The Master of Arts program in geography focuses on investigating the environmental consequences of human decisions on local, regional, and global scales. Central to the department's studies are geographic information science and the theories and models of environmental and social sciences. Within this broad domain, the department is developing strengths in environmental justice, environmental modeling, GIScience and GIS, land use and its environmental consequences, and health geography.

The Master of Arts program prepares students to carry on creative and productive research in selected areas of geography.

The department provides opportunities for graduate students to gain practical teaching experience through service as departmental teaching assistants or graduate instructors.

Graduate students present research papers at conferences and regularly win awards. Students are involved in faculty research that leads to coauthored publications; they also publish their own papers. Graduate students compete successfully for intramural and extramural funding for graduate education and research.

The Master of Arts with a major in geography requires a minimum of 30 s.h. of graduate credit with thesis and 32 s.h. of graduate credit without thesis. The program is designed to be completed in four semesters.

Thesis students must earn 15 s.h. of credit in Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences courses numbered 5000 or above; they may count 6 s.h. of thesis credit and 2 s.h. earned in GEOG:7000 Geography Colloquium toward the degree. Students who earn more than 30 s.h. may use the additional work to increase their breadth of knowledge in geography and to tailor their study programs to their individual interests.

Nonthesis students build skills across a range of topics in geographical and sustainability sciences during their first year and develop skills in particular application areas during their second year. Nonthesis students must earn 15 s.h. of credit in Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences courses numbered 5000 or above.

Students demonstrate competence by completing appropriate course work; completing and defending an M.A. thesis (for thesis students) or completing a portfolio of finished work and having it reviewed (nonthesis students).

More detailed information about M.A. requirements is provided in the department's Manual for Graduate Degree Requirements; contact the Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences.

Applicants must meet the admission requirements of the Graduate College; see the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College.

A bachelor's degree with a major in geography is not required, but applicants must have an undergraduate background relevant to the field. Strength in social science, environmental science, or geographic information science and interest in exploring the spatial perspectives that characterize modern geography are important in admission decisions. Depending on their prior training, graduate students may be required to take courses that are prerequisites for course work in their chosen area of graduate study; credit earned in prerequisites does not count toward the graduate degree.

Application materials should include an undergraduate transcript with grade-point average, scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test, three letters of recommendation, and an essay in which applicants state their reasons for wanting to study geography at the University of Iowa.

Applicants whose first language is not English must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Their scores must be provided to the University's Office of Admissions.

New graduate students whose first language is not English are required to take a speaking proficiency test when they arrive at the University; eventually they take the English Language Performance Test (ELPT). Students must be fully certified by the ELPT before they begin their fourth semester in order to be considered for funding in succeeding semesters. Students who do not pass the tests are required to take Teaching Assistant Preparation in English (TAPE) courses until they have achieved proficiency in spoken English.

A number of graduate teaching and research assistantships are available. In addition, outstanding applicants and underrepresented minorities are eligible for several fellowships. Awards are based on merit. In giving awards, the department pays particular attention to grade-point average, especially for the junior and senior years; score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test; letters of recommendation; and fit of a student's objectives with department specializations. Applications for graduate appointments must be received by January 1. Applications for fellowships are due by January 15.

Graduates hold positions on college and university faculties, in private research organizations, and in business and government.

Geography majors are encouraged to participate in an internship. The department maintains close ties with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and other local agencies that offer internships.

Courses in geography are commonly required of students preparing to teach at the elementary and secondary school levels or to work in urban and regional planning. The degree also provides a solid background for many related professions, including law, health care, environmental engineering, and business.

The application of GIS to social, economic, and environmental problems has increased considerably during the past decade. This trend is likely to continue into the future; in fact, the U.S. Department of Labor has identified the area as one of its 14 high-growth industries. GIS presents an abundance of career opportunities for geography graduates in local, state, and federal government agencies, as well as in the private sector.

The department’s faculty members help students apply for postgraduate programs and contact potential employers.

The Pomerantz Career Center offers multiple resources to help students find internships and jobs.