Graduate Program

The Department of Geography offers two Master's degree programs:

M.A. Geography and Environmental Studies

The M.A. in GES provides the student with a high degree of flexibility in the selection of courses used to meet the program requirements. Courses may be selected from any of the graduate offerings in geomorphology, climatology, plant geography, economic geography, cultural geography, urban geography, regional geography, cartography and geographic information science. This program prepares students for advanced Ph.D. study, community college teaching and professional careers in business, government or industry. Learn more about the M.A. in Geography and Environmental Studies Program

M.Sc. Geographic Information Science (GIS)

The Department of Geography and Environmental Studies offers, within the Master of Science in Geographic Information Science (M.Sc. GIS) degree, a highly structured specialization program where most of the requirements are met with graduate courses dealing with various aspects of GIS. This program is designed for students wishing to pursue a career in this highly technological subfield of geography. Learn more about the M.Sc. in Geographic Information Science (GIS) Program


Admission Requirements

To be considered for admission to CSUN's Geography Master's program, applicants must complete and submit:

  1. an application to the University; University Applications can be completed and submitted through Cal State Apply.
  2. a separate application to the Department of Geography [Material must be submitted directly via email to Dr. Adhikari 

The applications are first evaluated by CSUN’s Office of Admissions and Records, and those that are eligible are then forwarded to the Department of Geography for further review.

Deadlines: Consult Cal State Apply for University application deadlines, which also applies for the application to the Department of Geography. 

1. University Requirements (from the University Catalog):

  1. Have a four-year baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution.
  2. Be in good academic standing at the last college or university attended.
  3. Have satisfied one of the following conditions:
    a)  Attained a GPA of at least 2.5 in a baccalaureate degree program.
    b)  Attained a GPA of at least 2.5 in the last 60 semester (90 quarter) units attempted.
    c)  Hold a post-baccalaureate degree earned at a regionally accredited institution and 2.5 GPA in either the undergraduate cumulative GPA or the last 60 units.
  4. Meet the professional, personal, scholastic, and other standards for graduate study, including qualifying examinations or other screening processes as appropriate campus authorities may prescribe. In unusual circumstances, a program may make exceptions to these criteria. Some programs require higher standards for admission.

If minimum university requirements are met, your application will be forwarded to the department and the Graduate Coordinator will determine eligibility for the Master's program. Students fulfilling undergraduate degree requirements at CSUN or elsewhere and intending to pursue graduate work should submit a new application to the University during their final semester of undergraduate work. Please check the current application booklet for application, documents, and other deadlines.

Admission Process To the University:

  1. Have a four-year baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution.
  2. Be in good academic standing at the last college or university attended.
  3. Have satisfied one of the following conditions:
    1. Attained a GPA of at least 2.5 in a baccalaureate degree program.
    2. Attained a GPA of at least 2.5 in the last 60 semester (90 quarter) units attempted.
    3. Hold a post-baccalaureate degree earned at a regionally accredited institution and 2.5 GPA in either the undergraduate cumulative GPA or the last 60 units.
  4. Meet the professional, personal, scholastic, and other standards for graduate study, including qualifying examinations or other screening processes as appropriate campus authorities may prescribe. In unusual circumstances, a program may make exceptions to these criteria. Some programs require higher standards for admission.

2. Department Requirements

  1. One of the following:
    1. A cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or better. Applicants with a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 2.5 to 2.99, please contact the graduate coordinator.
    2. A graduate degree in another field from CSUN or other accredited institutions.
  2. At least a 2.75 GPA in the last 60 units attempted.

Admission Process To the Department:

The following material must be submitted directly via email to Dr. Boroushaki:

  1. Two academic letters of recommendation.
  2. Demonstration of research and writing skills. Applicants must submit to the graduate committee a sample research paper, written in English and, preferably, one that was completed as part of the baccalaureate degree requirements, such as a senior thesis or other research paper in an upper-division undergraduate course. Because of the importance of research and writing to the graduate program, the committee needs to be assured of applicants’ abilities and promise in these areas.
  3. A well-written statement of purpose (approximately 1,000 words, double-spaced, 12-point font).

