Credits and costs
Work at the Forefront of the Industry with an Online Master of GIS
The online Master of Geographic Information Systems (MGIS), led by Penn State's nationally recognized Department of Geography, is a 36-credit program that allows experienced professionals to customize their GIS education to reflect their career interests.
We continually update our curriculum by integrating contemporary geospatial technologies and emerging topics, such as open web mapping, spatial data science, location intelligence for business, GIS for conservation or environmental studies, remote sensing, advanced Python programming, and more.
By advancing your education online while you work, you’ll be well on your way to designing, specifying, and managing complex geographic information infrastructures as a leader in such fields as:
- environmental resource management
- urban, regional, and transportation planning
- government services
- surveying and cartography
- emergency preparedness and response
- GIS software development
- climate science
- data visualization and web mapping
- geospatial intelligence
You can complete this respected graduate program part-time and online in as little as two and a half years.
Why an Online GIS Degree at Penn State?
Proven Leader — Penn State's GIS program has been a trusted leader in online education since 1998. Our students and alumni work in more than 150 geospatial organizations around the world in every major sector of the mapping, GIS, and GEOINT industries. You can take pride in knowing you are part of a recognized, award-winning program.
Customizable Curriculum — With more than 30 courses available online, you have the freedom to customize a program with course work that targets your career aspirations.
Maximum Flexibility — Our program is also uniquely structured across five 10-week terms, with two sessions that overlap in the fall and spring term. This schedule allows you to seek financial aid and provides greater flexibility for completing your degree at your preferred pace.
GRE scores are NOT required — Start your application without the wait.
Accelerated Admission to the MGIS Program
Applying to the award-winning Penn State MGIS program has never been easier. Students who begin in one of our GIS, GEOINT, geospatial programming, or remote sensing certificate programs and who earn a 3.67 GPA or higher after completing the first three courses may be eligible for accelerated admission. Advantages of the accelerated admissions option include:
- No GRE test is required
- No professional experience is required
- No letters of recommendation are required
Admission decisions are made on a rolling basis, so you can learn about your admission decision even earlier. Learn more about how you may qualify for the accelerated admission option.
Specialized Tracks Available
Take your customized program to the next level with an option in geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) or geodesign (GEODZ). These options allow you to develop focused expertise without extending the length of your GIS degree program:
GEOINT Option — Produce information and insights through skillful and conscientious analysis of diverse geo-referenced data to manage natural and cultural assets, enforce the law, and plan and conduct military operations.
GEODZ Option — Combine science and evidence-based approaches with the design process, enabling you to become more adept at assessing the impact of designs on people and nature.
Professional Development Opportunities
Geospatial professionals can take our courses as a nondegree student to fulfill continuing professional development requirements. These instructor-led courses are 100% online, allowing you to study and complete weekly assignments at times that are convenient for you. For a calendar and a list of course offerings, visit our courses page.
Information for Military and Veterans
Are you a member of the military, a veteran, or a military spouse? Please visit our military website for additional information regarding financial aid, transfer credits, or application instructions.
The Master of Geographic Information Systems (MGIS) degree is a 36-credit graduate program that delivers the depth of knowledge and hands-on expertise to help you become a leader in your industry. Online courses are designed to be highly practical while engaging you with cutting-edge advances in GIS tools and spatial analysis methods. The curriculum, including challenging projects, teaches crucial skills that you can apply to your professional work.
Convenience of Online Learning
This 100% online GIS master's degree is intended for persons who are able to study only on a part-time basis and at a distance. The curriculum is delivered one instructor-led course at a time. Communication with fellow students and instructors takes place via discussion forums, email, and office hours. Weekly lessons can include project assignments submitted for evaluation as well as online quizzes that provide you with immediate feedback.
Stackable and Progressive Curriculum
The first-year courses are designed to help you develop the information literacy and technical competencies you need to become a more knowledgeable and skillful GIS user. Upon successfully completing the first year, you will receive a Postbaccalaureate Certificate in GIS*, provided that you also apply to that program. For experienced GIS professionals, we work with you to develop a customized curriculum that fits your goals and ensures you do not have to repeat classes in areas where you are already proficient. This stackable curriculum allows you to earn a respected certificate while you continue to work toward your master's degree.
