Doctoral Program Overview

Doctoral Program Overview

The goal of the doctoral program is to produce intellectual researchers and leaders through development of skills and conceptual understanding within the broader geographical enterprise. Doctoral work is designed to provide students with a foundational understanding of the history, philosophy, and evolution of geographical research,conceptual and methodological expertise within their areas of research interest, and the requisite training and background to engage in and successfully complete dissertation research.

The dissertation demonstrates expertise in an area of specialization and the ability to advance knowledge in that area. It is based on intensive research, often in an international setting and often over several years, that shows academic rigor, breadth, and creativity in expanding the frontiers of knowledge.

Applicants should hold a Master’s degree or its equivalent, or have successfully demonstrated their ability to do graduate work at the doctoral level. To receive the degree students must meet the requirements of both the Department and the Graduate School. Students should familiarize themselves with the requirements set forth in the Graduate Bulletin.

 The responsibility for fulfilling all requirements ultimately rests with the student.



Each student should:

Be able to relate his/her area of specialization to the development and structure of the field, both within historical and current research trajectories.

  • Attain breadth across the discipline and an understanding of how his/her areas of expertise are situated within it.
  • Attain a level of field, laboratory, archival, and/or technical expertise as appropriate for his/her research area.
  • Attain an understanding of his/her disciplinary expertise as it pertains to the broader academic enterprise at a variety of spatial and temporal scales.



PhDs from the Department are expected to excel as scholars in their profession. Each new PhD should be able to:

  • Address a geographical research topic through the appropriate qualitative, quantitative, and/or geographic information techniques, with results worthy of publication
  • Effectively communicate ideas and content through written, oral, and digital media.
  • Attain competence in classroom teaching and public speaking.
  • Understand a subdisciplinary specialty as it fits within academic, commercial, and/or governmental sectors.
  • Understand the ethical dimensions of being a professional scholar.
  • Be competitive for research or tenure-track academic positions .


Supervising Committee

Incoming students will consult with the Department Graduate Coordinator at the beginning of the fall semester. A review of student background and objectives will help develop an initial plan of study and schedule. Other faculty members should also be consulted for advice in preparing a course of study,

The student must select an Advisor by the end of the second semester, and, in consultation with that person, choose four additional Supervising Committee members in accordance with Graduate Program rules by the end of the third semester. The Committee is responsible for seeing that the candidate satisfies all requirements for the Master’s degree. Final approval of the candidate’s program is the responsibility of the Dean of Graduate Studies.

Students are responsible for promptly submitting all materials required by the Graduate School.

The following are the specific requirements for the Doctorate of Geography:


Ph.D. Degree

A Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Geography is conferred upon a student who produces a dissertation that makes a significant and original contribution to the discipline of geography and completes the following requirements:

    • A minimum of eighty-four (84) graduate hours beyond the bachelor's degree or a minimum of fifty-four (54) graduate hours beyond the master's degree with a 3.0 cumulative GPA.
    • Geography 710 and Geography 780 are required of all students.
    • Geography 715 and 755 or their equivalent will be required of all doctoral students.
    • Arrange for a graduate advisor by the end of the second semester.
    • Gain approval of a written prospectus from a five-member doctoral committee by the end of the third semester.
    • Provide an annual research progress report to the doctoral committee after completion of the prospectus.
    • Pass a comprehensive examination (oral and written).
    • Fulfill the Research Tools requirement as specified by the student's doctoral committee and approved by the chair of the department.
    • Gain approval of a dissertation and successfully defend the dissertation at an advertised research seminar open to the public.
    • Continuous enrollment must be maintained as stated in the USM Graduate Bulletin.
    • Students must also meet residency requirements as stated in the USM Graduate Bulletin.