Master’s Program

The Master’s program offers two plans: the thesis (Plan I) and the examination (Plan II) alternatives. The thesis (Plan I) will summarize the results of original scholarly research in Geography. The thesis shall conform to the style required by the Library/Graduate Division and shall be suitable in form and format for publication.

Undergraduate Preparation

An undergraduate degree in Geography is not required. Applicants with strong academic backgrounds in specific systematic study areas are strongly encouraged to apply. While a Master’s degree is normally required before admission to the Ph.D. program, students applying to the department with an undergraduate degree are encouraged to apply for the MA/Ph.D. program if the Ph.D. is their final degree objective.

Unit Requirements for the MA Degree

The program is designed to provide maximum flexibility while assuring a basic level of competence within Geography. Because Geography is traditionally among the broader academic disciplines, coursework in related departments is often appropriate to graduate study within the field.

Plan I (Thesis) Plan II (Examination)
A. Total Units Required 34 46
B. 200/500 level Geog. units required* 20 24

*exclusive of Geog. 201, 200A, B and C; 597, 598 and 599; no more than half may be in 596

Required Courses

These courses are required of all Master’s and Ph.D. students:

  • Geography 201 – Seminar in Geography (required every quarter offered)
  • Geography 200 A, B and C – Introduction to Geographic Research
  • Geography 210 A, B, and C – Analytical Methods in Geography 1, 2, 3
  • Geography 276 are strongly recommended.

All Teaching Assistants must take Geography 500 (T.A. Training).

  1. Except in unusual circumstances, students must have a thesis proposal accepted by their advising committee by the end of the academic quarter following the end of the quarter in which they enrolled in 200C or they will automatically be transferred to the examination route. After the proposal is accepted by the committee, a maximum of 3 academic quarters will be allowed to complete the thesis or the student will be transferred to the exam route. For Plan II (examination) students, Geography 200A, B and C will provide a needed exposure to research methods, and for Plan I (thesis) students, the courses will provide a firm foundation for thesis research. A secondary goal is the building of improved bibliographic and other research and writing skills. Performance in the course will also help the faculty determine the suitability of the student to the chosen program (Plan I or II).
  2. Students may petition out of 210ABC if: a) they have taken Geog 172; b) they have taken the equivalent elsewhere or will take its equivalent from another department on campus, or c) their faculty advisor does not feel the student needs the courses.

Master’s Committee

This committee consists of at least three UC ladder faculty members. Two members of the committee must be ladder faculty from the Geography Department, one of whom will be appointed as chair or co-chair. The Master’s Committee is formally nominated on Master’s Form I – “Nomination of Thesis Committee For Master’s Degree Candidates.”

Normative Time

Normative time is the number of years considered to be reasonable for completion of a particular program by a full-time student who enters the program without academic deficiencies. The normative time for completion of the Master’s degree is 7 quarters; the absolute deadline is 4 years, including leaves of absence. Justification for exceeding the 7 quarter normative time must be made during the 8th quarter.

Financial Support as a Master’s

Student Financial support for Master’s students on departmental funds (e.g. Teaching Assistantships, Fellowships) beyond four quarters is contingent upon progress and performance. For any student enrolled in the Geography MA or Ph.D. programs, a GPA of less than 3.3 or a grade of C+ or less in geography may cause departmental financial support to be withdrawn.

Residency Requirement

Students in the Master’s program must spend a minimum of three quarters in full-time residence at UCSB.

Master’s Degree by Examination

For students electing Plan II, the final examination will consist of three parts, and will assess the candidate’s general knowledge of geography as well as testing the candidate’s mastery of one or more systematic specialty areas and/or areas of technical expertise. Students should prepare themselves and their examination committee for the examination beginning at least three months before the expected date of the examination. The final examination will be conducted by the student’s advisor and examination committee, and the scope and structure of the exam shall be determined by the advisor, the committee, and the student. If the student fails to pass the examination, he/she may try once more without penalty, taking the retest during the quarter following his/her failure or at the next available opportunity, whichever is later. Please note that Plan II Master’s students are ineligible for the Ph.D. program.

The examinations are usually written over a three-day period. A number may be open-book exams and could be given to you the weekend before. If open-book exams are to be used, you will be notified well in advance of the examination. If closed-book exams are used, they are normally three hours in length. Again, however, this is at the discretion of the individual faculty member who administers the particular examination.

Petitioning to Skip the MA and Go Directly to the Ph.D. Program

Qualified students in the MA/Ph.D. program can petition to skip the MA and go directly into the Ph.D. program. Students must have been enrolled for at least 3 regular academic quarters. The petition requires the approval of the student’s committee. Attached to the petition should be:

  • A letter of justification from the committee chair
  • Ph.D. Form I, which officially nominates the Ph.D. committee
  • A Ph.D. proposal