Geography MA FAQ

Below is a list of questions frequently asked by students interested in UNI's Geography MA program.

If you do not see answers to your question(s) noted below, contact the grad coordinator at:

Bingqing Liang, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Geography & Graduate Program Coordinator
(319) 273-3609

For Non-Degree-Seeking Applicants:

Does the Geography MA program at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) accept non-degree-seeking graduate students?

Yes. Applicants are encouraged to complete the application ANYTIME to start the Admission process (returning student/teacher licensure/non-degree seekers). Then, please check with the Department’s secretary, Ms. Sue Davis, and/or the Graduate Coordinator, Dr. Bingqing Liang, to get assistance and approval for non-degree graduate enrollment in any courses.

Do non-degree seeking graduate students allow to earn program certificates at the graduate level?

Yes. The Department of Geography offers one program certificate that can be taken at the graduate level: GIS & Cartography Graduate Certificate.

For Degree-Seeking Applicants:

Does the Geography MA program offer BOTH fall and spring admission?

Yes. However, most of the funding is typically awarded for the fall admission.

When does the degree-seeking application period for a given term (e.g., fall 2024) begin?

The fall application opens July 1 each year and the application deadline for FULL consideration for admission and funding for the upcoming fall semester is February 1.

The spring application opens May 31st each year and the application deadline for FULL consideration for admission and funding for the upcoming spring semester is November 1.

What is the duration for the completion of the Geography MA Program?

Typically, two years for students funded by graduate assistantship and/or tuition scholarship.

What are the requirements for Geography MA program admission AND funding?

Please check

My undergraduate degree is a total of four years post-secondary study combining two fields with two years each and is equivalent to a bachelor's degree in my country. Am I qualified to apply for the Geography MA program?

To check whether your academic background is qualified to apply for the Geography MA program admission and funding, please contact International Admissions for guidance, and feel free to CC our graduate program point of contact at the Graduate College, Mr. Jason Cox, as well.

The GPA score(s) in my transcript(s) is (are) NOT on a 4.0 point scale, what should I do?

Applicants will submit their transcripts to provide the GPA information. Once received, our International Admissions performs document analysis and GPA calculations/conversions to a 4.0 point scale for all transcripts from foreign institutions, which they then enter into the International Cover Sheet – a required document used to make admission and funding decisions by the Department of Geography.

Is there a minimum GPA score (on a 4.0 point scale) required for entering the Geography MA program, and with funding, respectively?

Yes, for FULL admission AND funding, the required minimum undergraduate GPA is 2.75 out of a 4.0 scale, or at least 3.0 for the last 60 credit hours of academic work. 

However, an applicant who has an undergraduate and/or prior graduate GPA less than 2.75, or who does not meet some other criterion for acceptance without provisions, may be regularly admitted with provisions (or conditionally). 

What happens if I am admitted under provision for GPA requirement?

If someone is admitted under provisions for GPA requirement, they must complete at least 6 credit hours of a degree program with a 3.00 grade point average, or better in the first semester of study to have their provision removed.

Students admitted with provisions also would NOT be eligible for funding (graduate assistantships/GAs) that first semester. 

Is an official transcript required for the application? Will a scanned copy be accepted?

An official transcript is NOT required for the application.  Scanned copies from the applicant are totally fine to use for application review and to make an admission decision. There is a place in the grad application for applicants to upload their 'unofficial' transcripts on the same screen where they upload resumes or applicant statements. 

If applicants are still completing their final year of undergraduate study, they should wait and request final, official transcripts from their institution until they have completed their degree. All new grad students need to have those final, official transcripts on file with UNI by the time they are starting coursework in the program. 

Is transcript evaluation required (e.g., WES) by the applicant?

No. We never require applicants to submit WES evaluations nor do we consider that when making admission and funding decisions. However, applicants are welcome to submit that evaluation with their application materials to International Admissions if they have had that done. 

Are ALL international applicants required to submit English proficiency exam scores?

