Postgraduate study and research *

Geographers in field preparing their remote controlled planes

Furthering your education with postgraduate studies can improve your employment opportunities and allow you to explore topics of interest to a much greater depth. Our postgraduate courses allow you to develop your expertise in an area of specialisation, engaging with research frontiers in small classes and connecting with our academic staff on the topics they love. You will also develop valuable research skills and other transferable skills that will support your development as a student.

Postgraduate coursework

Postgraduate coursework students are spread across a range of courses in physical and human geography, GIS, remote sensing, and in resource assessment and management. Usually there are between 25 and 30 coursework students in Geography, with half as many again coming in to take particular papers from other departments.

Postgraduate theses

Thesis students are either engaged in Masters degrees or PhDs. Currently there are between 30 and 40 thesis students working in the department. The South Island is an ideal laboratory for many fields of physical geography, such as climate, coastal and alpine studies. New Zealand, with its history of experimentation in economic and environmental management, social relations and land rights, also has some specific human geographies that repay close research.

Postgraduate studies improve your employment opportunities and allow you to develop your expertise in an area of specialisation, engaging with research frontiers in small classes and connecting with our academic staff on the topics they love. You will also develop valuable research skills and other transferable skills that will support your development as a student.


There are a range of options for postgraduate study, from one-year taught degrees to indepth independent research. 

  • BA(Hons): 120 points at 400 level* (GEOG420 required) - 1 year after BA or BSc
  • BSc(Hons): 144 points* minimum at 400 level (GEOG420 required) - 1 year after BA or BSc
  • PGDipSc: 120 points* at 400 level (GEOG420 strongly recommended) - 1 year after BA or BSc
  • MA(Hons): 120 points* (GEOG420 strongly recommended) plus one year thesis
  • MSc(Hons): 120 points* at 400 level (GEOG420 strongly recommended) plus one-year thesis - 2 years after BA or BSc
  • MA and MSc “by thesis alone” after completing BA (Hons) or BSc (Hons)
  • MGIS: 120 points* plus one year thesis (see for further details:

Please see the UC Calendar to confirm the details.

Overview of 420 Project

This paper develops research skills through the completion of an independent research project. Students are free to explore a subject of their interest from one (or preferably more) of their courses, perhaps flavoured with something that might have been an interest at undergraduate level.

Each student is allocated, by agreement, a supervisor for the project. Work on the project is spread over the duration of the 400-level year. After selection of an initial topic area a proposal is then developed, the research is carried out, short progress reports are given and a research report written. Find out more about GEOG 420.

Points to note

  • For all the above options, with the exception of BSc Hons, you will take 4 papers. These do not have to include GEOG420, but this is highly recommended. For BSc Hons you have to take 5 papers, one of which must be GEOG420.
  • If you are unsure about what you want to do then it may be best to do a one-year honours degree and then reassess your situation. At the end of that you have two options: (i) not to take out your honours degree and to apply to convert it to Part 1 of a Masters degree OR (ii) to take out your honours degree and to enrol for Masters by thesis alone.
  • Your final grade for the two year Masters is an average of your coursework and thesis (Parts 1 and 2). There are four passing grades: First Class Honours (A- and above), Second Class Hons Div 1 (B+), Second Class Hons Div 2 (B- and B) and MA pass.
  • When completing a two year Masters you are expected to finish your coursework and to proceed immediately, once exams are over, on to your thesis. You will be asked to complete (i) an initial ‘Statement of Intent’ regarding your proposed topic and supervisor(s) – normally by mid October and (ii) to complete your thesis proposal within 2 months of your Statement of Intent being approved.
  • For Masters by thesis alone, you can start anytime. If you achieve honours, then your final grade will be one of the following: Masters with Distinction (equivalent to First Class Hons), Masters with Merit (equivalent to MA Hons Div 1).
  • If you are completing a BScHons and want to go on to complete a PhD we would strongly recommend that you complete an MSc first.

As a first step to enrolling in a Masters degree in the Geography Department, explore the research interests of individual staff members and contact them to discuss potential supervision of your thesis.

Master of Arts

Master of GIS

Master of Science

Other useful links

PhD study

If you are considering a career in academia, research or industry, our PhD grows the research skills you need to ask the important questions and successfully identify a path to answering them. Conducting a PhD allows to get to grips with a challenging topic and be at the frontier of research in your selected area, one of a few people in the world who understand the nature of your topic. Research excellence begins with a great supervisory relationship. Your first step is to read the profiles of individual staff members to find the right supervisor for your area of interest, and contact them.

