Geospatial Science and Geographic Information Systems Master’s Degrees

Geospatial science is a field of possibilities – but it helps to know the territory! Our Geospatial Science guide has a summary of industry applications, tools & technologies, and degree programs. It also includes a big long list of geospatial information resources (job sites, organizations, conferences, etc.).

Sponsored Schools

Syracuse University info

Master of Science in Applied Data Science

Syracuse University’s online Master of Science in Data Science can be completed in as few as 18 months.

  • Complete in as little as 18 months
  • No GRE scores required to apply

Southern Methodist University info

Master of Science in Data Science

Earn your MS in Data Science at SMU, where you can specialize in Machine Learning or Business Analytics, and complete in as few as 20 months.

  • No GRE required.
  • Complete in as little as 20 months.

University of Denver info

Master of Science in Data Science

Earn your MS in Data Science online in as few as 18 months. Bridge courses are available.

  • Complete in as few as 18 months
  • No GRE required

University of California, Berkeley info

Master of Information and Data Science

Earn your Master’s in Data Science online from UC Berkeley in as few as 12 months.

  • Complete in as few as 12 months
  • No GRE required

University of Dayton info

Master of Business Analytics

Gain in-demand analytics skills with an online master’s in business analytics. Complete in as few as 12 months.

  • Complete in as few as 12 months
  • GRE/GMAT not required

American University info

Master of Science in Analytics

American University’s online MS in Analytics program prepares students to apply data analysis skills to real-world business practices. The program can be completed in 12 months. No GMAT/GRE required. 

  • No GMAT or GRE scores required to apply
  • AACSB accredited
  • Complete in as few as 12 months

Pepperdine University info

Master of Science in Business Analytics

Earn your MS in Business Analytics online from Pepperdine University. Learn advanced tools like Python, Tableau, SQL, Hadoop, and Excel.

  • Complete in as few as 12 months
  • Delivered by an AACSB-accredited school
  • Earn a specialized business master’s degree

Syracuse University info

Master of Science in Business Analytics

Looking to become a data-savvy leader? Earn your online Master of Science in Business Analytics from Syracuse University.

  • As few as 18 months to complete 
  • No GRE required to apply


Already have your eye on a degree? Skip ahead to our directory of geospatial programs across the US.

What is Geospatial Science?

Definition of Geospatial Science

Geospatial science is a field that uses spatial data (i.e. data with a geographic or locational component) and advanced computational techniques to study human activity, natural environments, ecosystems, space, and the Earth’s climate.

It’s an interdisciplinary subject that incorporates aspects of geography, surveying, geodesy, hydrography, cartography, statistics, engineering, and computer science.

Geospatial experts have a number of cool tools & technologies at their disposal – including Geographic Information Systems (GIS) – but their goals are similar to any data scientist:

  1. Harvest relevant data sets.
  2. Analyze data for insights.
  3. Display insights effectively (e.g. maps, graphs, statistics, and cartograms).
  4. Answer questions and resolve problems.

Geospatial Industries & Applications


  • Federal & Local Government: Policy makers often use geospatial research to decide where to funnel money and assets. This includes decisions on transportation routes, zoning & urban development, homeland security, sanitation, water supply, flood protection, and much more.
  • Surveying & Planning: Geospatial scientists are involved in measuring and studying changes in land over time. Their findings on population patterns, past land usage, weather, climate, and resource allocation have a significant impact on zoning laws and permits.
  • Defense & Intelligence: Surveillance footage from drones, vehicle positioning, radar intelligence – these are just a few of the geospatial sources that can be drawn upon to monitor nuclear facilities, predict strikes by insurgents, and conduct military missions. Need a 3D rendering of a terrorist compound? Talk to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).