Any non-native English speakers are expected to submit English proficiency exam scores, and we accept TOEFL (e.g., internet-based scores/IBT), IELTS, or Duolingo. However, our International Admissions unit keeps a listing of designated native-English-speaking countries, and applicants from those countries automatically have their exam score requirement waived (such as Ghana and Nigeria). To find out if your country is listed as one of the native-English-speaking countries, please check with International Admissions (

What happens if I am admitted under provision for English language requirement?

If someone is admitted under provisions for English language requirement, they must start coursework in CIEP to test at the appropriate level before they can begin their graduate coursework. 

Students admitted with provisions also would NOT be eligible for funding (graduate assistantships/GAs) that first semester. 

 Is GRE an important document to be submitted?

No. You do NOT need GRE scores for admission or funding applications. 

 Do I need to pay for application fee when submitting the application? Can I apply for to have the application fee waived?

For Domestic applicants: You can apply now and pay your fee later or even get it waived, if you qualifyCurrent or former UNI students will also have their app fee waived.

For International students: According to our university’s policy, we do not offer application fee waivers; however, we are able to grant you an application fee deferral. This means that if you are admitted and enrolled as a student to UNI, the application fee will show up on your first university bill. At the end of the application, you can skip the payment part of the application for now and submit it for our international admissions team to review.

Do I need to get a faculty member's approval before applying for admission and funding?


Do I need to submit my application for admission BEFORE requesting funding support?

Yes. Funding applications should be sent AFTER you have submitted your admission application.

 What kinds of funding can I apply to support my Geography MA study?

Each year the Geography Department offers different types of funding to support graduate studies including Graduate Assistantships, Tuition Scholarships, and Conference Travel Funding. 

Regarding funding opportunities, you should review our Assistantships & Funding resource. For an explanation of “Graduate Assistantships” and “Graduate Tuition Scholarships”, please check 

Is funding guaranteed for the 2-year Geography MA program?

Funding support for graduate study is typically issued on an annual basis. If students are admitted with graduate assistantship and/or tuition scholarship, it is only for Year 1’s study. Funding support for Year 2’s study will be subject to the evaluation of students’ performance in Year 1. Please check your offer letters for detailed information.

Does my published undergraduate thesis meet the writing sample the department requires?

It is optional.

How do I attach additional documents when submitting my application, e.g., writing samples, publications, CVs? 

If applicants have any additional documents they would like to submit, there wouldn't be an "upload" button through their application since those aren't required. Therefore, you could simply send your additional files as attachments to and include your CATID in the subject line. Admissions would then upload them to the OnBase system, and if there isn't an existing document type to code them as, they would appear as 'Miscellaneous' documents in OnBase.

When submitting my application, I came across the “Financial Statement and Certification for International Students.” Is filling the form necessary for an applicant who is interested in obtaining funding for his/her studies? 

This form is not necessary for your application. International Admission does not ask for financial information until after you have been admitted when they are ready to issue I-20 documents.  

I am admitted for this Fall semester but I can not come. Can I request a deferral admission to the next Fall semester?

No. Instead, applicants are strongly encouraged to re-apply next year for the following Fall term. However, students can request a deferral admission by semester, from Spring 24 to Fall 24, or Fall 24 to Spring 25. Besides, funding is not guarantee even if a deferral admission request is approved. 

What will be the job opportunities if I graduate from your MA program? 

In the recent decade, our majors generally have a very high rate of placement (near 100% in the three most recent years) going out to six months. Many of our students use GIS, GPS, remote sensing, and mapping skills in their careers working as:

  • Government spatial data specialist (NASA, NOAA, NGIA (National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency), CDC (Center for Disease Control), CIA, DOT etc.);
  • IT/GIS specialist in Google, Facebook, Twitter, US Marines, Army, Navy, Airforce;
  • Research associate at various institutes (e.g., National Science Foundation) and universities;
  • Project Manager/GIS Analyst/Planner – WalMart, Walgreens, Oil Companies; City Manager/Planner; Market Analyst; and
  • GIS Crime and Predictive Policing Analyst

Please see some of our alumni’s examples at