The 12-credit GIS certificate program's courses comprise the first year of Penn State's Master of Geographic Information Systems online degree program. Students who successfully complete the certificate may apply to the online master's degree program and, upon acceptance, immediately begin the second year of study.

The certificate program is designed for professionals who wish to enter the field of GIS or who wish to become more competitive within it. The program provides a solid background in the fundamentals of geography that extends beyond a particular software program's capability or features. With this education your tasks can become easier to understand, analyze, and successfully complete.

The certificate program consists of instructor-led courses in which you will complete weekly assignments using your own personal computer. Although you will be expected to deliver assignments on time, you are free to work at times and places that best suit your busy schedule. Project assignments involve reports that you will learn to publish in an online portfolio. Weekly lessons include online quizzes that provide immediate feedback. You will communicate with fellow students and instructors primarily through e-mail discussion groups.

Program Flexibility

The GIS certificate program will operate on five 10-week terms. With two terms that partially overlap in fall and spring, and one term in the summer, you are provided with the greatest flexibility possible in completing your certificate at your preferred pace. You can choose to schedule your courses without any overlap, or take as many courses as possible to finish sooner.

Description of fall, spring and summer semesters

Course List - Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems 

GIS Experienced Professionals Track

The Experienced Professionals Track enables certified or licensed professionals to earn the GIS certificate by taking more elective courses and fewer prescribed courses. Following the professionalism course, certified professionals may self-select out of GEOG 483, if they feel comfortable that they possess the required skills. Please review requirements listed below.

NOTE: All courses are 10 weeks long and require 10 to 12 hours of student effort per week.

In order to determine the first day you are able to register for classes, enter your semester, campus location and student level into the Registrar's Registration Timetable. Note: Certificate students are considered 'nondegree' as the student level.

GIS Certificate (12 credits)
Title Abbreviation Description Credits
Making Maps that Matter with GIS GEOG 482 Case studies, student investigations, and projects reveal the scope, impact, and trajectory of the Geospatial Revolution. 3 credits
Problem Solving with GIS GEOG 483 How geographic information systems facilitate data analysis and communication to address common geographic problems.

Prerequisite: GEOG 482 or permission of the program
3 credits
GIS Database Development GEOG 484 Database design, creation, maintenance, and data integration using desktop GIS software.

Prerequisite: GEOG 483 or permission of the program
3 credits
Fourth Course Elective Elective Choose from the available courses listed in the Electives table.

Prerequisite: see specific course prerequisite(s)
3 credits
GIS Certified Professionals Track (12 credits)
Title Abbreviation Description Credits
Professionalism and Ethics in Geographic Information Science and Technology GEOG 864 Prepares current and aspiring professionals to recognize, analyze, and address ethical problems in the geographic information science and technology field.

Prerequisite: submission of application to the master of GIS program or certificate program in GIS and instructor approval.
3 credits
Problem Solving with GIS* GEOG 483
(Or 3-credit elective)
How geographic information systems facilitate data analysis and communication to address common geographic problems.

*Students may waive this requirement by a "self-select" opt-out. To determine if you posses this skill set, visit the GEOG 483 final project page. Students who waive this course will complete an additional 3-credit elective in its place.
3 credits
GIS Database Development GEOG 484
(Or 3-credit elective)
Database design, creation, maintenance, and data integration using desktop GIS software.

*Students may waive this requirement by "self select" opting out. To determine if you posses this skill set, visit the GEOG 484 final project page. Students who waive this course will complete an additional 3 credit elective in its place.
3 credits
Fourth Course Elective Elective Choose from the available courses listed in the Electives table.

Prerequisite: see specific course prerequisite(s)
3 credits
Electives (Minimum 3 credits)
Title Abbreviation Description Credits
Cyber-Geography in Geospatial Intelligence GEOG 479
Geospatial intelligence analysis of the geographic aspects of cyber data and observables, products for decision making, and impact of change.

Prerequisite: GEOG 160, GEOG 482 or permission of program  
3 credits
Exploring Imagery and Elevation Data in GIS Applications GEOG 480 An introductory level course focusing on the use of remotely sensed imagery and elevation data in GIS applications. 3 credits
Topographic Mapping with Lidar GEOG 481 Understanding lidar systems; design, operation, data processing techniques, and product generation to address typical application scenarios faced by the geospatial professional. 3 credits
GIS Programming and Software Development GEOG 485 Customizing GIS software to extend its built-in functionality and to automate repetitive tasks.

