Canada Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Graduate Programs

Graduate-level Geographic Information Systems – GIS programs explore Geographic Information Science (GIS) and related technologies and may offer coursework at the masters, doctorate, and certificate levels. Many GIS degree programs draw elements from other disciplines, such as computer science, geography, mathematics, physics, sustainable development, and earth sciences.

As a result, GIS schools may prepare students to research, develop geospatial technologies, or manage technical projects.i

What Is GIS?

A geographic information system (GIS) is a powerful tool that may be used to analyze, visualize, query, and interpret spatial and non-spatial data. This information may be used in different ways. Agriculture, mining, health care, retail trade, urban planning, or military intelligence are a few examples where GIS technology may make an impact. i

GIS also can stand for Geographic Information Science, which refers to the academic discipline. This is often the case when refering to  GIS degrees. Both the science and the systems may be covered in GIS program coursework.

DID YOU KNOW?

When surveyed about their education, 30% of GIS analysts said they had a masters degree, 13% a post-baccalaureate certificate.i

Why Consider GIS Programs?

Do you view life through a spatial lens? Graduate GIS programs may provide students with the chance to research, design, and produce their own geospatial technology applications. This could be an exciting way to learn hands-on about a very high-growth industry.ii Per the BLS, employment for computer systems analysts is estimated to grow 21 percent from 2014 to 2024.ii

Gain Real-World Experience

Students in GIS schools may gain hands-on practice through field excursions. There, they are likely to work side-by-side with faculty to conduct their studies. This real-world experience may help students to grasp the science behind GIS and GPS hardware and software. Also, it may provide more insight into the practical methodology of GIS research and geospatial project management.

GIS Graduate Certificate Programs

Students interested in a shorter post-graduate program might consider a graduate certificate in Geographic Information Science and Technology. Some programs of this nature are about 16 credits. Therefore, students who enroll in 2 courses each semester might finish their certificate in about 2 semesters.

GIS Certificate Course of Study

Students who work towards their graduate certificate in GIS may have to take a required core along with electives. Core topics may address concepts for spatial thinking, spatial databases, and data acquisition. Electives may provide the means to tailor a course of study to interests. For instance, remote sensing, geospatial technology, and project management of cartography and visualization. 

Prepare for a Masters in GIS

Some schools offer a certificate in GIS that requires students to take five of six core courses from a GIS curriculum. These same courses may be found in the master of science in GIS program. This means that students who want to continue might do so after they complete their certificate. However, they would likely have to apply and be accepted into the masters program to do so.

Masters in GIS Programs

GIS masters programs may be offered as master of science in Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIST) degree program. To apply into masters in GIS programs, students typically need to have earned a bachelors degree from a regionally accredited university. Some schools may look for a specific grade point average – like a 3.0 and GRE scores. 

GIS Masters Programs' Course of Study

GIS masters programs may entail the completion of about 28 course units, along with a masters thesis. In some GIS schools, students who study on a full-time basis may be able to earn their masters in GIS degree in about 16 to 20 months.

Geographic Information Science Courses

Students who work towards a masters geographic information systems degree may explore several key topics along with core foundation in geographic information science. Aside from big data and cloud computing, some sample courses are listed below. 

  • Spatial sciences
  • Recent GIS applications
  • Geospatial research
  • Data collection
  • Analysis and modeling
  • Visualization techniques

Compare Programs: The MPP Degree

Are you interested in environmental policy or resource management? Another option for students who want to expand their applied and analytics skills is a masters in Public Policy (MPP) degree. Some MPP degree programs entail about 2 years of full-time study. Students may have the chance to pursue various areas of emphasis. For example, Public Policy Analysis or International Development and Policy.

Course of Study

The MPP course of study may expose students to core public policy concepts through research, application and debate or inquiry. In addition to ethics and law classes, students may take coursework in econometrics, budget policy making and Geographic Information Systems. A sample of core topics is listed below.

  • Mathematics for public policy
  • Quantitative methods
  • Microeconomics
  • Policy research
  • Public Management and Organizational Behavior

PhD in GIS

Students who want to pursue a career in research or academia might pursue a PhD in GIS.iii While they may be rare, doctoral GIS programs may provide advanced level coursework and the opportunity to pursue an area of emphasis. Geoscience, geography, systems engineering, and regional planning are a few examples. PhD students typically conduct research and write a dissertation which could contribute original theory or thought to their field.

GIS Career Information

Graduates of GIS programs may pursue a variety of career paths – scientific research, analysis, digital mapping, programming, and management are a few possible directions.i

  • Geospatial Information Scientistsi
  • GIS Analystsi
  • Geospatial Program Management Officer i
  • Urban Planner iv
  • Geographic Information Specialists (Cartographer)v
  • Satellite Survey Plannerv

Each career may require different levels of education for entry level positions. Requirements vary.

Find Accredited GIS Schools

Geographic information systems programs may be offered at regionally accredited graduate schools. As a ‘stamp of approval’, an accredited university has undergone a review process and meets quality standards set by the Department of Education.* Since this approval must be renewed, accredited GIS schools are likely to update their coursework to reflect new information in the field.

Take the Next Step

Anyone who has a smartphone and uses a GPS is both a consumer and a producer of the data referred to as geospatial information. Today’s global challenges – climate change, urbanization, and sustainability, for example, may incorporate GIS principles. Find a GIS program that may equip you with the skills to address some of these issues. Select your GIS degree level – masters, certificate or PhD from our menu. Then, easily compare paid programs.

To contact GIS schools, all you do is fill out a form. Take that next step now!


*This is for informational purposes only. Education Dynamics is a private company that is not affiliated with or endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education.

[i] onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1199.04 |[ii] bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-systems-analysts.htm |[iii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/geographers.htm |[iv] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/urban-and-regional-planners.htm |[v] bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/cartographers-and-photogrammetrists.htm

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