Industry & Business

  • Business: Wondering where to build your next store or restaurant? Trying to advertise your holiday sale to local customers? Looking for relevant products that would appeal to loyalty card owners in different ZIP codes? Geospatial analysis can help with all these decisions.
  • Utilities & Communications: Geospatial strategies may help these industries  respond more quickly to power outages, decide where to build a cellphone tower, predict equipment failures, and improve maintenance.
  • Transportation & Logistics: Time is money in the transportation business, and GPS tracking can play an enormous role in maximizing efficiencies. For example, to determine the optimal delivery route, analysts might create models based on traffic delays, weather, driver behavior, and more.
  • Finance & Insurance: Geospatial science is particularly relevant to risk analysis and claims management. If a house is located in a disaster-prone area where the probability of a large disaster claim is high, insurance companies may decide to adjust the premium. Location-based information is also a key tool in detecting fraud.
  • Precision Agriculture: Arable land can have enormous variations in soil types, moisture, and nutrients, and it’s important to know where these variations occur to get the most bang for your buck. Accurate geographical data helps farmers determine where to plant crops, apply fertilizers and herbicides, and direct water resources.
  • Mining: Any industry that deals with digging in the ground – oil, gas, coal, precious metals – has an intimate relationship with geospatial science and GIS technology. We’re talking about everything from exploration and geological analyses to long-term sustainability reports and compliance with environmental regulations.

Humans & Environment

  • Crisis & Disaster Management: Geospatial tools and technologies have a critical role before, during, and after a disaster. With them, governments can track weather events, issue warnings, create evacuation routes, direct the efforts of inspectors and rescuers, locate refugee populations, and prevent major loss of life.
  • Public Health: Physical environment factors – pollution, access to care and healthy food, tainted water supplies, neighborhood violence, housing quality – play a role in a person’s life. 
  • Ecology & Environmental Protection: Environmental groups also rely on geospatial experts to help them make important decisions. How can we preserve our water resources? Are the wetlands healthy? Should we use this site for waste disposal? These are kinds of questions geospatial experts answer.
  • Human Rights: Human rights violations may occur in remote or dangerous locations. But geospatial tools allow human rights groups to report on conflicts and natural disasters, gather proof of crimes & massacres, track movements, and more.
  • Climate Change: Climate scientists rely upon geospatial data sources to understand the effects of humans upon the Earth. This includes areas like temperature changes, loss of biodiversity, population growth and density, and landscape use. Many are involved in creating long-term predictive models for weather, natural disasters, and human movements.

Geospatial Tools & Technologies

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are a suite of specialized software & hardware tools used to store, manage, manipulate, analyze, and visualize geospatial data. One well-known example is ArcGIS® by Esri.

GIS has the ability to gather a large range of geospatial data from various sources into multilayered maps, with each layer featuring different types of information. This dynamic, user-friendly display gives geospatial scientists the ability to analyze complex problems and themes.

Related Geospatial Tools & Technologies

  • Remote Sensing: Remote sensing data can be captured from satellites, scanners, radar systems, sonar systems – pretty much any sophisticated sensor technology that doesn’t make contact with the object. These data can be converted into a digital form, processed, and analyzed using remote sensing applications and then integrated within a GIS.
  • Photogrammetry: Photogrammetry is the science of recording, measuring, and analyzing photographic images to obtain reliable information about physical objects and the environment. It has multiple applications in areas like engineering, architecture, archeology, accident investigations, and manufacturing.
  • Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS): GNSS is the standard term for global satellite navigation systems that supply humans with geospatial positioning. Examples include GPS, Global Navigation Satellite System, Galileo, and Beidou.
  • Light Detection and Reading (LIDAR)/LiDAR: LIDAR is a popular remote sensing method that uses pulsed laser light to measure the distance to a target. LIDAR can establish the characteristics of objects on the ground or the concentration of chemicals in the atmosphere (e.g. pollution), and is often employed to make high-resolution maps. It’s extensively used in autonomous vehicles, and has plenty of relevance to fields such as astronomy, archeology, agriculture, smart cities, etc.
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs): Once confined to the military, UAVs are now being used for aerial imagery, surveying, agriculture, industrial applications – the list goes on.
  • Internet/Web Mapping Technologies: The creation of the Internet has led to an explosion in open source cartography and free mapping software that allows users to design their own projects.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) & Mobile Sensors: Many objects – including vehicles, buildings, consumer goods, factory machinery, and especially mobile phones – now generate huge quantities of location-based data. Geospatial scientists are finding all kinds of ways to combine this data with non-geographic information to make money, predict changes, and avoid disasters.
  • Location-Based Social Media (LBSM) Monitoring Tools: LBSM tools take advantage of user-submitted location data and geolocation techniques to analyze social communities, connect with local audiences, and engage with influencers.

