Fall Deadline December 15
Spring Deadline This program does not admit in the spring.
Summer Deadline This program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Resources

The department tries to provide support to all incoming graduate students in the form of fellowships, teaching assistantships, or research assistantships. Most forms of financial assistance include eligibility for health insurance coverage and remission of tuition.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions


Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement Half of degree coursework (26 credits out of 51 total credits) must be completed graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements No other grade requirements.
Assessments and Examinations Students must pass a general exam covering one of the breadth areas and a specific exam devised and graded by individual’s committee. Student must orally defend dissertation proposal before a thesis committee.
Language Requirements Competence in a non-English language can be used to fulfill skills requirement.
Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements All doctoral students are required to complete a minor. Students who choose to complete the Culture, History and Environment doctoral minor can use no more than one Geography course for the minor and that course must be outside of the student’s primary subarea of study

Required COURSES

Breadth Requirements

Students must complete the equivalent of one undergraduate-level course in each subarea (Physical Geography, Human Geography, People-Environment Geography, Cartography/GIS). One course taken for breadth can also be used to fulfill degree requirements. Typically, these courses are not seminars. Most students complete this coursework for breadth requirements prior to entering the program. Students who begin the program lacking one or more of the breadth courses are expected to complete such coursework by the end of the 2nd semester in the Ph.D. program.


GEOG 765 Geographical Inquiry and Analysis: An Introduction (1 cr); two (3 cr) geography seminars with two different faculty members (cannot use seminars completed as M.S. student); skills coursework (6 credits of intermediate or advanced courses)—any coursework completed as a graduate student can be used. Competence in non-English language OR quantitative and/or qualitative skills.

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree or earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree.

UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of graduate coursework as defined above taken as a UW–Madison Special student. coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree or earned ten year or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.


The Department of Geography expects graduate students to progress through a sequence of benchmarks within prescribed time periods. These benchmarks constitute a reasonable rate of accomplishment for full-time students holding teaching or research appointments. The department recognizes that individual circumstances vary, and not all students progressing toward their academic goals will hit the benchmarks exactly. Thus a student’s progress is considered unsatisfactory only after a period of time elapses following an unmet benchmark. A student not making satisfactory progress is placed on probation. For detailed information about these benchmarks and triggers for probationary status, see the department’s Criteria for Satisfactory Progress.


The chair (or co-chair) of a doctoral student’s Dissertation Committee is the student’s Advisor. This individual must be UW-Madison graduate faculty in Geography or affiliated with Geography. The committee must have at least 4 members, all designated as “readers” (responsible for reading the entire dissertation). The committee must have members from at least 2 University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate programs. Three members must be UW-Madison graduate faculty (or former graduate faculty up to one year after resignation/retirement). At least 2 members must be from UW-Madison Geography or affiliated with UW-Madison Geography. At least one committee member must be from outside the major field of study. The fourth member and any additional members can be UW-Madison graduate faculty (or former graduate faculty up to one year after resignation/retirement) or qualified individuals from within or outside UW-Madison. Inclusion of committee members who are not UW-Madison graduate faculty must be approved by the student’s Advisor. Students can add a 5th committee member, who can serve as “non-reader” (not responsible for reading the entire dissertation, able to provide input on specific areas of expertise).


15 credits

Time Constraints

For program-specific time constraints, please see Probation Policy above.

Grievances and Appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

Students should contact the department chair or program director with questions about grievances. They may also contact the L&S Academic Divisional Associate Deans, the L&S Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning Administration, or the L&S Director of Human Resources.


We consider all applicants for multi-year guaranteed funding packages. This funding, however, is not plentiful and it is competitive. Decisions about funding are typically made by late February. These funding guarantees (typically two years for M.S. students and three years for Ph.D. students) are most commonly in the form of teaching assistantships and are guaranteed at a level such that students are eligible for health insurance and tuition remission.

Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

  1. Articulates research problems, potentials, and limits with respect to theory, knowledge, or practice within geography.
  2. Formulates ideas, concepts, designs, and/or techniques beyond the current boundaries of knowledge within geography.
  3. Creates research, scholarship, or performance that makes a substantive contribution.
  4. Demonstrates breadth within their learning experiences.
  5. Advances contributions of geography to society.
  6. Communicates complex ideas in a clear and understandable manner.
  7. Fosters ethical and professional conduct.


Department Chair: John (Jack) Williams

Professors: Ian Baird, Holly Gibbs, Robert Kaiser, Erika Marin-Spiotta, Joseph Mason, Lisa Naughton, Kristopher Olds, Morgan Robertson, Robert Roth, Matthew Turner, John (Jack) Williams, Keith Woodward, A-Xing Zhu

Associate Professors: Asligül Göçmen, Qunying Huang, Jenna Loyd, Sarah Moore, Stephen Young

Assistant Professors: Christian Andresen, Song Gao, Ken Keefover-Ring, Almita Miranda, Jen Rose Smith