University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

Geography is an inquiry into the patterns and processes that make up the surface of the Earth. It is a broad field of inquiry that, in our department, includes glaciers and climate change, the origins of agriculture and the evolution of plant life, the culture of cities and the dynamics of the global economy.

Such a wide range of themes gives each student great freedom to choose a research topic, develop an intellectual style, and select approaches to gathering evidence and making persuasive arguments. That freedom also includes opportunities to go outside of the department and make use of the tremendous resources of the campus as a whole. Our goal is to help each student find his or her own combination of intellectual rigor, creativity, and independence.

Ph.D. Program in Geography

The program is divided into three major areas:

  • Global Development and Political Economy
  • Earth System Science
  • Geospatial Representation and Analysis

Within these domains, a wide range of faculty interests are represented, such as political ecology, economic geography, cultural geography, post-colonial studies, urban studies, geography of race and gender, climatology, geomorphology, remote sensing, and geographic information systems (GIS). Faculty members come with a broad spectrum of regional specialties as well, including Africa, South and East Asia, the Arctic, the Everglades and Mississippi Delta, Brazil, the Caribbean, and Latin America.

The faculty has been expanded in recent years to include a number of affiliates in other departments with expertise in such fields as GIS, gender and social movements, natural resources, fluvial geomorphology, environmental engineering, landscape ecology, and urban planning.

Berkeley students are expected to be independent, and we welcome those who have had professional experience and wish to return to deepen their education. Students are encouraged to range freely through the curriculum and to follow their inspiration where it leads, working in tandem with faculty advisors. Students choose their own mentors, often utilizing two or three faculty in equal measure; these may include faculty affiliates and members from other departments.

While faculty have their own research agendas and teaching specialties, and often collaborate with students, we believe students should march to their own drummer. We expect students to read extensively, develop the necessary research skills, and produce well-crafted thesis and dissertation. Many students publish their findings along the way, as well. Berkeley Geography offers the highest quality graduate training for future scholars and teachers at the collegiate level, as well as for those going into professional careers in government, NGOs and consulting. 

Visit Department Website


General Admission Requirements for Graduate Study

Minimum Requirements for Admission

The following minimum requirements apply to all graduate programs and will be verified by the Graduate Division:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;
  2. A grade point average of B or better (3.0);
  3. If the applicant has completed a basic degree from a country or political entity (e.g., Quebec) where English is not the official language, adequate proficiency in English to do graduate work, as evidenced by a TOEFL score of at least 90 on the iBT test, 570 on the paper-and-pencil test, or an IELTS Band score of at least 7 on a 9-point scale (note that individual programs may set higher levels for any of these); and
  4. Sufficient undergraduate training to do graduate work in the given field.

Applicants Who Already Hold a Graduate Degree

The Graduate Council views academic degrees not as vocational training certificates, but as evidence of broad training in research methods, independent study, and articulation of learning. Therefore, applicants who already have academic graduate degrees should be able to pursue new subject matter at an advanced level without the need to enroll in a related or similar graduate program.

Programs may consider students for an additional academic master’s or professional master’s degree only if the additional degree is in a distinctly different field.

Applicants admitted to a doctoral program that requires a master’s degree to be earned at Berkeley as a prerequisite (even though the applicant already has a master’s degree from another institution in the same or a closely allied field of study) will be permitted to undertake the second master’s degree, despite the overlap in field.

The Graduate Division will admit students for a second doctoral degree only if they meet the following guidelines:

  1. Applicants with doctoral degrees may be admitted for an additional doctoral degree only if that degree program is in a general area of knowledge distinctly different from the field in which they earned their original degree. For example, a physics PhD could be admitted to a doctoral degree program in music or history; however, a student with a doctoral degree in mathematics would not be permitted to add a PhD in statistics.
  2. Applicants who hold the PhD degree may be admitted to a professional doctorate or professional master’s degree program if there is no duplication of training involved.

Applicants may apply only to one single degree program or one concurrent degree program per admission cycle.

