The Graduate School of Geography has awarded more doctorate degrees than any other geography program in the United States. We invite applications for admittance to our program from students interested in pursuing a Ph.D. degree. Students are not accepted for master’s studies only, although many choose to earn that degree en route to the doctorate, and the Geography, MA is also available to those who leave the program early without Ph.D. completion.
Applicants with or without prior training in geography are welcome to apply to the doctoral (Ph.D.) program.
Timeline & Applicant Requirements
The Ph.D. program typically takes five years to complete, including writing and defending a dissertation. Depending on their concentrations, students may be required to improve their knowledge of geography, quantitative methods or research methods. Graduate Record Examination scores (verbal, quantitative, and analytical) are required of all American and Canadian students, as well as international students who are in an academic program where English is the first language. TOEFL scores or results of another English proficiency test and the TOEFL test of spoken English (TSE) are required for students from countries in which English is not the first language.
The annual deadline for doctoral applications is December 31. All doctoral applications receive careful consideration from a faculty-student admissions committee, which meets early in the spring semester to evaluate candidates.
For further information, please view our website at www.clarku.edu/departments/geography or contact:
Graduate School of Geography
Doctoral (Ph.D.) Program Requirements
Applicants should request a copy of current guidelines and degree requirements from the Program Administrator.
The doctoral curriculum provides an opportunity for students to pursue studies across the full array of geography: Human-Environment Geography (nature-society), Urban-Economic Geography, Earth System Science, and GIScience/Remote Sensing. Students are encouraged to explore faculty and research interests across these geographies in combination with work in complementary fields and disciplines within and outside of Clark.
Program requirements include:
- 8 semesters of credits (including directed reading credits, research credits, and thesis/dissertation work)
- Satisfactory completion of doctoral examinations
- Fulfillment of a skills requirement
- Completion, acceptance and successful defense of a dissertation research proposal
- Completion, acceptance and successful defense of a dissertation
Students’ typical course load is three courses per semester. The usual sequence students follow is: course work, doctoral exam, research proposal, and dissertation research, write up and defense.
In the first year, students normally complete the two required courses (across fall and spring semesters):
First year students also typically complete additional coursework such as seminars and professional development workshops (“PDW”s) to help define and refine their research interests and professional skills needs. PDW topics can include grant preparation, teaching skills and techniques, and job interviewing and networking. PDWs can also play a role in introducing the faculty of the department to the student body.
At the end of the first year, students meet for an end-of-year review with their first year advisers and potential committee members for evaluation of the first year and planning for the second year.
During the second year, students are encouraged to 1) fulfill the skills requirement*, 2) to prepare for doctoral exams, and 3) begin dissertation proposal formulation (GEOG 314 and/or GEOG 385). Second year course work typically includes seminars and directed reading courses (GEOG 399). A review of the student’s progress is held at the end of the year.
Students who have not already completed their doctoral exams and dissertation proposal in the second year are expected to do so in the third year of study.
*To meet the skills requirement, each student is required to demonstrate proficiency in a number of skills relevant to geographic research. The Graduate School of Geography offers courses that will fulfill most skill requirements. Students can demonstrate proficiency in a skill by receiving a passing grade in
the indicated course, or by taking an examination set by the graduate school. View more information about the skills requirement in the doctoral program handbook.
During the third year, students’ goals should focus around completion of the doctoral exams and dissertation proposal.
For the doctoral exams/dissertation proposal, students must demonstrate, through course work or examination, proficiency in two of the following areas (skill areas):
- multivariate statistics
- research design/research methods
- geographic information systems
- foreign language
- or other courses approved by the student’s faculty adviser, the Graduate Advisor and the Director of the Graduate School of Geography.
The doctoral exam assesses the competency of a graduate student in one major and two minor fields. Competency is defined as an understanding of the substantive content and range of theoretical approaches within each subfield. Students must be able to critique the alternative research traditions and defend the theoretical frameworks they adopt. They are expected to have in-depth knowledge of the major field, to master a survey of the first minor field, and to demonstrate detailed knowledge of a single subfield in the second minor.
The doctoral examination is usually conducted orally. The examination in the major field lasts approximately 1.5 hours, and each minor takes about 45 minutes. At the student’s discretion, any or all three fields may have a written component, which is in addition to the oral examination.
A formal research proposal for dissertation work must be completed and approved by a committee of at least four faculty (two readers and two reviewers), three of whom are full-time faculty members of the Graduate School of Geography and one external member. The chair of the committee is always a full-time member of the Graduate School of Geography. The proposal is approved after a formal defense before the committee.
The process of conducting and writing up the dissertation research involves close interaction between student and committee members. At this stage, students register for GEOG 317 (Research) and GEOG 394 (Dissertation Writing). After extensive criticism and rewriting, a draft thesis is defended at a working session of the committee. A final version incorporating changes suggested at the draft stage is submitted for approval by the dissertation committee and then forwarded to the Director for final approval. The Director then forwards the completed approved dissertation to the Dean of the Graduate School.
For more detailed information regarding the Graduate School of Geography, please visit: http://clarku.edu/departments/geography/prospective-students/index.cfm or the Program Administrator, Rachel Levitt (RLevitt@clarku.edu)