Geography, PhD

Our geography PhD program offers a path to building the skills, knowledge and abilities needed for a career focused in research or post-secondary teaching. In addition to innovative coursework, our graduate students also have opportunities to work with our exceptional faculty on interesting and diverse research projects. We offer 4 years of funding to selected applicants.

The program admits students who have completed a masters’ degree, and also offers an option for students with strong potential to enter the PhD program directly after completing a bachelors’ degree.

Faculty and graduate students focus their research in one of broad interdisciplinary themes:


Outstanding Faculty

The breadth of the school’s faculty exposes graduate students to a marked variety of research interests and methodologies. 

The faculty currently includes two members of the National Academy of Sciences, a National Science Foundation CAREER award winner, a past executive officer of the Association of American Geographers and a Guggenheim scholar, as well as ASU Regent's Professors, a Gilbert White Chair, President's Professor and Foundation Professor, and members of national and international committees and panels such as the National Research Council Geographical Sciences Committee and Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change (IPCC).


Application Process:

The Geography PhD program admits in the fall only.

To apply to the PhD in Geography program next fall, complete the Graduate Admissions online application beginning September 1.  As a part of the application you must submit:

  • Responses to several questions regarding your background and interests (See questions)
  • A resume
  • An application fee

In addition, you be asked to submit your Official Transcripts, email addresses for Letters of Recommendation, GRE and English proficiency (non-native English speakers)

  • Official transcript(s) documenting successful completion of a Bachelors' Degree and/or a Master's Degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 (4.0 scale). ASU accepts both electronic and physical transcripts.  Electronic transcripts are only accepted from E-Scrip, Parchment, and National Student Clearinghouse and must be sent to Hard copy transcripts should be sent to the address below.
  • Letters of Recommendation. You will be asked to provide email addresses for three letters of recommendation. The recommenders should be from academic professionals or professional colleagues capable of evaluating your abilities, accomplishments, and professional potential. We will contact your recommenders at the email address provided. See FAQs for more details.
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Scores should be submitted to the ASU Graduate Admissions Office by using the University Number #4007. This scores are not needed at the time of application, but are needed to evaluate you for admission.
  • If English is not your native language, provide scores for one of the following:
    • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)- minimum score of 550 (PBT) or 80 (iBT). TOEFL scores need to be reported electronically by the ETS. 4007 is the institution code for Arizona State University (dept code 99). For more information, visit the TOEFL website,
    • IELTS (International English Language Testing System)- minimum overall band score of 6.5 with no individual band below a 6.0.
    • If you have additional questions related to English proficiency, please see the Graduate College English Proficiency page for more detailed information.


December 15, 2017- Priority deadline for admission and funding consideration.

Those who apply by December 15, 2017 will be considered to receive funding to attend our annual Visit Day which will be hosted late February or early March.

January 15, 2018 - Final application deadline. Applications received after January 15 may be reviewed only if space in the program is available.

Only complete applications will be reviewed. A complete application consists of:

  • Graduate Admissions online application
  • Geography Questionnaire
  • Resume or CV
  • Official transcripts
  • GRE score report
  • English Proficiency for non-native English speakers
  • Three letters of recommendation

All application materials must be received on or before this date to be considered for fall admission. Please allow sufficient time for submission and processing of relevant test scores, transcripts, and letters of recommendation.

For additional questions about admission, please see our geography FAQ page.

Send any documents that may not be uploaded to either of the addresses below:

If sending by FedEx, DHL or UPS: Graduate Admission Services
Arizona State University
1151 S. Forest Avenue, #SSV112
Tempe, AZ 85287-0112
If sending by U.S. mail: Arizona State University
Graduate Admission Services
PO Box 870112
Tempe, AZ 85287-0112


The School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning admits students to its Geography Ph.D. program with either a Master's or Bachelor's degree in Geography or a related field. We welcome applicants without Geography degrees. Incoming students must demonstrate or attain competence in cartography and quantitative methods, and complete other basic coursework that will enable them to pursue graduate studies in their area of specialization.

  • Ph.D. students entering with a Bachelor's degree must complete 84 semester hours. These hours include 72 hours of coursework and research at ASU and 12 dissertation hours.
  • PhD students entering with a Master's degree must complete 54 semester hours. These include 42 hours of combined coursework and research hours at ASU and 12 dissertation hours.
  • The program for all Ph.D. students includes two required core courses (GCU 529 Geographic Thought, GCU 585 Advanced Research Methods), two seminars (GCU/GPH 591), registration in colloquia for two semesters, and additional coursework or research hours as selected by the student in consultation with a supervisory committee.

Note: Ph.D. students entering with a Bachelor's degree may earn a M.A. degree upon the successful completion of 30 semester hours at ASU, including two required courses (GCU 529 Geographic Thought, GCU 585 Advanced Research Methods) and one seminar (GCU/GPH 591), registration in colloquia for two semesters, and passing the School's Research Requirement.

Steps toward the Ph.D. for students entering with a Bachelor's degree

To advance in the Ph.D. program, earn a M.A. degree, or both, post-Bachelor's Ph.D. students must:

  1. Complete 30 hours of graduate course work, including the core course requirements, and receive a grade average of "B" or higher.
  2. Pass the research requirement. For more information, see Research Requirement, below.

After completion of these criteria, students may do either or both of the following:

  1. Students wishing to be awarded a Master's degree must complete the Application for Master's in Passing form. Obtaining the Master's degree does not guarantee approval to continue on to the second phase of the Ph.D. program.
  2. Students wishing to continue in the Ph.D. program must submit a written request to their examining committee and the Director. The committee will review the student's entire record in the program, including the research examination, and will recommend to the Director whether to allow the student to continue on to the second phase of the Ph.D. program.

Students who do not pass the research requirement, or who prefer not to attempt the research requirement, may petition the Graduate School to switch to the M.A. program, transfer their credits to it, and complete a Master's thesis.

Steps toward the Ph.D. for all students

Doctoral students in the Geography program complete the steps toward their Ph.D. in the following order:

  • Plan of Study: Ph.D. students file a plan of study (iPOS) with the School and the Graduate College. This document sets out coursework toward the Ph.D. degree and formalizes the composition of the supervisory committee. The iPOS should be completed no later than two semesters after admission.
  • Research Requirement: Doctoral students must satisfy a Research Requirement by the end of their 4th semester, via one of two options: The Research Exam or the Submitted Paper. For more details, see Research Requirement, below.
  • Comprehensive Examination: Students take a written comprehensive exam intended to assess their mastery of geographic thought and methods, and their field of specialization. The comprehensive examination is administered by the student's supervisory committee. The exam may be either an eight-hour "closed book" exam or a three-day take-home exam, at the discretion of the student's supervisory committee. If it is deemed necessary by the supervisory committee, an oral examination may be scheduled by the student’s advisor and would follow the written examination.
  • Dissertation Proposal: Students defend their proposal for dissertation research to their supervisory committee. Upon successful defense of the proposal, the student advances to candidacy for the Ph.D.
  • Dissertation: The dissertation provides an opportunity for the candidate to address a major intellectual problem and conduct innovative research that will lead to scholarly products.
  • Dissertation Defense: Once the full supervisory committee approves the written dissertation, the advisor schedules an oral defense before the candidate's committee and guests. A copy of the dissertation must be made available in the School at least two weeks prior to the event. The student should adhere to all Graduate College deadlines for scheduling the defense and submitting the completed dissertation.
  • Completion of the Ph.D.: Successful defense and revision of the dissertation constitutes completion of the Ph.D.

Composition and formation of the Ph.D. Supervisory Committee

  1. A student's supervisory committee must have a minimum of three members.
  2. The chair (or co-chair) of the committee must be a member of the geography graduate faculty (see Faculty tab).
  3. Other members of the committee must have regular faculty appointments in any ASU academic unit or be external scholars approved by the Graduate College.
  4. The Director of the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and the Graduate College must approve the committee's composition.

Research Requirement

Doctoral students must satisfy a Research Requirement by the end of their 4th semester, via one of two options:

  1. Pass the Ph.D. Research Exam; or
  2. Submit (or publish) a first-authored manuscript in English to a peer-reviewed journal, prepared in accordance with the journal’s requirements, and reviewed and approved by the student’s advisor.

Research Examination (RE) Option

The research examination tests the ability to do independent research. Ph.D. students who choose to do the research exam will prepare a statement of their area of specialization in geography and complete an intensive two-week research project culminating in a written paper, administered by the Graduate Research Examination Committee and the student's adviser. The examination is appraised on the ability to:

  1. refine and hone a question into a manageable research problem
  2. couch the research problem in appropriate literature(s)
  3. acquire, organize, and synthesize relevant field information and data
  4. demonstrate technical competence in geographic skills
  5. express ideas, concepts, and lines of argumentation through clear, effective writing.

One re-examination may be permitted pending approval by the examining committee and the School Director.

Submitted Paper (SP) Option

The submitted (or published) paper option requires that the student submit a paper meeting the following requirements:

  1. first-authored manuscript
  2. in English
  3. submitted to a peer-reviewed journal (not a book chapter or conference proceeding)
  4. prepared in accordance with the journal’s requirements
  5. reviewed and approved by the student’s advisor.

Any previously published paper meeting requirements 1-5 can satisfy the SP option. This includes papers written at another department or university, co-authored with non-ASU authors, or based on a Masters thesis completed elsewhere.

For the SP option, students must include a form filled out and signed by their advisor approving the student’s first-authored submitted manuscript. The student must also attach the paper and a copy of the confirmation letter or email from the journal.


More information

For more details about program requirements, as well as school policies and resources available to graduate students, see the SGSUP Graduate Programs Handbook.  


Core courses: All Geography PhD students take the following courses:

  • GCU 529 Contemporary Geographic Thought (3 credits)*¹
  • GCU 585 Geographic Research Design and Proposal Writing (3 credits)
  • GCU or GPH 591 Seminar (2 courses)
  • GCU or GPH 799 Dissertation (12 credits minimum)
  • GCU or GPH 591 Colloquium (2 semesters' continuous registration, 1 credit each)

* GCU 529 may be waived and substituted with an alternative course, subject to department approval. 

¹ GCU 529 is a required course for the Master of Arts in Passing (MIP). Students entering the program without a master’s degree, who are planning on applying for the MIP, should take GCU 529.

Subject-area courses:  

To see the variety of geography courses offered at ASU, visit the online catalog.  Search for courses with the prefix GCU (Cultural Geography), GIS (Geographic Information Science), or GPH (Physical Geography).

Since field of geography is highly interdisciplinary, graduate students find relevant courses many other programs as well, including:

  • Computing & Informatics (CPI)
  • Environmental Life Sciences (ELS)
  • Environmental Science (ENV)
  • Geological Sciences (GLG)
  • Sustainability (SOS)
  • Urban and Environmental Planning (PUP)



Balling has a long history of conducting research on the climate change issue with a special interest in blending in applications involving Geographic Information Systems.

Batty is a distinguished visiting professor with the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. He is director for the Centre of Advanced Spatial Analysis and professor of planning at University College London.


Professor Bob Bolin blends hazards geography, political ecology and critical theory to study environmental justice and human vulnerability to environmental and technological hazards.

Dean & Professor

Boone's research contributes to ongoing debates in sustainable urbanization, environmental justice, vulnerability, and global environmental change.

President's Professor

Cerveny, professor of geographical sciences, also serves as Rapporteur on Extreme Records for the United Nations/World Meteorological Organization with the responsibility for researching and verifying global weather records.


Dorn, professor of geography, is also co-coordinator of the Arizona Geographic Alliance, a K-12 outreach program to promote geographic education in Arizona.

Assoc Professor

Hallie Eakin's research interests include household vulnerability and sustainability of adaptations to global change, governance, globalization, rural development, sustainable food systems, and agricultural change.


Fotheringham is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and Academia Europaea whose work focuses on the analysis of spatial data in relation to a variety of areas including health data, crime patterns, and migration.


Frazier's research focuses on the use of remotely sensed data and spatial analysis to generate information about the disturbance and recovery of forests.

Assoc Professor

Georgescu's interests are on human-environment interactions, with research aimed to improve understanding of phenomena related to urbanization-induced landscape change. He is a member of the Urban Climate Research Center.

Research Professor

Gober is the founding co-Director of the National Science Foundation's Decision Center for a Desert City and previously served on the National Research Council's Committee on Geographical Sciences.

Asst Professor

Hondula, assistant professor and member of the Urban Climate Research Center, researches the societal impacts of weather and climate, including efforts to learn how individuals experience and cope with extreme heat.


Dr. Michael Kuby specializes in transportation, energy, optimal facility location and network design models, and alternative fuels, stations, and vehicles. His research has been funded by NSF, US Dept of Energy, and NASA.

Assoc Professor

Francisco Lara-Valencia's major areas of inquiry include socio-environmental vulnerability, urban health, regional development, binational planning, and the role of community networks on sustainable development.

Lecturer Sr

Larson's work primary focuses on human and regional geography, including work studying refugee populations in Central America.

Assoc Professor

Kelli Larson, a professor of geography and sustainability, focuses her work on human-environment interactions and the implications for water governance and urban sustainability.


Li, a senior Fulbright Scholar to India, focuses her research on ethnic geography, highly-skilled international migration and transnational connections. She is the author over 90 journal articles and book chapters.

Assoc Professor

Li's work in geographic information science aims to develop integrated and smart cyber-infrastructure to revolutionize knowledge discovery. Li is a 2015 recipient of the National Science Foundation's CAREER award.

Assoc Professor

Kevin McHugh is a cultural geographer with research interests in geographical thought & theory, geohumanities, post-phenomenology, and more-than-human geographies in the Anthropocene.

Asst Professor

Meerow combines the disciplines of geography and urban planning as she researches how to make cities more resilient in the face of climate change as well as other social and environmental hazards.


Myint, an expert in remote sensing and GIS, uses these skills to investigate urban land use land cover, urban climate, drought, desertification and deforestation, among other issues.

School Dir & Professor

Nelson's work currently focuses on using spatial and spatial-temporal analyses to track wildlife movement and active transportation. She is also the founder of, a crowdsourcing app for bike safety and ridership.


O hUallachain's research interests include economic, industrial location, urban and regional economic development.


Pasqualetti is an energy geographer specializing in the societal aspects of energy, especially renewable energy.


Pijawka's research focuses on sustainable planning and design, disaster management and recovery, environmental justice, and Native American community planning.


Sailor's work focuses on the intersection of climate with the built environment. He currently serves on the American Meteorological Society's Board on the Urban Environment and International Association for Urban Climate.

Asst Professor

Salon researches travel behavior and the built environment, climate policy for transport, and government and transit agency institutions with the goal to inform policies that reduce global automobile dependence.

Assoc Professor

Schmeeckle's interest is in landscape mechanics with a primary focus on fluvial geomorphology, sediment transport, and surface water processes.

Principal Lecturer MY

Shaeffer, a principal lecturer of geography, teaches the introductory World Geography course and numerous specialized regional geography courses.

Assoc Professor

Tong's research primarily focuses on the use of spatial analytics including spatial optimization, geographic information system, and spatial statistics to support urban and regional studies concerning location.

Regent's Professor

Turner studies human-environment relationships from the ancient Maya to contemporary sustainability science. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, among other honors.


Walker is a geomorphologist and surficial geologist well known for his expertise in sediment transport and erosion, aeolian geomorphology, coastal geomorphology, environmental fluid dynamics, and sand dune ecosystems.


Webster's current interests are in comparative city building and urban dynamics, urban competitiveness and resilience, and peri-urbanization with a primary geographic focus on East Asia.

Dean & Professor

Her research interests include: shape and pattern analysis, geographic information science, applications of GIS to urban environment, urban remote sensing and water resource management.

Asst Research Professor (FSC)

Werth's work engages in the monitoring, modeling and forecasting the Earth's water mass budget variations using remote sensing data.

Degree Offered

Geography, PhD
Liberal Arts & Sciences, College of


Plan of Study

The Plan of Study is the required curriculum to complete the program.

View Plan of Study

Application Deadline

The application deadline is January 15, 2018. All application materials must be received on or before this date to be considered for fall admission. Please allow sufficient time for submission and processing of relevant test scores, transcripts, and letters of recommendation.

Complete applications received by December 15, 2017 will be considered to receive funding to attend our annual Visit Day which will be hosted late February or early March. 


Financing Your Education

The School of Geographical Scienes & Urban Planning will consider all PhD applicants for multi-year guaranteed funding packages. This funding is competitive. Most offers are made in March. Funding typically consists of four or five year packages in the form of 20hr/week research or teaching assistantships that include full tuition remission and health insurance.

For information about additional options for financing your education, please see How to pay for your graduate college.

Interested in learning more?

For questions about the PhD in Geography, send a note to, or complete the form below.

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