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Students who graduate from the Master’s programme in geography have strong theoretical and practical skills. The education in geography offers a broad understanding in 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 scientifc practices

Further information about the studies on the Master's programme website.

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.

Find out more about the Be 1* of the Best Scholarship Programme.

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

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.

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 and  study 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 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: theses 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 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 gobal 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 theses 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.

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.

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.

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)

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

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 inter-disciplinary 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.

How to apply
Below a list of the different ways to apply to this degree programme.

Faculty of Science

Teaching and research in the natural sciences in Finland are highly regarded at the international level. The Faculty of Science at the University of Helsinki is centred on the Kumpula Science Campus, which is the biggest and most versatile cluster of scientific competence in the Nordic countries.

The Faculty has five departments:

  • Department of Physics
  • Department of Geosciences and geography
  • Department of Chemistry
  • Department of Mathematics and Statistics
  • Department of Computer Science.

Your education in the Faculty of Science is based on basic research by recognised and internationally distinguished scientists. There are many interdisciplinary and international research networks operating on campus. The theoretical and empirical research conducted within them forms a solid foundation for teaching focusing on meeting challenges related to global sustainable development and information technology, for example.

When designing the degree programmes, we have focused on addressing the requirements of working life, research and further education. You can complement your degree by choosing from a vast variety of minor subjects. You can also complete parts of your studies abroad.

In addition to Finnish, the languages of instruction are Swedish and English.

The aim of the Faculty of Science is to provide you with wide-ranging knowledge and skills in different research methods, enabling you to begin a career in many different fields. The Faculty of Science is a multidisciplinary research and learning environment. The modern facilities and high-tech teaching laboratories provide you with a dynamic environment where you can study many fields of natural sciences. The teaching employs the latest technology and principles of the Extreme Apprenticeship method. You will also have the opportunity to take part in field courses and research projects in the University of Helsinki’s research stations around the world.

You will have easy access to course textbooks, databases and scientific publications at the Kumpula Campus Library on campus as well as through the electronic services of the Helsinki University Library.

As a University of Helsinki degree student, you can participate in a student exchange or traineeship outside Finland. The University has approximately 500 high-quality partner universities throughout the world, and each year some 1,000 University students embark on a student exchange or traineeship. A stay abroad gives valuable skills and experiences:

  • You can incorporate an international dimension into your degree and obtain international expertise in your field. A well-planned student exchange provides you with diverse, unique skills!
  • You will gain a new perspective on the world, learn more about yourself and enhance your language proficiency.
  • You will get better acquainted with the culture of the target country, meet new people and be able to establish international networks in your field.

More information about studying abroad:

At the University of Helsinki we provide an accessible learning environment for all students.

If you have a disability, an illness or a learning disability, and might need some special arrangements to be able to complete your studies, please contact the faculty at the beginning of your studies or when the need arises.

You will usually agree upon the practical arrangements with your professor before the course or seminar begins. If needed, you can also consult the Head of Academic Affairs at the faculty.

Special arrangements for your studies, such as individual support for learning, might include extra time to complete assignments and exams, teaching materials given in advance or in electronic form, accessibility to classrooms and alternative ways to complete assignments and coursework.

If you would like more information about special arrangements, please contact the Student Services in the City Centre at

As a student at the University of Helsinki, you will have access to a wide range of services and benefits; such as housing, meals, health care, wellbeing and sports. On the New Student web pages, you will find information on necessary insurance, permits, and fees. As a member of the University of Helsinki Student union (HYY) you will have a great variety of services at your disposal and will be able to participate in various events and activities. Discounts are available for students, for example for travelling, cultural events, and several stores. Sub-organisations of HYY also organise a wide variety of social events. You will find more information on the University of Helsinki website