Regional Science, M.A. (Ithaca)

Field of Study

Program Description

The Regional Science program is designed to provide students with a thorough understanding of regional, interregional, location, and conflict theory in the context of physical and policy spaces and the framework of existing economic, social, and political systems. Students master techniques of analysis of urban-regional systems as they relate to public and private decision making, with heavy emphasis on mathematical models and quantitative methods. Students are fully exposed to the existing and newly developing social science theory that directly relates to the multidisciplinary approach of regional science.

Course offerings focus on the socioeconomic aspects of the physical environment and on the spatial and conflict aspects of socioeconomic systems. Students may ask any member of the Graduate Faculty to serve on their Special Committee. The chairperson must be a member of the Field of Regional Science.

Applicants to the master's degree program who have appropriate and strong background in quantitative methods and economics may, with a very focused program of study, be able to complete their course work in the minimum two semesters. Applicants lacking this background, or those seeking a more broadly based education in regional science, should expect to spend up to four semesters in residence for the master's degree.

Contact Information

Phone: 607 255-4376

235 Sibley Dome
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • environmental studies
  • international spatial problems
  • location theory
  • multiregional economic analysis
  • peace science
  • planning methods
  • urban and regional economics


2015-2016 $20,800

Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Fall, Jan. 15; no spring admission

Requirements Summary:

Grades, class standing, GRE general test scores (required of all applicants), and letters of recommendation must collectively indicate superior ability for creative research.  Applicants are expected to have substantial preparation prior to entrance, which may be supplemented by work at Cornell.

  • all Graduate School Requirements, including the TOEFL Exam for Non-Native English Applicants
  • two recommendations
  • GRE general test (native English speakers only)
  • TOEFL minimum score of 600 paper-based or 250 computer-based


About Regional Science

Regional Science is a ‘second-order’ field for the study of socioeconomic problems with a regional or spatial dimension by means of diverse combinations of analytical and empirical research methods.  Among the subjects investigated by regional scientists are regional and urban development, interregional systems networks, economic geography, regional interactions and institutional systems, regional trade and inter-industry analysis, the environment and natural resource use, land-use patterns, industrial location, transportation and migration, spatial agglomeration and fragmentation of activities, and the analysis of spatial data. Graduates of Cornell master’s degree and doctoral programs in Regional Science are positioned for careers as researchers and policy analysts at the highest levels in national and regional governments, academic institutions, corporations, and international organizations. The program provides thorough instruction in spatial, interregional, and location theory within the context of economic, social, and political systems, and training in the use of analytical techniques as they relate to policy and public and private decision-making.

Learning Goals

Cornell’s graduate programs in Regional Science are intended to help students synthesize knowledge from different cognate areas, make plausible inferences about phenomena they study, and exploit course-based knowledge to address problems at the frontiers of the field.  Graduate training in Regional Science should prepare students to be professional applied social scientists.  Hence, as part of their graduate training, students in Regional Science should become skilled at communicating in writing, orally, and with presentation media at a professionally acceptable level and they should be made aware of ethical issues associated with the responsible conduct of research and service to the field.


In terms of substantive content, students are expected to gain a command of leading theories of micro- and macro-economic behavior, industrial location, the spatial aggregation and fragmentation of activities, trade, transportation, land use, and migration.   They are also expected to have mastery of methods for modeling behaviors in space and their impacts and to frame and test theoretical propositions appropriately.  Such methods include but are not limited to mathematical economics, operations research, network analysis, econometrics, spatial statistics, geographical informatics, remote sensing, input-output analysis, social accounting, computable general equilibrium analysis, and agent-based modeling techniques.  Proficiencies in theoretical and applied knowledge are demonstrated through the presentation and publication of original contributions in suitable venues, active pursuit of an advanced scholarly research agenda, and ethical comportment in giving and receiving feedback on scholarship and in service to the broader community.   


The achievement of learning goals and the demonstration of proficiencies are assessed through passing of course exams, field-wide qualifying exams, and admission to candidacy exams, and the successful defense of a dissertation.  In addition to these measures, proficiency is also assessed through inclusion by and active participation in the programs of professional meetings, the publication of original research, and increasing involvement in service to the profession through, e.g, organization of paper or poster sessions, moderation of panels, and refereeing of manuscripts.  

Closing the Loop

The Director of Graduate Studies and faculty advisors in the graduate field of regional science will collect evidence on the achievement of learning goals and demonstration of proficiencies by students by 1) monitoring closely performance on courses and field exams by students in graduate programs, 2) evaluating the quality and originality of recent master’s theses and doctoral dissertations, 3) tracking publications by students in regional science journals and those in allied fields, 4) keeping accurate records on the placement of students after graduation and their progress professionally, 5) conducting exit interviews with graduates, and 6) surveying alumni on the adequacy of their preparation at Cornell for their careers and any deficiencies in the curriculum.  This information will be made available to all faculty members of the graduate field on an annual basis and discussed at a field meeting with an eye towards improvement of the graduate programs.  

In the coming academic year, the field will examine how well students are able to achieve the learning goal of exploiting course-based knowledge to address problems at the frontiers of the field, evaluate the adequacy and appropriateness of field curriculum in supporting the achievement of this goal, and make changes as deemed necessary.