Applied Geography, MA

Applied Geography

Master of Arts (MA)

Program Delivery

On Campus, Online, Hybrid

Total Credits

30 Credits

About the Program

Master of Arts (MA) in Applied Geography

The program requires graduate students to undertake problem-solving research, think critically about spatial relationships, and communicate effectively.

Focus of Study

Graduates from the MA program go onto PhD programs, serve in professional and managerial positions, and/or as information and technology experts for consulting firms, public agencies, and non-profit organizations.

Additionally, the program prepares graduate students for emerging careers as geospatial analysts in the Military and Intelligence Communities.

Program Requirements

  • Students must enroll in GES 5770: History and Nature of Geography OR GES 5010: Seminar in Geographic Research during their first semester, and then take the other course (GES 5770 or GES 5010) the following semester.
  • Students must enroll in the 5000-level class for any GES courses that are cross-listed at both the 4000 and 5000 levels. 4000-level cross-listed classes will not be accepted.
  • One semester (at least 3 credits) of upper-level statistics is required. Students must submit documentation to the Graduate Director verifying that they have completed an appropriate class, or they must enroll in GES 5000: Quantitative Methods as part of their degree plan.
  • Students may take a maximum of 6 credits at the 4000 level if the relevant courses are taught by UCCS Graduate Faculty. Note that most GES 4000-level courses do not qualify; this primarily applies to courses offered by other departments that do not have 5000-level courses.
  • No courses below the 4000 level count towards the degree.
  • A total of 6 credits of independent study (GES 9600) may be applied towards the degree.
  • A maximum of 3 credits of Professional Experience (GES 4980) may apply towards the MA degree.
  • A maximum of 6 graduate credits from departments/programs outside of GES are transferable. Courses applied to a graduate degree elsewhere (or within the CU system) cannot be transferred for MA credit.

Program Coursework

The GES degree program curriculum covers various aspects of geography including physical, human, and cultural geography, as well as research methods and tools used in the discipline. The program aims to equip students with a strong foundation in geography and the skills to analyze and interpret geographic information. Within the program, graduate students are required to submit a thesis. Explore past theses projects.

For details on program coursework, please visit the Academic Catalog.

Prerequisite Courses

All entering graduate students are required to have the kind of knowledge presented in the department’s introductory courses. It is the responsibility of the student to obtain this knowledge. Students will work with their advisors to determine the appropriate action needed to fulfill the prerequisites.

Students may gain the required knowledge by formally taking the introductory courses listed below, by auditing the courses, by reading the textbooks, or by any other means agreed to with the graduate advisor.

This knowledge will enhance the student’s ability to perform at the level expected in the GES 5010 research seminar. Students are encouraged to have some background in college math, statistics, and computer skills.

  • GES 1000 - Environmental Systems: Climate and Vegetation
  • GES 1010 - Environmental Systems: Landforms and Soils
  • GES 1980 - World Regional Geography
  • GES 1990 - Introduction to Human Geography
  • GES 2050 - Digital Earth

Specialization Options

What is an area of specialization?

Students planning to do graduate work in the UCCS Applied Geography Master’s Program must choose an area of specialization. You indicate your preferred specialization on your graduate school application under the “Area of Specialization” statement, and the decision about whether to accept you to a program is typically made by faculty members in that particular area. The assignment of your initial advisor will also be based on your statement. The recommended format for the “Area of Specialization” statement is to:

  1. Begin with a paragraph stating your broad areas of interest and then identify potential issues and research focus.
  2. Include a second paragraph that identifies specific graduate faculty and coursework at UCCS that will help you gain expertise in a specific specialization.
  3. Conclude with a final paragraph describing how a specific focus will help you achieve future career goals.

Students planning to do graduate work choose an area of specialization such as:

  • Sustainability Studies
  • Applied, Community-Based Research
  • Physical Systems
  • Geospatial Technologies

Sustainability Studies
Sustainability studies integrate knowledge and methodologies from the Sciences, Humanities, and Arts to provide a road map that can be applied to the design, selection, and implementation of sustainable policies, practices, technologies, and strategies. Sustainability Studies provide a dynamic feedback loop of information and practice. The Master of Arts in Applied Geography provides opportunities to explore nature-society relations and social equity issues at a variety of scales.

Applied, Community-Based Research
Students often provide practical and systematic solutions that address one or more of the universal sustainability goals of environmental protection, social equity, and economic opportunity. The context of this research is typically the local community, but students have expanded the scope of their work to include the western US and the US more generally. Some students study Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa and collaborate with local experts to provide social, economic, and technological solutions for specific problems facing these communities.

Physical Systems
Students conduct research around physical geographic systems to contribute knowledge to disciplines of geomorphology (mountain systems, rock weathering, fluvial systems, hydrology, hazards), weather and climate (weather hazards, micro-climate, meteorological / landscape relationships, climate systems, and climate change, wildland fire regimes), geology (paleontology and geologic hazards), geomorphometry / digital terrain modeling, soils, biogeography, and cryosphere (snow science and glaciation).

Geospatial Technologies
Some graduate students focus on the emerging field of geospatial technology to advance research on the above topics because visualizing data through technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, and/or internet mapping is profoundly changing the way research scientists are addressing critical social, economic, human-environmental, and physical geographic systems.

