How to un­der­stand geo­graph­ical de­vel­op­ment and dif­fer­en­ti­ation of our planet?

Geography, University of Helsinki holds place 40 in Shanghai ranking 2017 and is also ranked among the top 50 in the world in QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017. Nearly 60 Master's students begin their studies in geography at the University of Helsinki every autumn. Our programme is based on high-quality research groups which operate in some of the major fields of geography. The programme is divided into three study tracks: 1) physical geography, 2) urban and human geography & spatial planning, and 3) geoinformatics – and it provides the students with a set of skills that are essential in the contemporary labour market. The discipline of geography is an internationally recognized and vibrant scientific community which welcomes you to study at the University of Helsinki.

Goal of the pro­gramme

Students who graduate from the Master’s programme in geography have strong theoretical and practical skills. The education in geography offers a broad understanding of current social and environmental issues. Our students can work as experts in their field, both independently and as members of multi-professional teams.

The teaching within the programme is connected with the work of the geography research groups. It is often possible to write the final thesis as part of work in a research group or a research institute in a related field.

The Master’s programme in geography is divided into three study tracks (described in section 4). Our students have been very successful in the job market after completing our programme.

The strengths of students who have completed our Master’s programme when it comes to research and expertise are:

  • their ability to apply theoretical knowledge
  • a broad understanding of multi-layered regional issues
  • strong interaction skills within multi-disciplinary groups of specialists
  • their ability to communicate in writing, orally, and graphically about geographical phenomena and research findings
  • their ability to utilise and interpret various kinds of research data
  • their versatile knowledge of methodology in geography
  • their ability to apply the newest methods in geoinformatics and cartography
  • their embracing of responsible and ethical scientific practices

In­form­a­tion on the lan­guages of in­struc­tion

The main teaching language within the Master’s programme in English. Assignments, including the Master’s thesis, may also be written in Finnish or Swedish.

Pro­gramme con­tents

The first year of the advanced module of the Master’s programme contains the method courses of your chosen study track, elective courses, and advanced literature. During this year you will start planning your Master’s thesis.

In the autumn of the second year, you will join a Master’s seminar and take exams on literature related to the MSc thesis. In the spring, you should be ready to present your finished MSc thesis (Pro gradu). In addition, you can take optional courses in both years that support your study track. If you are studying to be a teacher, you will take courses in pedagogy during your second year.

Studying takes many forms. A large part of the instruction is contact teaching. Method and specialisation courses are usually implemented in groups of 10-20 students, where it is easy to discuss professional issues and gain deeper insights. Independent study is supported through workshops supervised by older students, and reading circles. The Master’s programme also includes extensive exams on literature in the field.

Se­lec­tion of the study track

The Master’s programme in geography is divided into study tracks. The study tracks offer students the opportunity to specialise in different areas of geography. The Master’s programme contains both general study and track-specific courses. The teaching within the Master’s programme in geography is seamlessly connected with the Master’s programme in urban studies and planning, which is jointly implemented with Aalto University.

The study tracks in the Master’s programme for geography are:

  • physical geography
  • human & urban geography and spatial planning
  • geoinformatics

Physical geography is an area of geography that studies natural systems and the regional interaction between nature and humans. The main parts of physical geography are geomorphology, climatology, hydrogeography, biogeography, and research into global change. The Master’s courses in physical geography work towards deeper regional syntheses, explain the physical surroundings and their changes as a part of the function of regional systems, and analyse and model the relationships between different sectors. Focus areas in the Master’s programme in physical geography are the effect of global change on natural systems, watershed research, and the regional modelling of geomorphological processes and local climates. A considerable part of the Master’s programme in physical geography consists of work in small groups or in the field, where you will learn to implement theories in practice.

Having completed the Master’s programme in physical geography, you will be able to analyse and model regional systems of nature, as well as the interaction between nature and humans. In addition, the programme teaches you to analyse the sustainable use of natural resources, and evaluate environmental impact. You will learn to implement theoretical knowledge and regional methods in planning a scientific thesis, implementing it in practice, and presenting your results orally and in writing. Further, the courses will train you to take specimens independently, analyse them, and interpret them. The teaching at the Master’s stage is closely connected with research on physical geography: these are done in collaboration with a research group or research institute.

Human & urban geography and spatial planning is a study track, where regional structures and related planning is studied. Urban structures, regional social structures, statewide regional structures, the regional development in the European Union, and globalisation are studied. At the core of the study, the track is the spatial transformation of society. The Master’s programme studies such phenomena as the divergence of regional and urban structures, urban culture, as well as the political-geographical dynamics of regions. In addition, sustainability, multiculturalism, segregation, housing, and migration are at the core of the study track. Relevant themes for the study track are also regional and urban planning, the political ecology of use of natural resources and land, and global development issues. These geographical phenomena and themes are studied through both theoretical and empirical questions, which can be analysed with different qualitative and quantitative methods.

The programme goes into how theories on cities and regional systems can be transformed into empirical research questions. After completing their Master’s theses, students can independently gather empirical data on the main dimensions of regional and urban structures and regional development, they can analyse these data with both qualitative and quantitative methods, and they can evaluate the planning practices connected with regional and social structures. After graduating from the Master’s programme, students will be able to communicate about phenomena and research findings in regional and urban structures, both orally and in writing.

