The Earth Systems and Geoinformation Sciences (ESGS) doctoral program is based upon the integration of the scientific disciplines in geosystems, geography, geosciences, and geoinformatics. Students receive broad-based training in systematic geosciences and geography, as well as technical courses in computation and geoinformation sciences. The ESGS doctoral program represents a gateway to an academic career for some students; for others, it facilitates career advancement in the public sector or private industry. Graduates are equipped to participate in interdisciplinary research, which is the norm in today's research arena.


University-wide admissions policies can be found in Graduate Admissions Policies.

To apply for this program, please complete the George Mason University Admissions Application.


This program is intended for graduates who hold a MS or MA degree in atmospheric science, climatology, meteorology, Earth science, geology, environmental science, remote sensing, hydrology, oceanography, geography, or a related field. Highly-qualified students with a BS or BA in applicable fields are also encouraged to apply. Knowledge of mathematics through calculus is preferred. Interested applicants should contact the GGS academic coordinator or the graduate coordinator for more specific advice.

Application Requirements

To apply, prospective students should complete the George Mason University Admissions Application. Official transcripts from each college and graduate institution attended, a current résumé, three letters of recommendation, and an expanded goals statement will be required.

GRE scores are not required for admission into this program, but are strongly encouraged if a student is seeking internal funding support. 


For policies governing all graduate programs, see AP.6 Graduate Policies.

Reduction of Credits

For students entering the doctoral program with a master's degree in a related field from an institution of higher education accredited by a Mason-recognized U.S. institutional accrediting agency or international equivalent, the number of required credits may be reduced up to 30 credits, subject to approval of the program faculty and the associate dean for student affairs. See AP.6.5.2 Reduction of Credits for more information.

Secondary Program Options

Students enrolled in this doctoral program have the option of adding a secondary graduate certificate or master's program. Depending upon the secondary program chosen, many courses may be applicable to both programs. Before adding a secondary program, students are advised to carefully review AP.6.8 Requirements for Graduate Certificates or AP.6.9 Requirements for Master's Degrees and AP.6.10 Requirements for Doctoral Degrees. Faculty advisors should be contacted for further guidance and for secondary program suggestions.

Banner Code: SC-PHD-ESGS

Degree Requirements

Total credits: 72

Students should refer to the Admissions & Policies tab for specific policies related to this program.

Core Courses

Students are required to choose from the following courses in the core areas below. Of the cores, students must complete at least one course in five of the cores and two courses in at least three of those five cores.

The core areas from which to choose these credits are:24
Quantitative Core:
Quantitative Methods
Earth Science Data and Advanced Data Analysis
Advanced Spatial Statistics
Geoinformatics Core:
Introduction to GIS Algorithms and Programming
Spatial Data Structures
Location Science
Web-based Geographic Information Systems
Scientific Data Mining for Geoinformatics
Geosciences and Physical Geography Core:
The Hydrosphere
The Lithosphere
Introduction to Atmosphere and Weather
Atmospheric Physics
Human Geography Core:
Transportation Geography
Geographic Approaches for Sustainable Development
Geography of Latin America
Geography of China
Geography of North Africa and the Middle East
Geography of Eastern Europe and Russia
Issues in Regional Geography
Health Geography
Spatial Demography
Geographic Information Science Core:
Geographic Information Systems
Advanced Geographic Information Systems
Remote Sensing Core:
Remote Sensing
Drone Remote Sensing
Physical Fundamentals of Remote Sensing
Remote Sensing of the Environment and Earth System
Earth Image Processing
Advanced Topics in Remote Sensing
Remote Sensing Natural Hazards
Total Credits24

Research Synthesis and Colloquium

Research Synthesis
Select one from the following:3
Selected Topics in Geospatial Intelligence
Seminar in Geographic Thought and Methodology
Geography and Geoinformation Science Colloquium (complete twice)
Total Credits5


In consultation with the advisor, students select credits necessary to reach 72 total credits 119-31

At least half of the elective credits taken at Mason must be from GGS courses.

Dissertation Research

Students take 12-24 credits, with at least 6 credits in GGS 999 Dissertation. After reaching candidacy, students must stay continuously enrolled GGS 999 Dissertation until defending their dissertation.

Select 12-24 credits from the following:12-24
Dissertation Proposal
Total Credits12-24

Dissertation Committee

All students will be assigned a temporary academic advisor when they first enroll in the program. No later than the end of the second year, each student should identify a dissertation advisor and form a doctoral committee. The committee will be chaired by a GGS tenure or tenure-track professor and be composed of at least four members. GGS tenure or tenure-track faculty should be at least 50% and have larger committee membership than any other Mason department/academic unit or external organization. At least one member should be a tenure or tenure-track faculty member from another Mason department or program outside of GGS. All members of the committee must be Mason Graduate Faculty and approved by the department's chair.

Candidacy Examination

After completing all required courses, each student must take a candidacy exam administered by the dissertation committee. The exam will have written and oral components. Its purpose is to determine whether the student has acquired adequate general knowledge in the selected subject area, as well as much more detailed knowledge of the specific research topic planned for the dissertation.

Dissertation Proposal and Advancement to Candidacy

After students have completed all required courses and passed the candidacy exam, they should prepare an acceptable dissertation proposal. After the dissertation proposal is approved and the appropriate paperwork is completed, the student will be advanced to candidacy.

Doctoral Dissertation

The degree will be awarded upon completion of the required coursework and successful defense of a PhD dissertation that makes an original and significant contribution to the field.