Required Documents for Applications

  1. Transcripts: Applicants may upload unofficial transcripts with your application for the departmental initial review. Unofficial transcripts must contain specific information including the name of the applicant, name of the school, all courses, grades, units, & degree conferral (if applicable). 
  2. Letters of recommendation: Applicants may request online letters of recommendation through the online application system. Hard copies of recommendation letters must be sent directly to the program, by the recommender, not the Graduate Admissions.
  3. Evidence of English language proficiency: All applicants who have completed a basic degree from a country or political entity in which the official language is not English are required to submit official evidence of English language proficiency. This applies to institutions from Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Latin America, the Middle East, the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, most European countries, and Quebec (Canada). However, applicants who, at the time of application, have already completed at least one year of full-time academic course work with grades of B or better at a US university may submit an official transcript from the US university to fulfill this requirement. The following courses will not fulfill this requirement:

    • courses in English as a Second Language,

    • courses conducted in a language other than English,

    • courses that will be completed after the application is submitted, and

    • courses of a non-academic nature.

Applicants who have previously applied to Berkeley must also submit new test scores that meet the current minimum requirement from one of the standardized tests. Official TOEFL score reports must be sent directly from Educational Test Services (ETS). The institution code for Berkeley is 4833 for Graduate Organizations. Official IELTS score reports must be sent electronically from the testing center to University of California, Berkeley, Graduate Division, Sproul Hall, Rm 318 MC 5900, Berkeley, CA 94720. TOEFL and IELTS score reports are only valid for two years prior to beginning the graduate program at UC Berkeley. Note: score reports can not expire before the month of June.


Where to Apply

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page

Additional Departmental Application Requirements 

In addition to the information and documents required by the Graduate Division, the Geography Department asks all prospective applicants to include the following materials in their application:

  • Statement of purpose outlining the applicant’s intellectual objectives in her or his graduate career. Students can refer to the Graduate Division Statement of Purpose Guide here:
  • Personal history statement. Students should indicate any challenges, hardships or obstacles they may have overcome. The department would like to know if students have supported themselves through school, if they are a first generation college student, if they took on a leadership position, tutored or mentored underrepresented students, or took advantage of unique opportunities. Students can refer to the Graduate Division Personal Statement Guide here:
  • Three letters of academic appraisal, preferably from former instructors. 
  • GRE Scores are OPTIONAL during the upcoming Fall 2021 application cycle. Students who have previously taken or would like to take the GRE are welcome to send their scores with their application, but there will be no disadvantage to students who choose not to submit GRE scores.
  • Applicants are asked to list the faculty they have contacted or expect to contact concerning their application, as well as the faculty in the department whose research is of particular interest to them and who they can foresee as a potential advisor. 
  • Resumes or CVs are optional, but highly recommended.
  • Writing samples are optional.

Important Notes:

  • The geography department does NOT admit students for a Master’s degree. Students may only apply for the Ph.D. program in geography.
  • The department does NOT offer admission for spring terms; students may only apply for programs that begin with the fall term.


If you have questions regarding your application to the Ph.D. program in geography, please email Bobby Ewing, Graduate Student Affairs Officer, at

Doctoral Degree Requirements

General Program Outline

First Year Curriculum and Course Enrollment

All students take GEOG 200A in their first year. This course is 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. Students with a Human Geography focus will also take GEOG 200B and GEOG 200C following GEOG 200A.

Those with an Earth Systems Science focus are exempt from GEOG 200B and GEOG 200C (these students will take a course identified by their faculty adviser). 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 which features invited speakers.

Analytic Paper 

By the end of the third year, students entering with only a bachelor's degree must hand in a paper that would be suitable—in length and in quality—for submission to an academic or scientific journal. Students entering with a master's degree are exempt from this requirement.

The analytic 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 their main adviser. The adviser will determine the appropriate format and length of the paper. The paper must be handed in, and approved by the main adviser, no less than a month before the qualifying exam. A copy of the paper with the adviser's approval should be turned in to the Graduate Student Affairs Officer.

