Geography - Master of Science (M.S.) - Community & Environmental Planning

Master of Science (M.S.) - Geography - Community & Environmental Planning

W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation Graduate Programs

Degree Specific Credits:

33 credits plus a thesis are required for the thesis and professional paper tracks.

39 credits are required for the non-thesis (portfolio) track.

Required Cumulative GPA: 3.0

Catalog Year: 2022-23


  • For the M.S. Geography degree, students may select among a general option or an option in Cartography & GIS or in Community and Environmental Planning.

  • The M.S. degree in Geography with an Option in Community and Environmental Planning is appropriate for those interested in working in community planning, hazard mitigation, and land-use planning.  Beyond the core requirements specified for the General MS (10 credits), an additional 23 credits are required. 

  • Choices in the core and of remaining credits will be selected in consultation with the graduate committee to support the research program and student's professional goals.  Coursework must be approved by the committee no later than the second semester in residence, but earlier if possible.  Per the Graduate School at least 20 of the total credits must be taken within the major discipline; at least 20 of the total credits must be in coursework and at least half of the coursework credits (minimum 10 credits) must be at the 500 level or above; courses below the 400 level do not count towards the M.S. course requirements; and up to 10 of the 33 or 39 credits may be taken as thesis (GPHY 599).

  • Degree Tracks

    For the M.S. degree, with or without option, students are required to complete one of the following tracks: 

    • Thesis track: Successfully complete and defend a thesis or one or more papers (i.e., articles) of publishable quality before an examining committee. 

    • Professional Paper track: Successfully complete and defend a professional paper or one or more papers (i.e., articles) of publishable quality before an examining committee. The difference between a thesis and a professional paper is that while the thesis is directed toward advances in the discipline, the professional paper may be directed toward advances in the profession. A professional paper may also consist of one or more papers of publishable quality intended for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. 

    • Non-thesis (Portfolio) track: Requires the successful completion of a portfolio and written and oral comprehensive examinations described in the addendum of the "PDF of Graduate Degree Requirements" downloadable through the link above. 

    There is no minimum number of thesis credits that must be taken for any of the tracks.


Required Courses

> 10

Required Research Design Course

Required Methods Course

Required Option Courses


Option Elective Courses




Total Hours

> 33

Required Core Course




Complete all of the following courses: Students in Thesis or Professional Paper Tracks

FORS 594

Graduate Seminar

2 (1 cr. per semester)

*GPHY 525, or GPHY 560, or GPHY 580

Advanced Physical Geography, or Seminar in Planning, or Seminar GIS & Cartography


*Or approved alternative

Complete one of the following research design courses:

GPHY 504 and GPHY 505

Research Design I and Research Design II

3 total

NRSM 500

Conservation and Social Science Methods


GEO 508

Fundamentals of Academic Research


WILD 540 and WILD 541

Research Design and Research Design Lab

4 total

Complete one methods course

**Quantitative methods


**Qualitative methods


**Historical or survey methods


**Advanced GIS or computer methods


**See the Geography Advising Guide for a list of suggested courses

Complete the following required option courses:

GPHY 465

Planning Principles & Processes


GPHY 466

Environmental Planning


GPHY 468

Community & Regional Analysis


GPHY 469

Planning & Analysis Laboratory (coreq. with GPHY 468)


GPHY 560

Seminar in Planning


GPHY 561

Land Use Planning Law


GPHY 564

Planning Design


Complete 4 or more credits of the following option elective courses:

GPHY 433

Community Resilience


GPHY 562

Land Use Planning Clinic


GPHY 598


6 max



***See Catalog listings for electives that pertain to Policy, Planning, Anthropology, Communication Studies, Environmental Studies, Forestry, Geography, Law, Native American Studies, Political Science, and other relevant courses and programs.

Total Hours


Minimum Required Grade: C