All documents for the Department application should be sent directly to the Graduate Advisor:
Dr. Luke Drake
Phone: (818) 677-3508

Graduate Program Guidelines and Policies

Graduate Studies Policies and Procedures

Prospective and current graduate students are encouraged to thoroughly peruse the CSUN Graduate Student Handbook to better understand the graduate program, in order to make informed decisions towards their academic and professional goals.

General Information

Both the M.A. and M.Sc. programs are research oriented and require the completion of a thesis, under the supervision of one of our faculty, along with required coursework. Students select from a wide range of courses to complete the 30 units of coursework required for the program.  The rest of the courses are composed of lectures, labs, and graduate seminars.  See the University Catalog for a full description of courses available.

The University operates under a semester system, and this M. A. program is designed to be completed in four semesters or two years. Part-time students may take longer to complete the requirements (up to the university-imposed maximum of seven years). - Financial Assistance - A number of financial aid programs, including grants, scholarships, and loans are available through the University's Financial Aid Office to assist graduate students whose resources are inadequate to cover total educational costs. Applications for fall semester aid should be submitted before May 1. Information can be acquired by calling (818) 677-3532.

In addition, the Department of Geography offers a limited number of part-time Teaching Associate jobs that entail the teaching of laboratory sections of a few lower division and upper division courses. Other part-time employment opportunities within the Department are also sometimes available. A few small financial prizes are also awarded to outstanding students every year.

Guidelines pertaining to Theses, Dissertation, and Graduate Projects

The following rules apply to Theses and Graduate Projects:

  1. The Thesis must be an individual effort. However, the University recognizes that there are circumstances that warrant group graduate projects. In such instances, a signed addendum by each student and by the culminating experience committee chair must be submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies. The addendum must identify the names of other authors and describe the project and responsibilities of each author. The division of responsibilities specified must be reviewed, endorsed and evaluated by the students’ committee chair, signed by each student and subsequently approved by the Associate Vice President of Research and Graduate Studies.
  2. Students must contact their graduate coordinator to determine the maximum number of required culminating units.
  3. Students must be registered during the semester in which they expect to graduate.
  4. If a student fails to successfully complete/defend the Thesis/Dissertation or Graduate Project, or any part of it, the student will be disqualified from the master’s program in the department.
  5. Guidelines: The Thesis, Dissertation and Graduate Project must be prepared according to the guidelines set forth by the Office of Graduate Studies and available online. All Thesis, Dissertations, Graduate Projects or Abstracts must be uploaded through the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation website.
  6. Time Limit: Theses and Projects must be completed, filed and approved within 2 years of the first enrollment in culminating experience. In some situations, a student is given an “RP” (Report in Progress) grade for work in progress (see Grading System). The “RP” will be converted to a “credit” or “letter” grade once the culminating experience has been approved.

Formal Program (Program of Study)

The formal program (program of study) is a statement of the academic requirements that students must meet for the master’s/doctorate degree. The following University requirements apply to the program:

  1. It must be composed of a minimum of 30 units of 400-, 500- and 600-level work.
  2. None of the courses on the program may have been used for any other degree earned in the past.
  3. A maximum of 9 units of 400-level coursework may be used on a program of study. Please check with the program for their specific policy on 400-level coursework, which could be fewer than 9 units.
  4. No more than 9 units in combination of transfer work, extension work or work completed prior to earning a baccalaureate degree can be used toward the degree.
  5. No more than 6 units of independent study may be included in the program and all independent study arrangements must have prior approval of the instructor and of the department chair.
  6. The program must terminate with a culminating experience which will consist of a Thesis, Graduate Project or Comprehensive Examination.
  7. Enrollment is required in the semester that the degree is awarded.

