Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

Master of Science (M.S.)
Location(s): Foggy Bottom - Main Campus

Program Overview

Part of the social and behavioral sciences in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, the program investigates societal and environmental dynamics, focusing on questions of sustainability, urbanization and uneven resource distribution. Our graduates pursue rewarding careers in governmental and non-governmental agencies and in the private sector.

The graduate program has three core areas that reflect the research interests of the geography faculty 1) urbanization, migration and development; 2) global environmental change and sustainability; and 3) geospatial techniques.  Geography faculty members also have regional expertise in North America, Latin America, South Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Arctic.

The M.S. program consists of required coursework and electives. The two-year program has both thesis and non-thesis options. Funding is available to support thesis-related summer field research through geography’s Campbell Endowment. A number of fellowships and graduate student assistantships support students.

Admission Requirements

Admission deadlines:

Fall - April 1 (February 1 for applicants applying for assistantships/fellowships)
Spring - October 1

Applications received after the above dates will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Standardized test scores:

GRE general test is not required.

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the academic International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the PTE Academic is required of all applicants except those who hold a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from a college or university in the United States or from an institution located in a country in which English is the official language, provided English was the language of instruction. 

Minimum scores for the M.S. program are:

  • Academic IELTS: an overall band score of 7.0 with no individual score below 6.0; or
  • TOEFL: 600 on paper-based or 100 on Internet-based;  or
  • PTE Academic: 68

Recommendations required:

Two (2) academic letters of recommendation; maximum three letters total. Letters should address the quality of your performance on items required for graduate study such as critical thinking skills, writing skills, organizational aptitude, interest in the field, eagerness, and the ability to carry tasks through to completion. While the Department will accept letters from employers, recommendations from professors who are familiar with applicants’ academic abilities are strongly preferred.

Prerequisite requirements:

A bachelor’s degree with a major in geography or in a related field in the social or natural sciences.

Prior academic records:

Transcripts are required from all colleges and universities attended, whether or not credit was earned, the program was completed, or the credit appears as transfer credit on another transcript. Unofficial transcripts from all colleges and universities attended must be uploaded to your online application. Official transcripts are required only of applicants who are offered admission.

If transcripts are in a language other than English, English language translations must be provided. The English translation alone should be uploaded into your application.

Statement of purpose: 

In an essay of 250 – 500 words, state your purpose in undertaking graduate study in your chosen field. Include your academic objectives, research interests, and career plans. Also discuss your related qualifications, including collegiate, professional, and community activities, and any other substantial accomplishments not already mentioned on the application. If you are applying for an assistantship or fellowship, you should also describe any teaching experience you have had.

Writing Sample:

All applicants must submit a recent writing sample (research paper preferred) of 10-20 pages in length. The content and form of the sample are not as important as the quality of the writing. Course papers are appropriate, as are other genres.


An Interview is required. 

International applicants only: 

Please review International Applicant Information carefully for details on required documents, earlier deadlines for applicants requiring an I-20 or DS-2019 from GW, and English language requirements.

For more information on the admission process, please visit the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Frequently Asked Questions page.

Supporting documents not submitted online should be mailed to:
Columbian College of Arts and Sciences – Graduate Admissions Office
The George Washington University
801 22nd Street NW, Phillips Hall 215
Washington DC 20052

Contact for questions:
[email protected] ~ 202.994.6210 (phone) ~ 202.994.6213 (fax)
8:30 am – 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday