The Department of Geography offers a graduate program leading to a Master’s of Arts (MA), a Master’s of Science (MSc), and a doctorate (Ph.D.). We only accept full-time students; part-time status is not an option.
Information on this page is for advisory purposes only. For detailed and official information on the Geography graduate program, please see the Geography Graduate Students Handbook and the University Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) web site.
Students must pass the courses specified for their program, attend such additional courses that the Chair and the student's thesis supervisor think fit, and submit a thesis in an appropriate area of geographical inquiry approved by the supervisor.
The basic requirements for a Master’s degree includes a total of 48 credits, 30 related to the thesis and 18 related to course work. These must be successfully passed before a Master's degree is awarded. Students must spend a minimum of 3 semesters (18 months) in residence. (Residence involves full-time presence and the payment of fees.)
Additional program options at the Master’s level (Neotropical Environment Option, Development Studies Option, Gender and Women's Studies Option, etc.- see links on right) require additional courses. Most such options require a separate application. See the Geography section of the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies web site.
3 credits for GEOG 631: Methods of Geographical Research
12 credits for four 3-credit graduate-level courses selected according to Department guidelines.
6 credits for GEOG 698: Thesis Proposal
24 credits for GEOG 699: Thesis Research
The purpose of the thesis is to demonstrate that the student can, with faculty assistance, design and execute an original research project. The thesis should address a well-defined problem, contain an analysis of data, and draw logical conclusions.
The thesis manuscript is usually 80 to 100 pages in length. Students are expected to complete their degrees within 24 months.
Students must pass the courses specified for their program, attend such additional courses that the Chair and the student's thesis supervisor think fit, and submit a dissertation in an appropriate area of geographical inquiry approved by the supervisor.
The basic requirements for a doctoral degree include a total of 12 credits.
Most students enter with a Master’s degree at the Ph.D. 2 level and are required to spend 6 semesters (3 years) in residence. In certain circumstances, students may enter the doctoral program without a Master’s degree -- at the Ph.D. 1 level – and are required to spend 8 semesters (4 years) in residence. (Residence involves full-time presence and the payment of fees.) See the Graduate Admissions tab for more information on entry at the Ph.D. 1 level.
As with the Master’s degree, additional options (Environment Option, Neotropical Environment Option, Gender and Women's Studies Option, etc.) require additional courses. Most such options require a separate application. See the Geography section of the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies web site.
3 credits for GEOG 631: Methods of Geographical Research
6 credits for two 3-credit graduate-level courses selected according to Department guidelines.
Drafting a formal dissertation proposal occurs during GEOG 631.
The supervisory committee may require the candidate to register for other courses in order to ensure an adequate grasp of methodological and theoretical issues.
Successful completion of the Comprehensive Examination (which is recorded as the non-credit GEOG 700, 701, and 702) by the end of the third semester of residence (typically fall semester of a student’s second year).
Year 2 and beyond
Conducting research and writing the dissertation follows completion of the Comprehensive Examination.
In addition to the dissertation, award of the doctorate is based on the judgment by a university committee that the candidate has achieved a substantial level of creative and critical scholarship. The degree should be completed within four years.
Complete applications must be received by 31 JANUARY for guaranteed consideration. Files received after this date may be considered at the discretion of the Department.
The Geography Department only accepts students for Fall (September) admission. January admission to our programs is only considered in highly exceptional circumstances, and at the discretion of the department’s Graduate Affairs Committee (GAC).
As part of your application, you need to include a research statement in addition to other supporting documentation. In this research proposal, you should articulate your research interests and capabilities, and provide a concise but detailed description of your proposed research. There is no set length for research statements, but most master’s are between one and two pages, and most doctoral ones are between two and four pages, plus a brief reference list. Also be sure to see the requirements regarding English language proficiency on the GPS web site. (See the requirements regarding English language proficiency on the GPS web site.)
If the Department reviews a file favorably, it sends an offer letter to the student and recommends her/him for admission to the University. The Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) office then reviews the file to determine if the student meets the University’s admission’s criteria. Once GPS approves a file, they send an admissions package with complete information regarding registration, student visas (if necessary), etc. Students are not admitted until GPS has approved their application; the department may recommend an applicant but cannot admit a student.
Admission to the Master's program requires a Bachelor's degree (or equivalent) with a strong undergraduate record in geography or a related discipline. Admission to the Ph.D. program normally requires completion of a Master's degree in geography or a related program.
Many successful applicants have degrees in a discipline other than Geography. However, the Graduate Affairs Committee (GAC) may require applicants without sufficient background in Geography to take courses beyond those required for the degree during their graduate program, or may require that students complete a qualifying term or year before admission to the program. Such decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.
In Geography, applicants are only admitted if a faculty member agrees explicitly to supervise and to fund them. The department urges potential applicants to contact an appropriate faculty member before submitting an application to determine if she or he would be willing to provide supervision and funding. A list of faculty and their research interests appears on the department website, and a list of faculty seeking students on the graduate recruitment page.
Students who apply without first contacting a potential supervisor are rarely admitted. However, if the student is accepted, the name of a potential supervisor and, in many cases, an additional advisor, will be provided, subject to the approval of all parties concerned.
The minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) for University admissions is 3.0 out of a possible 4.0; or a GPA of 3.2 out of 4.0 in the last two years of full-time studies. Successful applicants to the Geography program typically have GPAs above 3.3.
If your university does not use a 4.0 scale, GPS provides guidelines for converting transcripts for most universities and regions in the world. This site is especially useful for International students.
There are additional University requirements, including proficiency in English, outlined on the GPS web site.
Students who have completed a Master's degree are normally admitted at the Ph.D. 2 level.
On rare occasions, a student may be admitted to the doctoral program without having first earned a Master's degree, and are admitted at the Ph.D. 1 level. Among other requirements, students admitted to Ph.D. 1 must have the equivalent of 3.5 GPA or higher (on McGill’s 4-point scale) in their undergraduate program. Ph.D. 1 requires an additional year of residency and extra classes.
Students – both masters’ and doctoral -- are typically only admitted to the Geography graduate program if they have confirmed funding from their prospective supervisor and/or an external funding agency. The major source of funding for most students comes from their supervisors in the form of Research Assistant (RA) positions, and/or from external funding agencies.
Applicants should be in contact with potential supervisors before they apply to assess the possibility of an RA position, but do not need to submit a separate application.
Students should apply directly to public and private funding agencies. For Canadian residents, public agencies include NSERC and SSHRC, and various provincial programs. (Quebec residents, for example, can apply to FQRSC and FQRNT.) Funds for non-Canadian students may be available from their own home governments. See the GPS web site for more information.
The university typically provides additional funding for students in their first year, and the department can generally offer qualified students Teaching Assistant (TA) positions. (TA positions are usually for 90 hours per semester – about 6 hours per week -- and pay approximately $2000 per semester.) Incoming students typically apply for TA positions in late August or early September, and such positions are advertised on the department homepage.
See the GPS web site for current and more detailed information.
The cost of living in Montreal is very reasonable compared to other major Canadian and US cities. The department estimates that a single graduate student should expect to pay $12-14,000 (Canadian) for 12 months (including housing, food, and other basic expenses). Actual costs depend on personal circumstance.
Tuition and Fees
For information about fees, payments, etc., please go to the Student Accounts website.
To learn more about the cost of living in Montreal, please visit the Student Aid website.