Program Requirements

  • Human Geography students take GEOG 200A/B/C in their first two years. Physical Geography students take 200A. These courses are designed to help each student to see, think, and write geographically; to learn how to make and to judge arguments; and to prepare a thesis proposal. All students in the doctoral program must take at least 12 units every semester (primarily in the form of appropriate graduate seminars) before taking the Qualifying Exam and advancing to candidacy. In addition, students must enroll in the Geography Colloquium (GEOG 295). This is a weekly colloquium (known as the “Tea Talk”) which features invited speakers.
  • By the end of the third year, students entering with a B.A. or B.S. only must hand in a paper that would be suitable—in length and in quality—for submission to an academic or scientific journal. The paper may be an investigation of an intellectual problem in the form of an original synthesis of secondary literature; it may advance a new idea, or question an existing theory or notion, by assembling information that already exists in the literature; or it may use original information gathered from archives or in the field. The student should have a proposal for the paper by the end of the first year, and must be in constant and close consultation with his or her main advisor. The advisor will determine the appropriate format and length of the paper. The paper must be handed in, and approved by the main advisor, no later than a month before the Qualifying Exam. A copy of the paper with the advisor’s approval should be turned in to the Student Affairs Officer.
  • Prior to taking the Qualifying Exam, all students must prepare a preliminary dissertation prospectus of between five and ten pages for their exam committee.
  • The Qualifying Exam (the “orals”) must be taken by the end of the third year, although it is recommended that students entering with a Master’s degree take it by the end of their second year. The exam is based on a discussion of three broad geographic fields built around bibliographies produced in consultation with the examining committee.
  • Immediately after passing the orals, a student applies to the Graduate Division for “Advancement to Candidacy for the Ph.D.” 
  • As part of their training, all students will be expected to serve as Graduate Student Instructors for at least one semester.
  • Before starting dissertation research, each student must have a Dissertation Prospectus Meeting—during which the student discusses a written research proposal—with at least two members of the Exam Committee. The Ph.D. dissertation is written under the supervision of a committee of three University faculty members, one of whom must be from outside the Geography Department and a member of the Berkeley Academic Senate. Upon final acceptance of the dissertation, the degree of Ph.D. is awarded. It is expected that the student will complete the Ph.D. by the end of the sixth year in the program.
  • All students are expected to give an “exit talk” the semester they are filing their dissertation.
  • All students must give the department a copy of their thesis before their Final Report to the Graduate Division will be signed.