And we haven’t even touched on the possibilities of the Cloud, crowd-sourced data collection, Building Information Modeling (BIM) and 3D models, high-performance computing, and the like! Thanks to advances in technology, geospatial scientists are now required to incorporate a huge range of big data sources (both geo-focused and non-geospatial) into their approach.

Studying Geospatial Science

Online Geospatial Science Programs

Only you can decide whether you’re willing to tackle a specialist technology degree at a distance, but here are a few ways to assess quality:

  • Strong University Reputation: Some schools have a particularly strong brand reputation that will give you brand recognition on graduation. You can also check U.S. News & World Report to see whether the on-campus graduate programs in Earth SciencesComputer Science, and Statistics have solid rankings.
  • Great Research & Teaching Faculty: Try looking for online programs that are taught by on-campus professors, especially instructors who are doing cool geospatial research or working part-time for high-profile companies.
  • Rigorous Curriculum: Consider a curriculum that is on the cutting-edge of CyberGIS and technology. You likely want electives that will help you land your dream job.
  • Access to Tools & Technologies: Will you be able to work with the most common software programs (e.g. ArcGIS®)? Can you go beyond that to create your own applications?
  • Career Help: Speaking of jobs, some online programs may set you up with internships or job placement services. If you’re enrolled in a school in a high-tech area (e.g. California, North Carolina, Washington, D.C., etc.), your professors may also be able to provide you with local career contacts

Geospatial Science Resources

Geospatial Certifications

  • American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS): The Imaging and Geospatial Information Society: ASPRS is a well-known organization devoted to advancing the knowledge of mapping sciences, including applications of photogrammetry, remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), and supporting technologies. It runs the ASPRS Certification Program, which includes various Geospatial Certifications.
  • The Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri) Technical Certification Program: Designed to test a GISP’s expertise in Esri’s desktop (beginner ArcGIS® skills), developer (ArcGIS® application development), or enterprise software (enterprise geodatabase management, enterprise system design, and enterprise administration), this certification qualifies individuals for best practices while using Esri software.
  • GIS Certification Institute (GISCI): GISCI is a non-profit organization that offers a complete certification program leading to a GISP® (Certified GIS Professional) recognition. GISP is based on work and volunteering experience, and is one of the most recognized certifications in the business.
  • U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF): USGIF was designed to promote advances & tradecraft in geospatial intelligence and it’s responsible for the Universal GEOINT Certification Program.

Geospatial Organizations & Associations

Geospatial Government Agencies & Programs

  • National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) GIS Program: NCAR’s GIS program is designed to support the use of GIS in atmospheric research, and address broader issues of spatial data management, interoperability, and geoinformatics within geosciences. Many of its projects deal with climate change & weather.
  • National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA): NGA is a large agency that supplies geospatial intelligence to the Department of Defense and the intelligence community. Headquartered at Ft. Belvoir in Virginia, it has two additional facilities in St. Louis, Missouri.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA): NOAA was created to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coast. It has a strong emphasis on conservation and management of coastal and marine ecosystems.
  • U.S. Census Bureau: Geography: The U.S. Census is known as a leading provider of statistical and geospatial data, including information on population, economic activities, and geographic areas. The Geography section provides various maps & data.
  • U.S. Geological Survey (USGS): USGS is devoted to the science of natural hazards, natural resources, the health of ecosystems and environment, and the impacts of climate and land-use change.

Helpful Geospatial Groups

  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Stack Exchange: Hosted by Stack Exchange, GIS is a question and answer website for cartographers, geographers, and GIS professionals.
  • GeoNet: GeoNET is the web’s Esri Community, and it includes contributions from Esri customers, partners, staff, and others in the GIS and geospatial professions. It has a number of active communities & message boards.
  • GIS Lounge: Run by Caitlin Dempsey Morais, an editor at Geo Lounge, GIS Lounge is an information portal & help site about the field of geographic information systems. It has a useful list of GIS User Groups and GIS Conferences.
  • GIS Meetups: has an aggregated list of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) meetups worldwide.