Geoinformatics is an effective approach to the study and understanding of complex regional issues. Geoinformatics studies and develops computational methods for gaining, processing, analysing, and presenting positioning data. As a part of geography, geoinformatics is a research method, on the one hand, to be used in the study of complex regional issues from urban environments to natural ones, from studying local environments to issues of sustainability in developing countries. On the other hand, the methods are the object of research. In urban environments, the methods of geoinformatics can be used to study accessibility and mobility, for example, or to plan a good park network. In the context of developing countries, the research into climate change, land use, or interaction between humans and environment with the help of quantitative, qualitative, and involving methods rises into the front. Students in geography reach a basic understanding of geoinformatics methods in the study of geographical issues, the sources and use of different sets of data (remote sensing, global and national databases, geographical Big Data), analysis methods, and effective visualisation of results.

At the Master’s level, as a student specialising in geoinformatics, you will advance your skills both theoretically and technically, developing your methodological expertise from data acquisition to data refinement and visualisation with the help of geoinformatics methods. The instruction is directly connected with the work of research groups and these are often written as a part of research work. After graduating, you will be able to utilise versatile approaches in geoinformatics in research into geographical questions. You will be able to follow the rapid development of the subject independently and participate on your own.

Pro­gramme struc­ture

The Master’s programme in geography comprises 120 credits (ECTS) and you should graduate as a Master of Science in two academic years. The following courses are included in the degree:

  • 60 credits of shared advanced courses or according to study track (including MSc thesis 30 credits)
  • 60 credits of other courses from your own or other programmes
  • 60 credits of courses in pedagogy for teaching students
  • The other studies may include working-life or periods of international work or study
  • Working-life orientation and career planning
  • Personal study plan


The MSc thesis (Pro gradu) is a supervised final research project in which you deepen your knowledge in geography and develop your skills as a researcher. The thesis yields 30 credits. The purpose of the thesis work is to develop your abilities in independent information seeking, analysis of existing information, and critical interpretation of it. In your MSc thesis, you demonstrate your in-depth knowledge of a central issue or phenomenon within your subject and your ability to employ scientific research methods. A meritorious MSc thesis will produce new knowledge about geographical phenomena and report the findings clearly and according to good scientific practices.

Ca­reer pro­spects

The Master’s programme in geography provides you with excellent abilities to work in research or as specialists. Our graduates have found good employment in the public and private sectors, in Finland and abroad. Their postings include:

  • Evaluation of environmental effects and environment consultation
  • Positioning and remote-sensing work
  • Regional and urban planning
  • Governmental community and regional administration
  • Governmental posts in ministries
  • Organisational posts
  • Development cooperation projects
  • Communication and publishing work
  • Teaching


The qualification for subject teachers is attained through the upper university degree (Master’s programme). However, the subjects that you will want to teach must, for the most part, be included in your lower degree.

Students doing their BA and MA degrees apply for pedagogical studies in the BA stage of their studies. The possibility for students to apply for pedagogical studies in the MA stage of their studies will be decided on during the autumn term, 2017.


The Master’s programme in geography offers many opportunities for international work:

  • Student exchange in one of the exchange locations of the faculty or university
  • Traineeship abroad
  • Participation in international projects and expeditions (e.g. to the Taita research station in Kenya)
  • Participation in international research groups (writing your thesis)
  • Participation in language courses at the University of Helsinki (a wide range of languages, including rare ones)

Re­search fo­cus

In physical geography:

  • Research into global change, especially the environmental effects of climate change
  • Watershed research, the physical-chemical quality and ecological status of water systems
  • Natural systems, their function and change
  • Regional analytics and modelling in research into natural systems
  • Positioning and remote-sensing methods and their application when studying the status and changes in natural environments
  • ‘Big data,’ analysis of regional and temporal data
  • The Arctic areas: status, change and vulnerability

In human & urban geography and spatial planning:

  • Transformation and segregation in the social and physical urban environment
  • The changing rationalities and concepts of regional and urban planning
  • Regional policy and geopolitics
  • Urbanisation and changing relationships between state and cities
  • Internationalisation of cities and states
  • The spatial planning system of the European Union
  • Regional policy of data-intensive economics
  • the political ecology and management of natural resources and land use
  • globalisation

In geoinformatics:

  • Spatial data analysis, new information sources
  • Development of remote-sensing methods for environmental study, especially hyper-spectral remote-sensing data and drone applications
  • Application of geoinformatics methods to environmental and urban research

Post­gradu­ate stud­ies

After completing the Master’s degree, you can apply for a PhD programme, either at the University of Helsinki or another international university. Suitable doctoral programmes at the University of Helsinki are, for example:

  • The doctoral programme in geosciences
  • The doctoral programme in atmospheric sciences
  • The interdisciplinary doctoral programme in environmental studies (DENVI)
  • The doctoral programme in school, education, and culture (SEDUCE)
  • The doctoral programme in political, social scientific, and regional changes
  • The doctoral programme in social sciences

Please see the Doctoral Education on the University of Helsinki website.

Tuition fees

Citizens of non-EU/EEA countries, who do not have a permanent residence status in the area and pursue their studies in English, are liable to pay tuition fees. You can check from FAQ at the Studyinfo website whether or not you are required to pay tuition fees.

Program taught in:
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Last updated August 2, 2018
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Aug 2019
2 years
- Tuition fee per year (non-EU/EEA students) 13000 €
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Master’s programme in Geography