Graduate Status

A graduate student is one who has applied and received formal admission to a specific course of study that will lead to a master’s or doctorate degree in one of the many disciplines available at CSUN. Graduate status is subdivided into classified and conditionally classified standing, depending on whether or not certain University and program requirements have been met. Graduate students in either category may enroll in 500- and 600-level courses, although in some programs enrollment is limited to the classified student. Graduate students must follow a specific course of instruction identified to them by the graduate program coordinator and described for the individual program on the Masters or Doctorates page.

Conditionally Classified Status

Students who do not meet all requirements may be accepted as conditionally classified students, subject to meeting various University and program requirements for classified status. It is important to achieve full classified standing prior to completing more than 12 units of graduate coursework on the program of study. No more than 12 units of work taken prior to attaining fully classified status will be applied to a master’s degree program.

Classified Status

To be granted classified status, students must have a 3.0 GPA for all work taken as a conditionally classified student and in any courses required by the program for admission to its program. Once the requirements for classified status have been met, it is the responsibility of the student to notify the program and then of the program to notify Graduate Evaluation Services, Research and Graduate Studies by filing the Request for Classification form. To meet the minimum requirements for classified status, the student must fulfill the following (individual programs may have more stringent standards):

  1. A 3.0 GPA or higher in all work taken after completion of a bachelor’s degree.
  2. Hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution.
  3. Score at or above the 50th percentile on one of the three subject areas of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Some programs may waive the GRE requirement if student’s undergraduate cumulative GPA is 3.0 or higher*.
  4. Pass the Upper Division Writing Proficiency Exam (UDWPE). Students who have fulfilled the Upper Division Writing Exam at another CSU campus may submit official notification of a passing score. Some programs may fulfill this requirement with an alternate examination.

*Normally, the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) should be taken prior to registration for graduate work at CSUN. Undergraduates should take the examination during the last semester of their senior year. Applications for the GRE may be obtained from the Educational Testing Service (ETS).

GPA Requirements for Graduate Programs Policy

Students pursuing a graduate degree must maintain a minimum 3.0 (“B”) GPA in the formal program and in the cumulative grade point average once admitted to the program. No grade below a “C” can be counted in the formal program. Any grade of “C-” or below in the formal program must be repeated after an approved course repeat form has been filed. If the student does not receive a “C” or better on the second attempt, the student will be disqualified from the program. A maximum of 6 units in the formal program may be repeated at the graduate level. The repeat grade will appear on the transcript. Departments may have higher standards that take precedence over the University policy.

Grading System for Graduate Students

CSUN uses the traditional A-F grading system as explained in the Policies and Procedures section of this Catalog. Note the following provisions:

  1. Normal Grading: Credit for the course is given for A, A-, B+ or B level scholastic performance. No credit is given for the equivalent of B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, D- or F work in graduate-level courses. Graduate program courses may not be taken on a Credit/No Credit basis.
  2. Incomplete (I): The symbol “I” indicates that a portion of required coursework has not been completed. A substantial portion of the course requirement has been completed with a passing grade and that there is still a possibility of earning credit. An incomplete shall not be assigned when a student would be required to attend a major portion of the class when it is next offered. An incomplete (I) must be changed to a grade within one calendar year immediately following the end of the semester in which it was assigned. If the assigned work that is required to remove the incomplete is not completed by this time, the incomplete will be computed as an “F” grade in all subsequent GPA determinations. This limitation exists whether or not students maintain continuous enrollment in the University. All incompletes must be completed before a degree can be awarded.
  3. Incomplete Charged (IC): The “IC” symbol may be used when a student who received an authorized incomplete “I” has not completed the required coursework within the allowed time limit. The “IC” replaces the “I” and is counted as a failing grade for GPA and progress point computation.
  4. Report in Progress (RP): A grade of Report in Progress (“RP”) is assigned for Thesis/Graduate Project and similar courses where assigned work frequently remains to be completed at the end of the semester in which the grade is given. The “RP” grade must be converted to a traditional letter grade within two years. Any extension of the time limit must receive prior authorization by submitting a Graduate Petition form to the Associate Vice President of Graduate Studies.

