Jul 15, 2024  
2017-2018 Graduate Catalog 

Doctor of Philosophy in Geography

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A student seeking admission to the Ph.D. program in geography must meet all the requirements for admission to the Graduate School; must have a baccalaureate or master’s degree in geography, environmental science, meteorology, soil science or related field; and should have a background equivalent to that required for the B.S. degree at Northern Illinois University.

Check departmental information for any additional requirements.

The student learning outcomes for this degree are located at http://www.niu.edu/assessment/clearinghouse/outcomes/index.shtml.


The Ph.D. program in geography consists of at least 90 semester hours of graduate credit beyond the baccalaureate degree, or 60 semester hours beyond the master’s degree. Students who are admitted to the doctoral program without a master’s degree must, as part of the doctoral program, complete a master’s degree in geography. Continuation in the doctoral program is subject to a recommendation from the department upon completion of the M.S. degree. All students are required to register for GEOG 600, Geography Seminar, and GEOG 601, Practice of Geography, each semester in residence; complete 6 semester hours in core courses (GEOG 661 and GEOG 663), at least 6 semester hours in topical advanced course work, at least 6 hours of applications experience under GEOG 602, and at least 9 semester hours in cognate fields outside the department. GEOG 799, Doctoral Research and Dissertation, should be taken as soon as possible after passing the candidacy examination, with enrollment each semester until completion.

Each Ph.D. graduate student in geography must accumulate 2 semester hours of credit in GEOG 601 prior to graduation. No more than 4 semester hours may be applied toward semester hour requirements.

The department chair, in consultation with the student’s adviser, will nominate an advisory committee to be appointed by the dean of the Graduate School. The advisory committee will consist of no fewer than four members, including at least one adjunct or external faculty member. The advisory committee will consult on selection of cognate and elective courses and also serve as the student’s candidacy examination, dissertation, and dissertation defense committees.

Core Courses

Advanced Topics Courses

At least 6 semester hours of topical advanced courses chosen from the following:

Cognate Elective Courses

Each student will complete at least 9 semester hours of electives in one or more cognate fields outside the department. Cognate elective courses must be appropriate to the student’s program of study and approved by the advisory committee.

Applications Experience

Each student must complete 6-9 semester hours of applications experience in a research setting with industry, a public or private research organization, or a government agency. This experience must be appropriate to the student’s program and approved by the advisory committee. Semester hours shall be completed under GEOG 602, Internship.


The student must undertake an approved research problem and incorporate the results in a dissertation. The dissertation will be a substantial contribution to knowledge, exhibiting original scholarship and the ability to conduct independent research. An oral defense of the student’s work and dissertation is required in accordance with Graduate School policy. The dissertation should be completed and successfully defended within three years after admission to candidacy.

Candidacy Examination

The candidacy examination is a written examination based on the core courses, advanced topics courses, cognate courses, and other elective graduate courses. The examination is to be taken within one semester of completion of 30 semester hours of course work after the master’s. The student will be admitted to candidacy after successful completion of the candidacy examination and oral presentation of a dissertation research proposal approved by the advisory committee.

Language/Research-Tool Requirements

The research-tool requirement for the Ph.D. in Geography is fulfilled by successfully completing GEOG 661, which is required in the doctoral program. There is no general language requirement; the applicability of a language tool will relate to the student’s field of study and will be made in consultation with the student’s advisory committee.

Additional Requirements

At least once a year after admission to candidacy, each student will give an oral presentation of progress on dissertation research to the advisory committee. Departmental requirements for the Ph.D. degree are detailed in the departmental handbook, “Graduate Studies in Geography” available at http://www.niu.edu/geog/gradstudies/Current_Students.shtml.

Students in the doctoral program are required to present one or more research papers at national or international scientific conferences. These paper presentations may derive from research conducted with members of the advisory committee, course requirements, the applications experience, or from the dissertation.

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