The UNC Charlotte Department of Geography M.A. Program currently offers three principal types of financial support for full-time graduate students: teaching assistantships, internships and non-resident tuition adjustments. The Department of Geography at UNC Charlotte makes a formal distinction between assistantships and internships and some of the differences in these two options are outlined below. A limited number of students and receive non-resident tuition adjustments in addition to their assistantships or internships.
Graduate assistantships are arranged for either one entire semester or for an entire academic year (two semesters or nine months). They are normally scheduled for 16 weeks per semester and the student works 20 hours per week. Assistantships are funded at the rate of $5,000 per semester - $10,000 per academic year. The Department makes every effort to provide funding to every fulltime student in the program. Priority is given first to covering teaching laboratory sections in introductory courses in Geography (Earth Science-Geography), and GIS. Assignments are made on the basis of skill sets that match the content of these labs and the number of sections that require Teaching Assistants. In that context, teaching assistantship responsibilities include the teaching mission of the University and its faculty.
Awarding Assistantships. Students who have applied for assistantships will be informed as soon as possible regarding the status of their application. Appointments may be for one semester or a full academic year. Typically funding is limited to four semesters. For students opting to complete non-funded research projects, financial support is normally limited to a total of four semesters; students opting to complete a paid internship will normally be limited to three semesters of funding on assistantships. An undergraduate GPA of at least a 3.0 is required for eligibility. Assistantships may be rescinded at any time if: (1) the individual is making unsatisfactory progress toward the completion of the degree requirements, or (2) the performance of assistantship duties is unsatisfactory.
The department has a number of financial assistance options available. These include assistantships in other academic units and off-campus work situations which often are made available to the department after the new fiscal year. For this reason, we are often unable to finalize our funding offers until mid to late summer. Additional funding opportunities occur through departmental grants and contracts with local agencies.
The M.A. in Geography at UNC Charlotte emphasizes the application of skills, methods and theory to problem solving. Given this focus, the Internship often is a critical, capstone element of many students' programs. Normally with an internship, the capstone research project is completed in the context of the internship. That is, students are still required to complete a capstone research project but the research topic is determined by the internship employer. As such, the nature of internship tasks normally involves the student in a higher level of independent problem solving than the normal assistantship might. Internships are somewhat like consulting contracts. In that sense, internships are more like a part-time job for the student. Since we try to find work settings that fit the student's academic interest, internships offer valuable training opportunities and work experience. The nature of the work depends entirely on the needs of the client as those needs mesh with the training and background of the student. UNC Charlotte faculty are seldom involved in directing the student working in an internship. The student, in effect, works for the client. Accordingly, internships that result in capstone research products are centered on research questions that are framed by the client. In practice, these private sector-sponsored research experiences occur most frequently within the Location Analysis concentration.
An internship project normally involves a student in the execution of a substantive research task for a private or public sector client. While a research project always involves some oversight and direction from UNC Charlotte faculty and the client, the student is the primary investigator and has the major responsibility for executing a specific "real world" research task or research question.
Internships may involve work executed within the client's work setting requiring the intern to report for work at a pre-established schedule or they may be less structured and more task-oriented. The type of work setting will depend entirely on client preference and the nature of the internship problem or task.
Internships normally last three to five months. In the Internship, the student can work more than 20 hours per week. The student normally is paid somewhere between $1,200 and $2,000 per month depending on the nature of the task undertaken and the estimated time involved. Normally we try to give our off-campus students the same days off as those working on campus receive. Regardless of the breaks, the student is still responsible for completing the 20 hours per week for the length of the semester.
The availability of internships depends heavily on demands that arise from off-campus sources. Given the applied thrust of the department, we encourage graduate students to engage in internships, either funded or unfunded. However, for a variety of reasons, it may not always be possible or advisable to arrange an internship. In such cases, the more traditional thesis style capstone research option is used to complete program requirements.
Non-Resident Tuition Adjustments
For students who are not residents of North Carolina (non-residents) UNC Charlotte offers a limited number of tuition adjustments. These tuition adjustments provide a differential that gives non-resident students a substantial reduction in the cost of tuition. Since there are relatively few tuition adjustments awarded at UNC Charlotte, students who receive them are normally among the top students in our program. Typically, fewer than 10 graduate students receive any tuition adjustment each year.
Applying for Funding
Prospective graduate students who are interested in applying for funding can obtain applications from the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences or the Graduate Studies Office of the University. These application forms should be completed and returned with the Graduate Application Packet to the Graduate Admissions Office as early as possible prior to the semester for which the student has applied for admission. Only those students admitted to full standing are eligible for funding. Students who receive funding must carry a course load of at least nine hours.
Because of the availability of non-traditional funding such as off campus assistantships, grants and contract work, UNC Charlotte normally is able to offer funding fairly late in the summer. It is possible that funding opportunities might be available as late as June or July for those entering in the fall semester and December for the spring semester. Thus even those applicants filing late might still be eligible for funding. Applicants are encouraged to contact the Geography M.A. Coordinator to explore funding opportunities.