Hard to believe it’s already been 3 years since 2012 when I published my first set of geography graduate program rankings, based on NRC data. I followed in 2013 with a survey-driven set of rankings. Last year I produced rankings of traditional GIS programs and on-line GIS programs. These four posts have generated approximately 175,000 pageviews, so far. I seem to have filled a void.
This year I’ve decided to cobble together a variety of lists and categories with some new twists. Here are my notes for the 2015 rankings.
Over the past year I’ve come to the conclusion that, when in doubt, you’re likely better off attending a graduate school at a large major University, especially one that serves as a flagship public institution for the State. The reasons for this are varied but I think it’s a combination of (1) availability of top minds/resources/courses from related fields on one campus, (2) career-enhancing name recognition and (3) a superior University experience in terms of affiliation and alumni networking. Two and three sort of go together. You may notice a few tweaks in department tiers/rankings reflecting this idea.
I’ve produced several categories of rankings this year. Following on my 2014 GIS rankings and in response to some calls for separate Human/Qualitative rankings I’ve created a “Best Overall” category and several sub-categories. Hopefully this will be helpful for students seeking information for a particular field of study or area of emphasis. Programs listed under the “Best Overall” category provide a balance in terms of Human/Physical/Technical geography offerings and should accommodate most anyone aspiring to a spatial career. If you have a strong interest in one of the sub-field categories you should also consider the programs listed in each category. For potential PhD students the choice of a faculty advisor is the MOST important decision. Program/University is still crucial, but secondary.
The overwhelming majority of programs listed here offer a PhD. I favor PhD-granting departments because they attract the best faculty and because you never know what twists and turns might come along. It’s nice to have the option to stay in place if the scope of your studies expand.
You may notice none of the programs listed have a numerical rank order. I did this for two reasons. First, it’s sort of splitting hairs. How much better is #6 versus #7? I’m a quant guy but I don’t really know. I think these tiers make more sense – programs within each tier are ordered alphabetically. Second, I want to avoid misinterpretation by a bright student who thinks they must go to the #1 program…even if the #4 program would be a far better fit. And, this makes a good segue to my standard disclaimers and warnings about selecting a graduate program:
- From 2014: I do NOT recommend selecting a graduate program based solely on these rankings. You can use this as a starting point but be sure to explore as many programs as possible, seeking to find the best individual fit.
- From 2012/2013: Warning to prospective graduate students, selecting a graduate program is an individual decision and the top programs listed here may not be the best program for you. There are many factors to take into consideration and this decision process is probably worthy of its own blog post, or a series of several blog posts. At the very least, you should take a look at a recent copy of the AAG’s Guide to Geography Programs.
So here we go – the 2015 rankings. Ta-da!
Best Overall Programs
- UC Santa Barbara – http://www.geog.ucsb.edu/
- Ohio State – http://geography.osu.edu/
- Penn State – http://www.geog.psu.edu/
- Wisconsin – http://www.geography.wisc.edu/
- Arizona State – https://geoplan.asu.edu/
- Clark – http://www.clarku.edu/departments/geography/
- Colorado – http://geography.colorado.edu/
- Oregon – http://geography.uoregon.edu/
- Arizona – http://geography.arizona.edu/
- Buffalo – http://www.buffalo.edu/cas/geography.html
- Illinois – http://www.geog.illinois.edu/
- Kentucky – https://geography.as.uky.edu/
- Michigan State – http://geo.msu.edu/
- Minnesota – http://www.geog.umn.edu/
- North Carolina – http://geography.unc.edu/
- South Carolina – http://artsandsciences.sc.edu/geog/
- Oregon State
- University of Texas at Dallas
- San Diego State
- George Mason
- Maine (Orono)
- Penn State
- Oregon State
- University of Texas at Dallas
- Arizona State
- Ohio State
- North Carolina
On-Line/Hybrid (Master’s only)
- USC Spatial Sciences Institute
- Penn State World Campus
Who did I miss? What did I get wrong? Who invented liquid soap and why? (sorry, random movie quote. couldn’t help myself.)
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Happy new year!