Accelerated PhD Program for Students Entering with a Bachelor's Degree

This option provides an accelerated track to obtain the PhD degree for highly qualified students who do not yet have a Master’s degree. The program emphasizes academic, research and professional development tailored for the PhD degree so that students can move quickly into doctoral studies. A Master’s degree, earned after completing certain requirements, is less emphasized than the PhD This option is aimed at highly motivated and academically qualified students who have a strong commitment to earning a PhD. The program is designed to take approximately 5 years, although the actual time to degree is likely to vary. Students with a Bachelor's Degree may wish to consider applying to the Master's program with a view to applying to the PhD program in the second year.


Students enter the PhD program intending to work with a particular faculty member, and that faculty member serves as the student's adviser. The adviser, who may be any member of the GGIS graduate faculty, will aid the student in formulating a tentative degree program comprising the most appropriate courses according to the student’s background, interests, and career objectives. The adviser and student should meet regularly to discuss progress and future plans. Effective communications between student and adviser are critical for PhD success. Either the student or the faculty adviser is free at any time to request a change in advising assignment.

Early in the fall semester of the second year, the student and his/her adviser will select two additional faculty members to serve on the student’s Advisory Committee. The majority of the committee members must be faculty members of the Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science at Illinois. The student, adviser, and other committee members will meet at the end of this semester and near the end of every semester thereafter (until the student earns a Master's degree), each time discussing the student’s progress with him/her and reporting that progress to the Graduate Committee through the adviser. Changes to the Advisory Committee may be made at any time with approval of both the student and adviser.

PhD Requirements

The Graduate College requires that at least 96 hours of graduate coursework be completed for the PhD degree. Graduate coursework is defined as courses at the 400-level or above.

The program of study for the PhD for students entering the program with a Bachelor’s degree has two distinct phases. The first two years are primarily devoted to coursework and completion of a research paper of publishable quality which is reviewed by the student’s Advisory Committee. Based on the research paper and the student’s performance in the program, the committee decides whether or not the student is eligible to continue in the PhD program beyond the second year. At this stage a student may be awarded a Master's Degree without being given permission to continue in the Geography program. The second phase of the program involves completion of PhD requirements including additional course requirements, the departmental exam, University Preliminary Exam and dissertation.

All graduate students are required to maintain a 3.0 (B) or better GPA. Any required course must be passed with an A or B grade. Although the students are informed of their status during their entire graduate program, the primary responsibility for meeting Graduate College and departmental requirements, and for insuring good progress toward degree completion, lies with the student.

Quick Info

Summary of the Accelerated Master's / PhD Requirements (Please note this is only a summary. Full details of the combined Master's / PhD program requirements can be found in the GGIS Graduate Handbook.)

PhD Timeline for students entering with a Bachelor's Degree