GIS degree programs focus primarily on the capturing of data for analysis purposes, modeling using technology, and cartography. Using these tools, students can accurately assess geographical areas for the purpose of mapping, research, or even strategic planning. Through the use of sophisticated technologies, GIS degree programs instruct students how to apply their knowledge of diverse fields to real-world problems and demands. Most GIS degree programs include areas such as mathematics, statistics, program design, and visual implementation as part of their curriculum.

Are there online GIS degree programs?

Yes, there are multiple options at undergraduate and graduate levels for online GIS degree programs. Online GIS degrees may go by different names, such as Geographic Information Systems, Geographic Information Science, or Geospatial Intelligence. Be sure to speak with the admissions department for any program you are considering to see what the differences are in coursework and potential career outcomes - every program is different!


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School Program Admissions
Maryville University Bachelor of Science in Sustainability
Level: Bachelor
The online BS in Sustainability from Maryville University will prepare you to build a better, more sustainable future. Graduate in four years or less. No SAT or ACT scores required.
Johns Hopkins University AAP MS in Geographic Information Systems
Level: Master
Study leading-edge concepts through courses taught by thought leaders and innovators experienced in data science and GIS.
Arizona State University Online Bachelor of Science in Geographic Information Science
Level: Bachelor
The online GIS degree teaches practical computer programming skills with important applications to geography. You’ll learn how to use GIS software to solve problems related to climate change, urban planning, cultural conflicts and more.
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Types and Levels of GIS Degree Programs/Licensing

It's important to note what types of programs are available and the licensing you can earn within Geographical Information Sciences.

BS in Geographic Information Science

The BS in GIS is a 4 year program that provides skills to students in computer technologies, surveying and measurements, mathematics and statistics, remote sensing, and graphics. Students can expect introduction into the basic principles of GIS at this level.

BS in Geography with Specialization in Spatial Analysis

This 4 year degree program provides students with the tools, software, and methods needed for managing and analyzing geographic information and the implementations of spatial analysis.

MA in GIS and Spatial Analysis

The Master of Arts degree in Spatial Analysis is a 2 – 3 year program that provides students with further knowledge in spatial analysis. Through this higher learning, students are given the opportunity to get a more technological look at the implementation of geographical data through research and analysis.

Ph.D. in GIS and Spatial Analysis

The Ph.D. program in GIS and Spatial Analysis can potentially be completed in 4 years and includes training in the theories, potential applications, and empirical questions that are important in the field of Geography. This program is highly research oriented and requires students to work independently towards a greater understanding of GIS and Spatial Analysis.

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What Is A Degree in GIS?

You set out on a trip to a new place. What is the first thing you do? If you are like millions of others around the world, you will reach for your cell phone and open up your navigation app to help you get to your destination without a hitch. Have you ever wondered how these apps became so accurate? Chances are, the technicians that work hard to ensure your navigational app does its job have degrees that focus in geographical information sciences.

Although it is a major resource to traveling, navigation is not the only field that GIS degrees influence. GIS degrees prepare professionals for careers that address any aspect of geography or geospatial design. Flood territories, zoning, real estate, and area planning are all different issues that can be addressed by GIS professionals. As our society becomes more advanced, more professionals in this field are likely to be needed to keep applications and software up to date with the changing environment.

Top Geographical Information Sciences Courses

Geographical Information requires graduates to have specific skills in several different areas. Some of these areas include geography, mathematics, research, planning, critical thinking, and information technology. In order to actively touch on each of these subjects, universities have created curricula that involve an in-depth look into all of them. Our experts have provided some common courses below for you to browse, which include a diverse set of topics that are relevant to this degree program.

  • Fundamentals of GIS: Fundamentals of GIS is an introductory course that teaches students how to implement GIS in urban, suburban, and metropolitan environments. Students taking this course may be provided with the knowledge of urban spatial databases that include data sets, parcel records, census information, water, community development, and more. Integration of data from multiple sources is also discussed.
  • GIS Data Formats: Students taking this course may be made familiar with various data types, such as raster and vector data, structures, quality, and storage of information.
  • Geospatial Database Management: Students can learn spatial database management techniques as well as the application of these techniques to the real world environment. This course seeks to provide learners with the foundation for analyzing and sharing complex databases and maps.
  • Mathematics for Cartography: This course outlines the mathematical implications of map creation and analysis. Students may understand the importance of a strong foundation in mathematics and how to apply various functions during data collection and geospatial representations.
  • Cartography and Visualization: This course teaches the various theories and practices associated with cartographic design. It encourages students to capture visual thinking and communication through GIS.
  • Problem Solving with GIS: This course seeks to teach students to apply methods of GIS data analysis and communication to common geographical problems.
  • Open Web Mapping: Students enrolled in this course may be introduced to the design, development, and implementation of web mapping applications using OGC standards as well as open source software.

Is A Geographical Information Sciences Degree Worth It?

Choosing a degree program that will be profitable is sometimes a difficult task. Professionals in GIS have stood by their decision to obtain this degree program, due to its demand in comparison to other non-technical degree paths. GIS introduces new concepts to students that may seem strategic or difficult in nature, but blend them together in a way that provides meaning.

Geographical and geospatial studies are related to computer science in that they both contribute data and software to the ever-growing technologically advancing society. Fields that deal with technical data and applications are a great place to find profitable careers that are worth the time, money, and effort.

GIS Careers

If you are interested in what a degree in GIS can provide, you are not limited to a slim domain. There are numerous entities that seek knowledgeable GIS professionals to assist with creating, managing, or implementing strategies related to geospatial sciences and applying them to society. Here are some ommon titles and organizations below for GIS majors, but there are definitely many more. Since this degree program has a vast impact on society, it is important to consider the reach of your potential with this degree.

Job searches may not always return the best results when simply using GIS as your method of filter. Consider jobs in cartography, geography, city planning, weather, land surveying, software development, research, or even flight planning.

Common Job Titles

  • Geospatial Analyst
  • Cartographer
  • City Planner
  • Project Manager
  • GIS Software Developer
  • Real Estate Researcher
  • Computer Systems Manager
  • Solutions Engineer

Common Workplaces

  • Local, State, or Federal Government
  • U.S. Department of Transportation
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Army Corps of Engineers
  • U.S. Defense Mapping Agency
  • National Imagery and Mapping Agency
  • Real Estate Agencies
  • Private Information Technology Companies