Sources of funding

There are a variety of sources of funding to undertake graduate studies, but especially thesis research.

Key scholarships include:

Teaching fellowships within the department
We normally hire teaching fellows to assist in the running of many of our undergraduate courses. Applications are called for at the start of each academic year and are handled by Simon Kingham.

Other sources
There are many other sources of finance available if you intend to undertake a Masters thesis. These depend upon the particular topic and the role of your supervisor in obtaining external funds.

The ability to think in holistic and integrated ways gives our graduates an edge in the job market.

Using a Geography degree

Geography graduates are characterised by their ability to synthesise complex information to address specific problems - a skill that is increasingly valued as knowledge shifts and jobs are no longer jobs for life. Geography prepares you for the flexibility required in the contemporary workplace.

We emphasise the development of transferable skills, such as oral and written communication and self-driven learning. At the same time, you will acquire the important 'disciplinary skills', like a scientific approach to analysis of environmental variables, the ability to bring these together, and means of appreciating the crucial human element in the relations between people, place and environment.

Broad industry opportunities

Geography graduates' skills are valued in a range of industries in New Zealand and abroad, including:

  • Air quality control
  • Environmental planning
  • Natural resource management
  • Transport 
  • Water and aquatic life

In fact Geographers are now recognised globally as among the most employable graduates.

Resource management is a major avenue of employment for geographers, in both local and regional councils and the private sector.

Many geography graduates are also employed in other fields in local and central government - in policy development and analysis, and in planning jobs - in agencies as diverse as Treasury, the State Services Commission, ACC, Social Welfare and Education.

Many also work in the private sector, for instance using their Geographic Information Systems training. Teaching in the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors is also a popular career path.

Examples of recent Geography-related jobs

Geographers were recruited for the following jobs in recent years:

