduate study, conceivably yielding undergraduate and graduate degrees in five years. Students pursuing the accelerated degree may choose either the thesis or non-thesis option.

Information for Prospective Students

How to Apply

While applications are accepted at any time, full consideration for admission and funding requires application submission on or before January 15 for a Fall semester start and September 1 for a Spring semester start. Applications are submitted through Virginia Tech’s Graduate School, which outlines how to apply.

The application must include an academic transcript, two-page personal statement, three letters of recommendation, and a writing sample. For international students for which English is not the primary language, results from an English proficiency test (e.g., TOEFL) are required. GRE scores are not required but are considered if submitted. If admitted, an official academic transcript is required prior to enrollment.


Funding through a Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA) is considered for each application. Typically, the program supports 18 GTAs, with approximately 9 awarded each academic year. Each GTA includes tuition, a stipend for the period mid-August to mid-May for 20 hours per week of teaching assistance, and a health benefits option. GTAs have a term of two academic years, although renewal each semester is subject to sufficient progress toward degree completion. Graduate Research Assistantships (GRAs) are periodically available through individual faculty that have secured research funding support. Terms for GRAs vary depending on funding source.

Connecting with Faculty

The advocacy of a faculty member for admission to the program is essential – no student will be admitted to the program without a clear signal of willingness to advise by a member of the Department’s graduate faculty. Thus, it is important to ensure that research interests align with those of at least one faculty member, and it is recommended that a prospective student confirm that the potential faculty advisor is accepting new students. Below is the current roster of 16 graduate faculty that mentor students within the program. Please visit the faculty profiles page for information regarding academic backgrounds and specific research areas.

Graduate Faculty                            Subdiscipline                       
Dr. Timothy Baird                           Human Geography
Dr. Anamaria Bukvic                      Human Geography
Dr. Thomas Crawford                    GIS/Remote Sensing
Dr. Andrew Ellis                               Physical Geography
Dr. Eranga Galappaththi              Human Geography                           
Dr. Luke Juran                                  Human Geography
Dr. Lisa Kennedy                            Physical Geography
Dr. Junghwan Kim                          GIS/Remote Sensing
Dr. Korine Kolivras                         Human Geography
Dr. Robert Oliver                            Human Geography
Dr. Thomas Pingel                          GIS/Remote Sensing
Dr. Craig Ramseyer                       Physical Geography
Dr. Lynn Resler                                Physical Geography
Dr. Santosh Rijal                              GIS/Remote Sensing
Dr. Yang Shao                                  GIS/Remote Sensing
Dr. Stephanie Zick                          Physical Geography

Courses and Degree Requirements

Course descriptions are available from the graduate catalog, while current course offerings are available through the timetable of classes. The requirements for the degree are outlined in the Plan of Study for the thesis option and the non-thesis option.


Please direct inquiries to the Graduate Program Director:

Dr. Andrew Ellis
Department of Geography
227 Wallace Hall
Phone: (540) 231-8049

Resources for Current Students

Guiding Information

A brief guide for navigating the program outlines the structure and functioning of the program, including idealized semester-by-semester timelines for students entering the program in either the fall or spring semesters.


Submission of various forms guides formal advancement toward the degree. Forms originating within the Department of Geography are linked below, with submission timing noted.

Plan of Study, Thesis Option

Plan of Study, Non-Thesis Option

Research Proposal Approval

Progress Appraisal

Supplemental Research Funding

Funding is available from the Sidman P. Poole Endowment to support field research, to purchase specialized field equipment and supplies, and to assist in attending professional meetings, seminars, and workshops. Please see the Poole Endowment information page for more information and details on how to apply.

Graduate School Resources

The Graduate School maintains a resource page for current graduate students, including university-level announcements, information, and forms.