The second-year courses can prepare you to design, specify, and manage complex geographic information infrastructures for your organization. Depending upon your course selection, you may have the opportunity to earn a second GIS–related graduate certificate.*
During the third year, you will complete any remaining electives and an independent study capstone project through which you will make a substantive contribution to your organization.
Depending on course availability, you can complete the MGIS degree in as little as two and a half years or spread out the courses to suit your personal responsibilities and work commitments. We make it easy to pause and restart your studies at any time.
*A separate application and program acceptance are required for each credential. Please speak with the program office for more details.
Students earn the MGIS degree by successfully completing 36 credits of course work, including a supervised independent capstone project. Course requirements include a minimum of 18 credits at the 500 or 800 level, with at least 6 credits at the 500 level. Courses within the Geospatial Intelligence Option and the Geodesign Option may be taken as elective courses.
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.
Required Courses (23–26 credits)
Option and Elective Courses (10–13 credits)
Geospatial Intelligence Option (12 credits)
Geodesign Option (9 credits)
Electives (3–12 credits)
The capstone project (GEOG 596 A/B) demonstrates the MGIS student's ability to apply advanced knowledge and skills related to geographic information systems in a way that makes a substantial contribution to their professional work. Capstone projects are supervised by a member of the graduate faculty who will work one-on-one to advise the development and completion of the project. For most students, the project culminates in a formal public presentation attended by their adviser, which takes place at an appropriate conference, such as annual conferences of the North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS), the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA), the Association of American Geographers (AAG), or the Esri User Conference. Alternative arrangements are made for students with special needs or constraints. For example, students who submit written reports of project aims and outcomes for publication in adviser-approved, peer-reviewed journals are exempt from the public presentation requirement.
This program can help you prepare for the GIS Professional (GISP) Certification offered by the GIS Certification Institute. In addition, courses in our program can help you acquire the points you need to obtain recertification if you already have the GISP.
Act 48–compliant — The GIS courses meet Pennsylvania Act 48 requirements for continuing teacher education, which parallel similar education requirements of other states.
Flexible Course Scheduling
The MGIS program operates 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 degree at your preferred pace. You can choose to schedule your courses without any overlap or take as many courses as possible to finish sooner.
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.
Costs and Financial Aid
Graduate tuition is calculated based on the number of credits for which you register. Tuition is due shortly after each semester begins and rates are assessed every semester of enrollment.
|How many credits do you plan to take per semester?||Cost|
|11 or fewer||$1,007 per credit|
|12 or more||$12,082 per semester|
Financial Aid and Military Benefits
Some students may qualify for financial aid. Take the time to research financial aid, scholarships, and payment options as you prepare to apply. Military service members, veterans, and their spouses or dependents should explore these potential military education benefits and financial aid opportunities, as well.
How to Apply
Deadlines and Important Dates
Regular Admission Option:
Your degree application, including receipt of all materials, must be received by the following deadlines to be considered complete. If you would like to verify that we have all of your materials, feel free to contact the program office at [email protected].
July 1 to begin in the fall term
November 1 to begin in the spring term
April 1 to begin in the summer term
Accelerated Admission Option:
- At least 4 weeks before the term in which you intend to start the MGIS program
Classes may be taken in nondegree-seeking status prior to admission into the MGIS program. For many students, completing one or more classes prior to applying for the MGIS degree helps ensure that online learning is the right option, and your academic record from those courses provides an additional source of information that can be taken into account when the MGIS admissions board considers your application.
Questions about applying? Contact the program office at [email protected]. We have experts available to guide you through the process.
For admission to the Graduate School, an applicant must hold either (1) a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or (2) a tertiary (postsecondary) degree that is deemed comparable to a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution. This degree must be from an officially recognized degree-granting institution in the country in which it operates.
Accelerated Admission Option
You can qualify for accelerated admission to the MGIS program by earning a 3.67 GPA or above after completing your first three classes as a student in any of our online geospatial certificate programs. After completing your third certificate course, you must submit your résumé and a professional statement of purpose explaining your goals for obtaining the MGIS to the admissions chairperson.
