What is GIS?

GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems. Simply put, GIS technology allows for the creation, storage, analysis, and visualization of spatial data. Spatial data is any data that includes location information, ranging from demographic data recorded by the Census to observations made by scientists in the field. A GIS offers a way to manage such data and learn from it, to the advantage of a project, organization, or business.

How many courses must I take to earn an Undergraduate Certificate in GIS?

The certificate program consists of 12 credit hours, or 4 courses. Courses are divided into four levels; at most levels, students can choose among several options, often in different departments. Most courses are offered at least once a year.

Is GIS useful for my major or my intended career field?

Probably! GIS is important to a variety of industries, and demand for GIS skills continues to grow. If you’re not sure, talk to your advisor or the GIS program coordinator, or take one of the introductory courses to get a better sense of how GIS can be used.

How will earning a GIS certificate benefit me after college?

Employers increasingly want to see that job candidates have technical skills, especially skills related to data science. A GIS certificate could be the first step to pursuing a career in GIS, but it can also give you a leg up in other areas of the job market. In many fields, GIS skills will be seen as an asset even if they are not required for a particular position. GIS coursework will also give you an understanding of broader concepts related to data management and analysis that will be widely applicable, and it will help you develop desirable “soft skills” like problem solving and communication.

Can’t I just learn about GIS on the job if I need to?

While a future job might give you the opportunity to receive some GIS training, having a GIS certificate could make it easier for you to land that job in the first place. Being able to demonstrate GIS skills will make you a more competitive candidate in many fields. Also, completing the undergraduate certificate program will ensure that you have a firm grasp of important concepts and theory related to GIS, rather than simply learning to operate GIS software.

Will the courses for the Undergraduate Certificate in GIS relate to my major field(s)?  

The program is interdisciplinary. Courses are offered by several different academic departments. Even if your major is in a department not currently offering GIS courses, GIS has a wide range of applications. You will learn transferable skills and concepts in any of the available courses. In addition, you may be able to pursue an independent study on a topic of particular interest to you.


Do I need to know a lot about computers or have taken computer science courses?  

No. Some advanced GIS courses require satisfactory completion of one or more lower-level GIS courses as a prerequisite, but there are no prerequisites for the introductory courses. Basic computer literacy will be helpful—you will be expected to navigate the internet and your computer’s hard drive, as well as download/upload/unzip data and other files. Experience with databases or data analysis would be an advantage, but it is not required.


Which discipline/s does GIS fall into?
  • Environmental science
  • Natural resources management
  • Geology and hydrology
  • Archaeology and anthropology
  • Biology and conservation
  • Agriculture and soil science
  • Surveying, engineering and construction
  • Urban planning
  • Sociology
  • History
  • Government/public administration
  • Defense and intelligence
  • Criminology
  • Emergency services
  • Disaster preparedness and response
  • Public health and epidemiology
  • Transportation and logistics
  • Utilities
  • Telecommunications
  • Business/finance
  • Real estate