Graduate Programs in Geography

The power and beauty of geography allow us to see, understand, and appreciate the web of relationships between people, places and environments.

Background Information

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is among the nation’s most distinguished teaching and research institutions, home to the second largest academic library in the United States and the largest map collection among public universities.

A national leader in the field of computer design and applications, the Urbana-Champaign campus also houses the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and Blue Waters, a sustained-petaflop supercomputer. The campus serves approximately 43,000 students, about 10,000 of whom are engaged in graduate work in more than 100 fields of study. An internationally recognized graduate faculty of approximately 3,000 members works closely with graduate students in their respective fields.

Our vibrant and diverse department is organized around four major core areas of specialization: Cities and Metropolitan Areas; Geographic Information Science; River, Watershed, and Landscape Dynamics; and Society, Space, and Environments. Each core program features leading experts in their fields.

The Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science (GGIS) at Illinois offers three Geography graduate degrees:

  • Master of Arts or Master of Science (MA/MS)

  • PhD, including an accelerated PhD for students entering with a Bachelor's degree.

  • Professional Science Master's (PSM) with a concentration in Geographic Information Science.

Areas of Specialization

Our department and graduate degree programs are organized around four program areas, each with a core group of faculty and graduate students:

Cities and Metropolitan Areas: This program examines the dramatic growth in the size, number, and population of global cities, and embraces a diverse set of qualitative, quantitative, and GIS applications to advance our understanding of these areas. The program has five emphases: Urban Health and Quality of Life; Urban Governance and Politics; Race, Class, and City Policing; Critical Studies of Urban Transportation and Mobilities; and Globalization, Neoliberalization and the City.

Geographic Information Science: This program focuses on developing and utilizing geospatial data, methods and technologies to understand a wide range of social and environmental issues. Areas of emphasis include: CyberGIS, spatiotemporal GIS, Satellite Remote Sensing, Spatial Analysis, Qualitative GIS, and GIS and Society.

River, Watershed, and Landscape Dynamics: Using state-of-the-art field and laboratory equipment, researchers in this program tie together geomorphological, hydrological, and ecological processes and phenomena to advance understanding of rivers, watershed, and the landscapes affected by them.

Society, Space, and Environment: This program builds upon the foundations of human geography as an integrated social science to examine the interplay of socio-spatial processes involved in the shaping of the earth's natural and built environments. The program has four emphases: Development Geography, Urban Geography, Politics of the Environment, and The Political Economy of Crime.

Research Facilities

The department also includes several state-of-the-art research laboratories maintained by individual faculty members. These include:

The CyberInfrastructure & Geospatial Information Laboratory is internationally renowned for research in GIScience. Its mission is to empower advanced digital and spatial studies through innovation of CyberGIS technologies and applications. Founded and run by Professor Shaowen Wang, and housed in GGIS and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, the center addresses diverse GIScience challenges including: computationally intensive spatial analysis and modelling, cyberGIS, cyberinfrastructure-based geospatial problem-solving environments, computing and data-intensive applications and sciences, and high-performance and collaborative GIS.

Application Procedure & Financial Assistance

Applicants must submit a completed application, three letters of reference, and official transcripts from each undergraduate and/or graduate school attended. The Geography & GIS Graduate Admissions Committee evaluates the student’s academic accomplishments and promise as well as the match between the applicant’s professional goals and core faculty expertise.

Effective for the Fall 2020 admission cycle, our Admissions committee will no longer consider Graduate Records Exam (GRE) scores when evaluating applicants to our graduate degree programs.

Transfer of Credit

The university has specific and stringent requirements concerning the transfer of credit. Please see the Graduate College website for Transfer of Credit requirements.

Financial Assistance

We provide a wide range of financial support for graduate students working on Master's and PhD degrees. Please visit the Financial Support page for details.

Admission requirements and deadlines can be found on our "How to Apply" page.

Questions may be directed to the email below or by mail at:

Graduate Admissions
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science
2044 Natural History Building
1301 W. Green Street
Urbana, IL 61801