The admissions committee will review your personal statement and your academic record in the program to date, and then make a decision regarding your admission to the master's program. Admission is not based solely on GPA.
Admissions decisions will be made in this manner on a rolling basis year-round, but you must have your application complete and submitted for consideration at least 4 weeks before the term in which you intend to start the degree program. Please contact the academic home directly at [email protected] with any questions.
Regular admission is still available for those who do not wish to begin with a certificate program.
What You Need
Applications are submitted electronically and include a nonrefundable application fee. You will need to upload the following items as part of your application:
Official transcripts from each institution attended, regardless of the number of credits or semesters completed. Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation. Penn State alumni do not need to request transcripts for credits earned at Penn State, but must list Penn State as part of your academic history. If you are admitted, you will be asked to send an additional official transcript. You will receive instructions at that time.
GRE scores are NOT required.
English Proficiency — The language of instruction at Penn State is English. With some exceptions, international applicants must take and submit scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Minimum test scores and exceptions are found in the English Proficiency section on the Graduate School's "Requirements for Graduate Admission" page. Visit the TOEFL website for testing information. Penn State's institutional code is 2660.
References — Regular Admission Option: Two letters of reference are required. You will need to initiate the process through the online application by entering names, email addresses, and mailing addresses of three references. Upon submission of your application, an email will be sent to each reference requesting they complete a brief online recommendation regarding your commitment for success in an online program.
Accelerated Admission Option: No external references are required.
Résumé — A one- to five-page listing of your professional experience and education.
Personal Statement— Accelerated & Regular Admission Options: Write a statement (2–3 pages in length) describing how your experience and goals align with the Master of GIS program.
Start Your Application
You can begin your online application at any time. Your progress within the online application system will be saved as you go, allowing you to return at any point as you gather additional information and required materials.
Begin the graduate school application
- Choose Enrollment Type: "Degree Admission"
- Choose "WORLD CAMPUS" as the campus
Checking Your Status
You can check the status of your application by using the same login information established for the online application form.
Review the technical requirements for this program.
Get the resources you need to make informed decisions about your education. Request information on this program and other programs of interest by completing this form.
Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State master's degree?
Start or Advance Your Career
Start or Advance Your Career
You can use the knowledge gained from this program and the support of Penn State career resources to pursue careers in a variety of fields, depending on your goals.
Our program specialists are available now to help you with your application and to answer any questions you have about our online geospatial programs. Please contact us with anything you wish to discuss.
Julene Santiago, Geospatial Portfolio Program Assistant
Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
To see more detailed information about the geospatial portfolio, visit the program website within Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. You can also visit the Open Educational Resources website to preview some of the geospatial courses offered online by the Department of Geography.
For general questions about Penn State World Campus, please contact:
World Campus Admissions Counselors
Anthony C. Robinson
DegreePh.D., Geography, Penn State
DegreeM.S., Geography, Penn State
DegreeB.S., Applied Geography, East Carolina University
Dr. Anthony C. Robinson is an associate professor and director of online geospatial education at Penn State. He is also assistant director for the GeoVISTA Center. Dr. Robinson is a cartographer who designs and evaluates geovisualization tools to improve geographic information utility and usability. He has worked in epidemiology, crisis management, national security, and education domains to develop and evaluate new methods for visualizing spatial data.
Todd S. Bacastow
DegreePh.D., Geography, Penn State
DegreeM.S., Geography, Penn State
DegreeB.S., Engineering, United States Military Academy
Dr. Todd S. Bacastow’s focus is preparing analysts to serve in the U.S. intelligence community. He has conducted active research in improving the training and education of the geospatial analyst. He was the author of the massive open online course (MOOC) titled Geospatial Revolution and Geospatial Intelligence, which has been delivered to more than 25,000 students. He serves as an expert witness. Before joining Penn State, Dr. Bacastow retired from the U.S. Army after serving in a variety of infantry, engineer, and geospatial intelligence assignments and positions.
