Graduate Program Geography

picture of a map of the united states

Geography Master's Degree Overview

How can institutions better protect and prepare citizens for geographical hazards like climate change, fires, floods, and water scarcity? PSU’s master’s degree in Geography digs into difficult, complex problems and prepares students to engage, confront, and resolve contemporary geographical issues using geographical skills and knowledge.

PSU’s Geography Department offers several advanced degrees: the Master’s programs discussed below; a Ph.D. in Earth, Environment, and Society delivered through the Geography Department’s partnership in the School of the Environment; and a Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems. Students may pursue either the Master of Arts (M.A.) or the Master of Science (M.S.) to prepare for careers in the private or public sector, or as a step to a Ph.D. program.

The program requirements are flexible, and students work closely with their advisors to design a course of study tailored to their interests. Many incoming graduate students enter the program with a degree in a field other than geography; we welcome applications from students regardless of major. Faculty research and teaching interests encompass a wide range of subjects, approaches, and regions, including climate change, water resources, forest and fire ecology, community resilience, spatial cognition, geovisualization, and GIS to name a few.

Our small, tightly-knit cohorts are mostly fully funded and receive stipend and tuition remission as well as a faculty advisor who weighs in on their academic path. We are committed to making sure our graduate students are prepared to enter the field and their work as research assistants or teaching assistants is a key part of preparing them professionally. In addition to tuition remission and a stipend, we are also proud to offer our graduate students, several merit-based fellowships, grants, and scholarships.

Our students choose a diverse range of research topics as the basis for their master’s degrees. We teach and conduct research across a broad range of subjects, with particular strengths in the study of water, climate, the urban-rural interface, mountains, environment-society studies, and Geographic Information Science.

Prospective students are encouraged to contact individual faculty to discuss their interests and research opportunities in the process of identifying a prospective advisor.

Degree Details

Geography Master's Degree: Why PSU?

Here in Northwest Oregon, we are intimately attuned to the integration between our natural resources and the challenges of human impact. Oregon’s geography and climate varies vastly from its coast to its desert to its mountain ranges, rivers, and farmlands. Our graduate students have the opportunity to (within a day’s drive and without crossing state lines) move between different climates. This geographical diversity offers our students a vast array of opportunities for fieldwork. PSU’s location offers faculty, postdocs, and students easy access to a range of community and agency (from the city through the federal level) partners, a diversity of cultural experiences, award-winning public transportation, a strong biking culture, and a network of urban trails and natural areas.

All of our graduate students work closely with a faculty advisor who guides them into an area of focus that they may find employment after they graduate. We are committed to making sure our graduate students are prepared to enter the field and their work as research assistants or teaching assistants is a key part of preparing them professionally. We are also proud to offer our graduate students, in addition to tuition remission and a stipend, several fellowships, grants, or scholarships based on student merit.

What can I do with a master's degree in Geography?

With your geography degree, you will be equipped to examine human impact on the earth and how humans can mitigate or adapt to climate change, ecological disasters, and resource scarcity. The Portland metro area alone contains an enormous need for scientists who can analyze geographical challenges and offer practical and policy recommendations to policymakers.

Our graduates have ended up working as climate scientists, hydrologists, data managers, spatial analysts, policy analysts, GIScientists, disaster risk reduction experts, resource management specialists at a variety of federal, municipal, and private organizations, including the USDA, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the City of Portland. Graduates do important work in analyzing hazards such as floods, fires, heavy precipitation, and use their mapping skills to identify which populations might be at risk or vulnerable to severe impacts. Our graduate students are currently engaging in questions of how cities can protect vulnerable populations, and how scientific findings can be transferred to policymaking, and how natural resources can be sustainably and fairly managed. Students also work with a variety of practitioners on how the city can plan for change and build resilience by providing scientifically and socially relevant information that can inform policymaking.


The program of study must include a minimum of 45 graduate credits for thesis students and 54 graduate credits for non-thesis students. Of these, a minimum of 36 graduate credits must be in geography for the thesis option, to include 6 credits of GEOG 503 (Thesis); a minimum of 40 graduate credits must be in geography for the non-thesis option, including 3 credits of GEOG 501 Research. Both thesis and non-thesis programs must include the following: GEOG 521, GEOG 522, and GEOG 523.

Featured Courses

  • GEOG 521 Geographic Thought
  • GEOG 523Geographic Research and Applications
  • GEOG 522 Research Design
  • GEOG 503 Thesis
  • GEOG 523 Geographic Research and Applications
  • GEOG 525 Field Methods in Human Geography
  • GEOG 530 Cultural Geography
  • GEOG 532 Urban Landscapes
  • GEOG 540 The Ecology and Management of Wildfire
  • GEOG 542 Sustainable Cities
  • GEOG 593 Digital Terrain Analysis
  • GEOG 594 GIS for Water Resources
  • GEOG 595 Maps, Models, and GIS


Portland State University is fully accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).