  • Aquatic Ecosystem Health Officer - ECAN
  • Water Quality Officer - ECAN
  • Water and Coastal Resources Team Leader - Gisborne District Council
  • Natural Hazards Analyst - Environment Canterbury
  • Zone Manager - Coromandel - Waikato Regional Council
  • Team Leader - Catchment Management - Waikato Regional Council
  • Coastal Advisor - Consents and Compliance - Auckland Council
  • Graduate Research Fellowship in Hydrologic Sciences or Geological Sciences - Desert Research Institute and University of Nevada Reno
  • Spatial Data Scientist - Landcare Research
  • Team Leader, Aquatic Ecosystems and Quality - Greater Wellington Regional Council
  • Junior Quality Assurance Analyst Fixed-term position - Trimble
  • Graduate Support Advisor - Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority
  • National Infrastructure Unit – Senior Analyst and Analyst
  • Environmental Protection Officer - Horizons Regional Council
  • Adviser/Senior Adviser(s) GIS and Spatial Analysis Biosecurity Surveillance - MAF
  • Coastal Ecologist - Environment Waikato
  • Advisor and Assistant Advisor - NZ Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa
  • Mapping Project - Landcare Research
  • Business Services Officer - Spatial Information - DOC
  • Department of Geography - University of Regina
  • Social Scientist - Hazards, Planning and Environment
  • Transportation Planner / Engineer - Christchurch
  • GIS/Transportation Planner - Christchurch
  • Senior Coastal Planner - Design the Future of the Bay of Plenty’s Coast
  • DOC Ranger, Visitor Project Planner - Greymouth Office
  • Lecturer in Climatology - University of Otago
  • Team Leader, Stack, Odour and Workplace Monitoring - Watercare Services Ltd, Auckland
  • GIS Analyst - Environment Canterbury
  • Consents Officer - The West Coast Regional Council
  • Researcher - University of Miami (Oct 07)
  • Apiha Kaupapa Taiao - Policy/Research Officer
  • Data Compiler - Antarctica NZ
  • Consents Officer - West Coast Regional Council
  • Network Analyst - National Operations, Early Childhood & Regional Education
  • Student Internship / Environmental Research Opportunity
  • Environment Canterbury – Summer Jobs for Students
  • Student Applications | Land Resources Assistant
  • Senior Environmental Resource Officer – Coastal
  • Environmental Planner - Environmental Policy at Environment Waikato
  • Environmental Planner - Coastal at Environment Waikato
  • Environmental Technician - National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd, Auckland
  • Environmental Planner - Environmental Policy at Environment Waikato
  • Environmental Planner - Coastal at Environment Waikato
  • Assistant Tester - temporary position (three months)
  • Environment Canterbury - GIS Officer - fixed term - part/full time
  • Strategic Policy Analyst (aquaculture) at Auckland
  • Regional Council Development Officer (wind farming) based in Queenstown
  • URS New Zealand - Environmental Consultant, Air Quality
  • Environmental Officer - Antarctica NZ
  • GIS Graduate - Avon-Heathcote Ihutai Trust (AHEIT)
  • Part Time - Mapworld
  • Urban Development Strategy forum and communications group - Creative Business Solutions Ltd
  • Monitoring and Research Team - Christchurch City Council
  • Environment Engineer - Air Quality Specialist
  • Air Quality Scientist/Technical Specialist - The Auckland Regional Council - New Zealand
  • Air Quality - Department Head (Laboratory) Auckland, NZ
  • Air Quality Scientist - URS - Melbourne, Vic
  • Air Quality Specialist - Tonkin Consulting.
  • Geography and Games Assistant St Paul’s School, London
  • Environmental Officer - Strategic Projects Co-ordinator - Department of Environment - Perth, WA Air Quality Management Branch
  • Senior Environmental Officer - Department of Environment - WA
  • Cultural heritage management support - Auckland Regional Council
  • Air Quality Specialist Environmental Protection Agency
  • Entry Level Advisors - Ministry for the Environment
  • Post Doctoral Researcher Air Quality/Atmospheric Science - NIWA
  • Air Quality Specialist – Team Leader - URS Environmental and Engineering Professional Services
  • Technician, Air Quality, Resource Investigations - Greater Wellington Regional Council
  • Operations | Passenger Services Operations Planner
  • Scientist/Engineer– Air Quality- EPA’s Air Quality Studies Unit
  • Air Quality Scientist/Engineer - Pacific Air and Environment Pty Ltd
  • Atmospheric Scientists / Air Quality Consultants - Heggies Australia Pty Ltd
  • Ambient Air Quality Team Leader - Watercare Services Limited
  • Data Acquisition Officer - Terralink, Wellington
  • EPA Victoria has a number of job vacancies:
  • Principal Scientist (Air Quality) - The QLD Environmental Protection Agency
  • Source Emission Monitoring Officer - Emission Testing Consultants Pty Ltd
  • 2 Environmental Officers - Department of Environment, Western Australia
  • Spatial Applications Specialist - Environment Bay of Plenty Regional Council
  • Social Researcher - Appleyards Limited
  • GIS Analyst - Watercare Services - Auckland City
  • Geospatial Analyst - Joint Geospatial Support Facility - Naval Base Devonport
  • Research Data Analyst - MFish - Wellington
  • Environmental Scientist or Engineer - The Odour Unit Pty Ltd
  • Research Officer/Postdoctoral Research Fellow/Research Fellow - School of Geography, Planning and Architecture - Uni of Queensland
  • Postgraduate Research Scholarships (x2) (Urban Modelling) - School of Geography, Planning and Architecture - Uni of Queensland
  • Post Doctoral Fellow - Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies
  • Oceans Science Project Officer - Australian Government, National Ocean Office
  • Post Doctoral Fellow - Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies
  • Research Associate, GIS and Health (2 Posts) - University of Canterbury
  • Enforcement Officer - Christchurch City Council
  • Senior Technical Officer, Ambient Air Monitoring - ECOWISE Environmental
  • Scientific Officer, Social Science - Department of Conservation
  • Researcher - The Online Encyclopedia
  • Senior Technical Officer - Ambient Air Monitoring, ECOWISE Environmental
  • Air Quality - Victorian EPA
  • GIS/Graphics Technician

Find advice and assistance contact our Postgraduate Co-ordinators.

Benefit from global expertise

Our academic staff are joined each year by experts from around the world who take part in teaching and research or as Erskine Fellows. Find out more about our past, present and future collaborations with visiting academics.

Learn from our students' experiences

Some of our postgraduates have shared their UC stories. Find out more about their experiences studying towards higher qualifications in Geography.

Need more information?

Our postgraduate co-ordinators can help