DegreeM.S., Geography, Penn State
DegreeB.A., Geography and Environmental Sciences, Northwestern University
Ryan Baxter advises students and teaches courses in topics including renewable energy, environmental applications of GIS, cloud and server GIS technologies, and introductory geographic information concepts. He is active in technical research projects involving spatial databases, online data discovery tools, interactive mapping applications, and cloud-based GIS services. He is also engaged in research investigating the spatial modeling of land use change, quantifying the amount of land available for bioenergy feedstocks, and assessing the suitability and productivity of energy crops.
DegreeM.S., Geography, University of Delaware
DegreeB.S., Earth Science, Penn State
James Detwiler is in a 100% teaching appointment and specializes in GIS programming. He teaches GEOG 485: GIS Programming and Automation; GEOG 863: Web Application Development; and GEOG 868: Spatial Database Management. His research interests are in the areas of applied GIS and climatology.
DegreeM.A., Geography, University of California - Santa Barbara
DegreeB.A., Geography, The University of Texas at Austin
Adrienne Goldsberry is an instructor as well as adviser for students in the Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems program. Before joining Penn State, she was an online instructor for Michigan State University's Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences and managed its online Professional Certificate in GIS. She also worked as an urban planner for jurisdictions in California, Texas, and Michigan.
DegreePh.D., Geosciences, University of Arkansas
DegreeM.S., Human Resource Management, Athens University of Economics & Business
Panagiotis Giannakis is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Geography and the Dutton e-Education Institute within the College of Earth & Mineral Sciences. He received his PhD from the University of Arkansas, where he also maintained a key role in the advancement of the Online Geospatial Certificate program. His research interests lie at the intersection of Economic Geography, Strategic Management, and Social Networks. More specifically, Panagiotis’ research focuses on the relationship between organizational and physical and/or social network space.
DegreePh.D., Geography, University of Kansas
DegreeM.S., Geography, Penn State
DegreeB.S., Geography, Ohio University
Dr. Fritz Kessler's teaching interests include cartography, geographic visualization, map projections, spatial analysis, land surveying, geography of health, and statistics. His research interests include map projections, geographic visualization, history of cartography, and cognitive cartography.
DegreeM.Ed., Adult Education, Penn State
DegreeB.S., Geography, Penn State
Beth King is co-author and instructor of GEOG 483: Problem-Solving with GIS; GEOG 482: Making Maps that Matter with GIS; and GEOG 597G: Challenges in Global Geospatial Analytics. She is assistant program manager for Online Geospatial Education and maintains regular communication with students in the MGIS degree program to identify their questions and concerns. Previously, she worked as a GIS analyst for a private water/wastewater engineering firm, where she managed a wide range of GIS projects, from turnkey sanitary sewer conversion to 911 rural addressing.
DegreeM.S., Geographic Information Systems, Penn State
DegreeB.A., Liberal Arts, Penn State
DegreeB.S., Meteorology, Penn State
Karen Schuckman's teaching and research interests include applications of airborne and spaceborne remote sensing to topographic mapping, land-use/land-cover analysis, positional accuracy assessment of remotely sensed base map data products, and other geospatial applications.
DegreePh.D., Administration and Leadership Studies, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
DegreeMPA, Penn State
DegreeB.S., Criminal Justice, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Gregory Thomas has experience developing intelligence for decision-makers, supervising the analytical process, and providing team guidance. He also has experience teaching intelligence and analytical techniques to college students as well as intelligence analysts and law enforcement personnel. He has developed operational intelligence to support criminal investigations and anti-terrorism activities, and has selected, trained, and supervised analysts in a criminal intelligence center. His teaching and research focus on geospatial intelligence analysis, homeland security, and criminal intelligence.
DegreeM.S., Geoenvironmental Studies, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania
DegreeB.S., Public Administration, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania
Michelle Zeiders teaches GEOG 483: Problem-Solving with GIS; GEOG 484: GIS Database Development; and GEOG 487: Environmental Applications of GIS. She has been teaching introductory and software-intensive GIS courses since 1998. Prior to joining the geospatial education program, she worked as a GIS programmer/instructor for the Penn State Population Research Institute, a GIS project manager/instructor for the Institute for Transportation Research and Education at North Carolina State University, a GIS project manager at a private civil engineering firm, and a GIS analyst at MapQuest.