For Students Entering With A Master's Degree

This option in the PhD program is aimed at highly motivated and academically qualified students who have a strong commitment to earning a doctoral degree and have already earned a Master’s degree. The program is designed to take approximately 3-4 years, although the actual time to degree is likely to vary.


Students enter the PhD program intending to work with a particular faculty member, and that faculty member serves as the student's faculty advisor. Students should meet with their proposed faculty advisor at the time of arrival. At these meetings, the student’s career objectives and primary interests within the discipline and cognate fields will be reviewed, as well as any deficiencies and appropriate measures to overcome them. The advisor will assist the student in selecting courses for the first semester.

The advisor may be any member of the graduate faculty in the Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science (GGIS). Under special circumstances, the student may choose a faculty member with an affiliate or adjunct appointment in GGIS to serve as Director of Research; however, in such cases, the advisor must be approved by a majority vote of the faculty in a Committee of the Department meeting. The Chair of the Committee must be a GGIS faculty member. Please see the Graduate College specifications for co-chair and co-research directors. The advisor and student should meet regularly to discuss progress and future plans. Effective communications between student and advisor are critical for PhD success. Either the student or the faculty advisor is free at any time to request a change in advising assignment.

Late in the spring semester of the first year, the student and her/his advisor will select two additional faculty members to serve on the student’s Departmental Exam Committee. The majority of the committee members must be faculty members of the Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science at Illinois. The student, advisor, and other committee members will meet at the end of this semester and near the end of every semester thereafter (until the student graduates), each time discussing the student’s progress with him/her and reporting that progress to the Graduate Committee through the advisor. Changes to the Departmental Exam Committee may be made at any time with approval of both the student and advisor.

PhD Degree Requirements

General Requirements

The Graduate College requires that at least 64 hours of graduate coursework beyond the Master’s degree be completed for the PhD. Graduate coursework is defined as courses at the 400-level or above.

All graduate students are required to maintain a 3.0 (B) or better GPA and all required courses 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.

Summary of PhD Requirements

(Please note this is only a summary. Full details of the PhD program requirements may be found in the GGIS Graduate Handbook.)

PhD Timeline