Dissertation Prospectus

Prior to taking the qualifying exam, all students must prepare a preliminary dissertation prospectus of between five and ten pages for their exam committee. A prospectus is a valuable first step in writing a dissertation, as it requires students to clarify their project and create a plan for carrying out their research. Before students begin their dissertation research, they must have a dissertation prospectus meeting—during which the student discusses their proposal—with at least two members of their QE committee. 

Qualifying Exam

The qualifying exam 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 QE, students will apply to the Graduate Division for advancement to candidacy. Advancing to candidacy by the end of the third year qualifies a student for the Dissertation Completion Fellowship

Additional Departmental Requirements

  • As part of their training, all students will be expected to serve as graduate student instructors (GSIs) for at least one semester.
  • Students will be expected to complete an annual review with their first-year mentor or their faculty advisor each year to ensure timely completion of degree requirements. 
  • All students are expected to give an exit talk during the semester in which they file their dissertation.

Timeline of Degree Conferral

The 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. All students must give the department a copy of their thesis before their final report to the Graduate Division will be signed. 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.



Faculty and Instructors

* Indicates this faculty member is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.


Jeffrey Q. Chambers, Professor. Forests, climate change, trees, tropical forests, remote sensing, Drought.
Research Profile

Sharad Chari, Associate Professor. Geography as history of the present and as Earth/world-writing, social theory, political economy, development, agrarian studies, labor and work, racial/sexual capitalism, Black radical tradition, biopolitical struggle, oceanic humanities, photography, South Asia, South Africa, Indian Ocean .
Research Profile

John Chiang, Professor. Climate change, climate dynamics, ocean-atmosphere interactions, paleoclimate.
Research Profile

Kurt Cuffey, Professor. Continuum mechanics, climate, geomorphology, glaciers, glaciology, climate history, stable isotopes, geographical thought.
Research Profile

Brandi Summers, Associate Professor. Black geographies; urban geography; race and urban aesthetics; design, planning, and architecture; cultural politics of difference.
Research Profile

Clancy Wilmott, Associate Professor. Critical cartography; media geographies; critical GIS and data studies; cultural memory and landscape; politics of representation, textuality and visuality; digitalities, lived, made and inherited.
Research Profile

Desiree Fields, Associate Professor. Economic geography; urban theory; financialization; digital platforms and real estate; urban social movements; constructions of markets; geographical political economy; housing justice.
Research Profile

You-Tien Hsing, Professor. China, geography, political economy of development in East Asia, the process of international economic restructuring, cultural and institutional configuration in the processes of Taiwanese direct investment, growth in Chinese cities, business networks.
Research Profile

G. Mathias Kondolf, Professor. Ecological restoration, landscape architecture, environmental planning, fluvial geomorphology, hydrology, environmental geology, environmental impact assessment, riparian zone management.
Research Profile

Jake Kosek, Associate Professor. Cultural politics of nature and difference, cultural geography, science and technology studies, critical race theory, critical cartography, biopolitics, human and the non-human, and environmental politics.

Laurel G. Larsen, Associate Professor. Hydroecology, geomorphology, complex systems, restoration ecology, environmental modeling, wetlands, sediment transport, environmental fluid mechanics.
Research Profile

Jovan Scott Lewis, Associate Professor and Chair. Jamaica and the USA, constructions and infrastructures of poverty, inequality, race (blackness), economy, and the market.
Research Profile

Robert Rhew, Associate Professor. Geography, terrestrial-atmosphere exchange of trace gases, atmospheric chemistry and composition, halogen biogeochemistry, stratospheric ozone depletion issues, coastal salt marsh, chaparral, desert, tundra, boreal forest, grassland.
Research Profile

Nathan F. Sayre, Professor. Climate change, endangered species, rangelands, political ecology, pastoralism, ranching, environmental history, suburbanization, human-environment interactions, environmental geography, range science and management, Southwestern US, scale, community-based conservation.
Research Profile