Time Limit for Completion (Graduate Policy)

Students must complete requirements for the degree within 7 calendar years from the date they were admitted to a program, unless a lesser time is specified by the department or program committee.

Courses that were completed more than 7 years prior to the date on which all requirements for the degree are completed cannot be counted to meet unit requirements unless the student can show current knowledge in the content of the outdated courses by written examination for each course in question. A maximum of 9 units taken in residency at CSUN may be validated in this manner. The graduate coordinator in the student’s program must certify this competency by way of a memorandum to the Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies. Outdated courses taken at another institution may not be validated.

Application for the Master’s Degree and Diploma

Students must apply for graduation one semester prior to completion of requirements. Students may obtain an Application for Graduate Degree and Diploma for graduation online. In the event that a student changes the completion date to a later time, a Master’s Graduation and Diploma Date Change form needs to be submitted and a processing fee will be assessed.

Culminating Experience for Graduate Programs

A culminating experience is required for completion of a master’s degree program. The Department of Geography recognizes the following types of culminating experiences: Theses and Graduate Projects. Each graduate program permits one or more of the culminating experiences as described below. Where more than one option is offered, the specific type of culminating experience is identified on the student’s formal program.

A Thesis/Dissertation is an original scholarly contribution to the student’s field based on a systematic study of a significant problem or issue. Although it may be part of a larger research program, each Thesis is unique and written by a single student. The Thesis typically explains the problem; sets forth the methodology used to address the problem and the limitations of the methodology; reports the results, whether those are an analysis of data or a presentation of theory; and explains the significance of the findings in the context of previous work on the topic.

Thesis/Dissertation Project Committee Selection: The committee must be comprised of three members, one of whom will serve as the committee chair. At least two committee members must be full-time faculty from your department. You may have one part-time faculty member or off-campus committee member, however the part-time faculty member or off-campus committee member cannot serve as the committee chair. The part-time faculty member or off-campus committee member must meet the following minimal qualifications to participate on the committee:

  1. Hold a M.A./ M.S. degree (some programs will require a Ph.D.) in the field or in a related field or equivalent degree.
  2. Have experience in the topic or area of your Thesis/Dissertation/Project, such as employment with an established institution or agency as a staff member or consultant.
  3. Demonstrate professional recognition through publications, reports, papers or membership in a national professional organization and/or working committees in their institution or agency.

Once you have formed your committee, you will need to register through the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) website. A curriculum vitae of a part-time faculty member or off-campus committee member must be uploaded electronically on the ETD website for approval by your committee chair, department graduate coordinator and the Associate Vice President of Graduate Studies.

Graduate Projects are a significant undertaking of a pursuit appropriate to professional fields. They must represent originality and independent thinking, appropriate form and organization and a rationale. Graduate Projects must be from individual efforts. Students must consult with their respective committees for appropriateness of the project topics.

Graduate English Language Requirements

All graduate applicants, regardless of citizenship, whose native language is not English and who have not attended academic institutions for at least 3 years full-time where English is the principal language of instruction must present a score of 79/80 or above on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or a score of 6.5 on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Applicants taking the computer-based TOEFL must present a score of 213 or above. The minimum required English language test scores for graduate applicants are shown in the table below.











For the tests accepted by CSUN, see the International Admissions website.


Other Helpful Links

Graduate Policies

Graduate Studies Forms


Graduation with Distinction

Animal Subjects Research

Human Subjects Research

Academic Leave (Leave of Absence)


Repeat of Courses

Transfer Work for Graduate Programs Policy

Graduate Probation and Disqualification Policy