Prerequisite: GEOG 484 or equivalent experience
3 credits
Cartography and Visualization GEOG 486 Theory and practice of cartographic design, emphasizing effective visual thinking and visual communication with geographic information systems.

Prerequisite: GEOG 484 or permission of the program
3 credits
Environmental Applications of GIS GEOG 487 Real-world applications of GIS and spatial analysis to investigate a variety of current environmental issues.

Prerequisite: GEOG 484 or permission of the program
3 credits
Advanced Python Programming for GIS GEOG 489 Learn advanced applications of Python for developing and customizing GIS software, designing user
interfaces, and solving complex geoprocessing tasks using both proprietary and open source platforms.

Prerequisite: GEOG 485 and permission of the program
3 credits
Location Intelligence for Business GEOG 497B Understanding location technology and geospatial analysis to support an efficient and effective pathway to better business decisions. 3 credits
Critical Geospatial Thinking: The Fundamentals GEOG 497I Students learn how geographers think about the world and how they analyze human activities using social- and behavioral-based science models. 1 credit
Intelligence Analysis, Cultural Geography, and Homeland Security GEOG 571 The application of cultural geography in the intelligence analysis and synthesis process by identifying prominent threats to civil security. 3 credits
Open Web Mapping GEOG 585 Design, development, and implementation of web mapping applications using OGC standards and open source software. 3 credits
Planning GIS for Emergency Management GEOG 588 Requirements analysis and proposal writing to plan and implement GIS solutions supporting emergency management activities of government agencies and contractors.

Prerequisites: GEOG 583, GEOG 584; GEOG 488 recommended, or permission of the program
3 credits
Emerging Trends in Remote Sensing GEOG 589 Advanced topics in remote sensing and image processing, including new sensors, applications, and decision making. 3 credits
GIS for Health Analysis GEOG 591 The role of geographic information systems in understanding disease, including relevant spatial analysis and cartographic visualization techniques.

Prerequisites: GEOG 482, GEOG 483, and GEOG 484, or permission of the program
3 credits
Special Topics in Geospatial Intelligence Futures GEOG 597I Addresses cutting edge geospatial intelligence topics that impact the global academic and professional community. 3 credits
Spatial Data Analytics for Transportation GEOG 855 This course examines the use of GIS principles, data, and applications that have been developed for the field of transportation.

Prerequisite: GEOG 483 or permission of the program
3 credits
The Earth is Round and Maps are Flat: Working with Spatial Reference Systems in GIS GEOG 861 Explores three important topics related to georeferenced data: datums, map projections, and grid systems.

Prerequisite: GEOG 483 or permission of the program
3 credit
GPS and GNSS for Geospatial Professionals GEOG 862 Cultivates a working knowledge of current and future capabilities of GPS and the emerging Global Navigation Satellite System.

Prerequisite: GEOG 484 or permission of the program
3 credits
Web Application Development for the Geospatial Professional GEOG 863 Focuses on how geospatial professionals can create applications using industry-related geospatial APIs. Students will build applications using the core web technologies of HTML, CSS, and Javascript. 3 credits
Professionalism and Ethics in Geographic Information Science and Technology GEOG 864 Prepares current and aspiring professionals to recognize, analyze, and address ethical problems in the geographic information science and technology field.

Prerequisite: submission of application to the master of GIS program or certificate program in GIS and instructor.
3 credits
Cloud and Server GIS GEOG 865 Theory and practical applications of using cloud computing and server resources to solve geospatial problems.

Prerequisite: GEOG 484 or permission of the program
3 credits
Spatial Database Management for Geospatial Professionals GEOG 868 Advanced topics in the storage, management, and retrieval of geospatial data using common proprietary and open-source relational database technologies. 3 credits
Remote Sensing Image Analysis and Applications GEOG 883 Understanding remote sensing systems' operation, data products, and processing techniques to address typical problem scenarios faced by the GEOINT professional. 3 credits
Geospatial Applications of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) GEOG 892 Common platforms, analytical strategies, and policy dimensions of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) in public, private, defense, and humanitarian applications. 3 credits

Prerequisites as listed may be waived by the course instructor if you can demonstrate the required level of competency.

Course Availability

If you're ready to see when your courses will be offered, visit our public LionPATH course search (opens in new window) to start planning ahead.