David B. Wahl, Associate Adjunct Professor. Biogeography, regional focus: Central America, Western US, Pacific Islands .
Research Profile

Affiliated Faculty

Teresa Caldeira, Professor. Comparative urban studies, urbanization in the global south, social theory, ethnography, qualitative methodology.
Research Profile

Pheng Cheah, Professor. Nationalism, rhetoric, legal philosophy, feminism, 18th-20th century continental philosophy and contemporary critical theory, postcolonial theory and anglophone postcolonial literatures, cosmopolitanism and globalization, social and political thought.
Research Profile

Iryna Dronova, Assistant Professor.
Research Profile

N. Maggi Kelly, Professor.

Nancy L. Peluso, Professor. Political ecology/resource policy and politics/forests/agrarian change/property and access.
Research Profile

John Radke, Associate Professor. City and regional planning, landscape architecture and environmental planning, geographic information systems, database design and construction, spatial analysis, pattern recognition computational morphology.
Research Profile

Isha Ray, Associate Professor. Water and development, Gender, water and sanitation, technology and development, social science research methods .
Research Profile

Raka Ray, Professor. Feminist theory, gender, social movements, South and Southeast Asian studies, relations between dominant subaltern groups in India, women´_s movements in India.
Research Profile

Joel Wanek, Lecturer. Film, photo, sound.
Research Profile

Diana Negrin da Silva, Lecturer. Human and cultural geography, race and indigeneity, social movements, Latin America and California.
Research Profile

Melanie Feakins, Lecturer.

John Isom, Lecturer. Political ecology, historical ecology, the Tibetan Plateau, environmental governance and environmental human rights; cartographic theory, critical and counter cartographies, and maps as rhetorical and critical texts.
Research Profile

Seth R. Lunine, Lecturer. Cities and suburbs; economic geography; cultural landscapes; the S.F. Bay Area, California, and the American west.
Research Profile

Emeritus Faculty

Paul Groth, Professor Emeritus. Architecture, vernacular architecture, urban geography, suburban America, cultural landscape studies, housing (US) .
Research Profile

Gillian P. Hart, Professor Emerita. Political economy, social theory, critical human geography; Southern Africa, Southeast Asia.
Research Profile

Michael Johns, Professor Emeritus. Latin America, development, geography, culture of cities.
Research Profile

Beatriz Manz, Professor Emeritus. Latin America, human rights, peasantry, migrations, social movements, political conflict, Mayan communities in Guatemala, issues of memory, grief.
Research Profile

Norman Miller, Professor Emeritus. Hydroclimate modeling and assimilation and analysis, climate change impacts to sociology-economic and ecological sectors.
Research Profile

Harley Shaiken, Professor Emeritus. Mexico, labor, globalization, education, United States, geography, work organization, issues of economic and political integration in the Americas, information technology, skill.
Research Profile

Richard Walker, Professor Emeritus. Race, environment, urbanism, politics, geography, resources, economic geography, regional development, capitalism, cities, California, class.
Research Profile

Michael J. Watts, Professor Emeritus. Islam, development, Africa, social movements, political economy, political ecology, geography, South Asia, peasant societies, social and and cultural theory, US agriculture, Marxian political economy.
Research Profile

William E. Dietrich, Professor Emeritus. Morphology, earth and planetary sciences, geomorphology, evolution of landscapes, geomorphic transport laws, landscape evolution modeling, high resolution laser altimetry, cosmogenic nuclide analysis.
Research Profile

Contact Information

Department of Geography

507 McCone Hall

Phone: 510-642-3903

Fax: 510-642-3370

Visit Department Website

Department Chair

Robert Rhew, Ph.D.

539 507 McCone Hall

Phone: 510-643-6984

Head Graduate Advisor

John Chiang, PhD

547 McCone Hall

Graduate Student Affairs Officer (GSAO) and Department Scheduler

Bobby Ewing

509A McCone Hall

Phone: 510-664-7698

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