Program Admissions

The Master of Arts in Applied Geography at the UCCS has one application deadline*

Fall Semester Deadline: February 1

If you have questions about the program and/or program admissions please contact Dr. Cerian Gibbes at

*Exceptions may be made for Spring admittance (discuss with the Graduate Director)

Benefits of a Fall term start include more options for funding and the sequence of two required courses - we suggest taking GES 5770: History and Nature of Geography in the Fall and GES 5010: Research Seminar in the Spring.

Please note that all applications are now handled electronically, and the application can be accessed here on the UCCS Graduate School website.

Graduate Faculty

Faculty Member Current Students
Christine Biermann, PhD
  • Bryce Cassiano
  • Katherine Lanerie
  • Laura Peterson
  • Jesse Rochette
Diep Dao, PhD 
  • Theresa Randall
Cerian Gibbes, PhD
  • Erinn Pablo
  • Shelby Tibuni
  • Erylin Serra-Abreu
  • Nicholas Miller
  • Mackenzie Pylate
John Harner, PhD
  • Larry Mackey
Dylan M. Harris, PhD
  • Samantha Bailey
  • Trey Cate
  • Kayla Williams
David Havlick, PhD
  • Mary Beth Coker
  • Nicholas Miller
  • Laura Peterson
Curtis D. Holder, PhD
  • Scott Nicholson
Emily Skop, PhD
  • Garrett Boord
  • Tim Chambers
  • Kimberley Clough
Brandon Vogt, PhD
  • Elena De La Rosa
  • Ashlyn Morrison

Letter to Prospective Students

Dear Prospective Student,

A good place to start learning about our program is the General Information page. There, you will find a wealth of information about our program. Also, here is a brochure that provides a snapshot of our program. Below are answers to common questions:

Why should I pursue a graduate degree?

Earning a graduate degree has many benefits. Here are seven potential reasons to earn a Master of Arts in Applied Geography at UCCS:

  1. Personal growth
  2. Greater employment opportunities
  3. Greater career advancement
  4. Possible financial rewards
  5. Sense of accomplishment
  6. Greater recognition and credibility
  7. Preparation for PhD program

How do I know if this is the right program for me?

Explore the topics that UCCS Geography Graduate Faculty address in their research. Identify a potential advisor and contact them with questions. Explore the American Association of Geographers reference guide to geography graduate programs in the Americas.

Can I take classes as an unclassified student?

Many MA applicants wonder whether they can enroll in classes as unclassified students before being accepted into the MA program. This is an individual choice, and comes with the understanding that admittance to the program is not guaranteed and that tuition dollars are not reimbursed. Generally, we encourage students to follow the stated program requirements, which are available on the website.

Can I complete the program while working full-time?

For those students applying to go to grad school while remaining in full-time employment, we must defer to you to make that decision. Many of our classes are only offered during daytime hours and are often offered only one day a week. Thus, a significant level of flexibility is required, since students are highly discouraged from missing any classes.

How much will the program cost and how do I establish residency?

Students must establish residency to ensure proper tuition fees are charged. Information regarding tuition classification and residency requirements can be found on the UCCS Registrar's website.

What kind of financial aid is offered?

The UCCS Financial Aid Office assists with student loans, work-study qualifications, and potential student grant money. Information regarding financial aid can be found on the UCCS Financial Aid website.

There are many avenues to pursue to supplement or cover educational expenses. There are numerous geography-related firms in Colorado Springs that hire our students. Most will be flexible with work and school schedules, some offer tuition reimbursement, and some have internship programs with our department. Additionally, AmericCorps provides educational stipends to students (more information). Discuss these options with the Graduate Director or other faculty members.

Thank you for your interest in the Master of Arts in Applied Geography. If you have further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact the Graduate Director, Dr. Cerian Gibbes, via email ( 

Graduate Student Theses

Please visit our Graduate Theses page to see previous MA student projects.


Students may qualify for a variety of fellowships, scholarships, and grants from the Graduate School. Information regarding funding can be found on the UCCS Graduate School website.

Department Funding

Students may qualify for departmental funding on a competitive basis. Below are current options for funding in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies:

  • Teaching Assistantship: One TA is funded each year on a competitive basis. A call for nominations from faculty is sent out in mid-February for both new and returning students.
  • Research Assistantship: A limited number of GES students receive funding from faculty members through research grants in which they are research assistants (RA). This source of income is variable, depending on grants that individual faculty members have at any given time. Please contact whomever you think might be your advisor for information on possible research funding opportunities. Recognize that the availability of these positions varies greatly and is not guaranteed.
  • “Women in Geography” graduate scholarships: These scholarships are awarded twice a year on a competitive basis. A call for applications will be sent out to both new and returning students.
  • Western State Resident Tuition Classification Program in: Residents from AK, AZ, CA, HI, ID, MT, NV, NM, ND, OR, SD, UT, WA, and WY are eligible to pay in-state tuition rates for the MA in Applied Geography Program. The benefit is automatically applied to qualified students' tuition bills based on their legal residency (more information).