Master's Degree Overview

The Master's of Science Program in Geography offers a wide choice of curricula and research opportunities which ultimately lead to an M.S. in Geography once a student has demonstrated a professional competence in a disciplinary subfield and completed an original research project.

Students earning the M.S. attain a level of expertise in a subdisciplinary specialization situated within a broader context of geographic thought and methods. The University of Southern Mississippi master’s degree program is usually completed in two years and requires several semesters of coursework and completion of a Master’s thesis or a professional paper. The thesis represents original research and commonly includes some combination of field, archival, and/or laboratory analysis.

Graduates often continue on into doctoral programs or find professional employment in consulting, business, education, or government.

Students must meet the requirements of both the Graduate Program and the Graduate School. Students should familiarize themselves with the requirements set forth in the Graduate Bulletin.

The responsibility for fulfilling requirements resides with the student.



Each student should, during the course of his or her tenure in the Master’s program;

  • Attain an understanding of how research is situated within the broader discipline.
  • Understand current research trajectories within his/her specialty.
  • Attain an appropriate level of methodological training.
  • Be able to effectively communicate ideas in speech, writing, and digital media.



The Master’s degree is awarded upon completion of a thesis or professional paper involving original research. Each M.S. graduate should:

  • Produce a thesis or professional paper worthy of publication.
  • Be competitive for employment within his/her field or be a competitive applicant for doctoral study.
  • Understand how to assess and develop research design for projects within his/her field of specialization.

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 middle of the second semester, and, in consultation with that person, choose two additional Supervising Committee members in accordance with Graduate Program rules. 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.

The student should also become familiar with appropriate forms and deadlines for assembling committees, filing theses, and applying for graduation.

The following are the specific requirements for the M.S. in Geography:

Master’s Degree

  • A minimum of thirty-six (36) semester hours in graduate-level geography courses with at least eighteen (18) hours of work in courses at the 600-level (or higher). With the approval of the major professor, the student has an option of taking (outside the department) up to twelve (12) semester hours of cognate courses within the minimum hourly requirements.
  • Geography 710 and 780. These courses are required of all students.
  • Demonstrated proficiency in cartography and statistical/quantitative methods. Proficiency is generally established (on an individual basis) by evidence of satisfactory completion of coursework in these areas sometime in a student’s academic career, at either the graduate or undergraduate level.
  • A thesis or a paper of professional quality. The thesis will confer six (6) semester hours credit to be counted as part of the total minimum hourly requirement for the degree. The paper, which will normally be the end product of work begun in a seminar, will confer no credit hours toward the minimum required for the degree.
  • Successful completion of an oral and written comprehensive examination on the student’s academic program. Students writing a thesis will take an oral defense of the thesis. Students choosing the option of preparing a paper of professional quality will have the paper reviewed by the department faculty and will present it orally before the combined faculty.
  • A 3.0 GPA required for graduation
  • Students must meet the requirement for continuous enrollment specified in the USM Graduate Bulletin.