Geospatial Job Sites

Geospatial Conferences & Events

Popular Geospatial Conferences

  • Conference on Spatial Information Theory (COSIT): COSIT is an international conference series concerned with theoretical aspects of space and spatial information.
  • Esri User Conference: Esri builds ArcGIS®, the popular mapping and spatial analytics software, and Esri UC may be the world’s largest event dedicated to geographic information system (GIS) technology. 
  • Geospatial World Forum: Organized by Geospatial Media and Communications, this international conference deals with geospatial technologies across multiple sectors and industries.
  • International Conference on Geographic Information Science (GIScience): Billed as the flagship conference in the field of GIScience, this biennial event attracts attendees from around the world.
  • International Conference on GeoComputation: This research-based conference aims to bring together leading academic scientists and scholars in the field of Geocomputation.
  • International Symposium on Spatial Data Handling (SDH): Organized by the International Geographical Union, SDH is a long-running forum in geographical information science. It’s full of geographers, cartographers, computer scientists, and other experts in the field.
  • URISA GIS-Pro 2017: Organized by URISA, GIS-Pro offers education, networking, and professional development for anyone in the GIS field. Speakers include experts from NASA, ESRI, and others.

Geography Conferences

International Geospatial Conferences

Specialized Geospatial Conferences

  • Defense & Geospatial Intelligence Conference (DGI): DGI is the only large-scale meeting in Europe for military, civilian, and industry geospatial intelligence leaders.
  • EnerGIS: Organized by the GITA Mid-Atlantic Chapter, EnerGIS brings together energy GIS professionals and spatial data managers to discuss the latest innovations and technological advancements.
  • FOSS4G: Run by the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo), FOSS4G claims to be the largest global gathering focused on open source geospatial software. It attracts developers, users, decision-makers, and observers from a broad swath of industries.
  • GEOINT Symposium: Hosted by the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF), GEOINT is a national gathering of industry, academic, and government experts in the field of defense, intelligence, and homeland security.
  • GIS for Transportation Symposium: Sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), this symposium unites government and industry professionals who are interested in the use of GIS for transportation purposes.
  • GIS in Transit Conference: This event is organized by URISA, the National Center for Transit Research, and the Transportation Research Board. All GIS professionals interested in the use of geographic and spatial analysis in transit planning are welcome to attend.
  • American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) Conferences: FThe ASPRS annual conferences provide access and insights about newer technologies and the future of geospatial studies..
  • INTERGEO: INTERGEO is a global trade fair on geodesy, geoinformation and land management that appeals to experts in multiple industries.
  • MAPPS Federal Program Conference: MAPPS is a place to network with U.S. geospatial firms engaged in surveying, photogrammetry, aerial photography, LiDAR, hydrography, satellite and airborne remote sensing, bathymetry, charting, mobile mapping, aerial and satellite image processing, GPS, and GIS data collection and conversion services.
  • Pecora: Run by ASPRS, Pecora was established by the USGS and NASA in the 1970s as a forum to foster the exchange of geospatial scientific information and results and discuss ideas, policies, and strategies concerning land remote sensing.

Geospatial Magazines & Blogs

  • GIS Geography: A team of GIS evangelists who are passionate about all aspects of GIS. The website includes geo-infographics, comprehensive guides, and exhaustive lists of data and all things GIS.
  • Directions Magazine: Directions Magazine is one of the oldest geospatial publications out there. It has news articles, interviews, reviews, advice, webinars, and more.
  • Geo Awesomeness: Geoawesomeness is a blog about geospatial technologies – from GIS and maps, to location-based apps, geomarketing, drones, and remote sensing.
  • Geospatial Solutions: This magazine covers all kinds of GIS and geospatial news, including topics like Big Data, desktop and mobile GIS, Earth imaging, use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), policy news, and the state of the geospatial industry..
  • Geospatial World: Geospatial World is a popular publication that provides insight into – and analysis of – technology trends, applications and business dynamics of GIS, remote sensing, GNSS, Surveying & Mapping, BIM, LIDAR and other upcoming technologies.
  • GPS World: Despite the name, GPS World covers all kinds of GNSS services (e.g. Galileo), as well as related technologies (e.g. inertial sensors, LORAN-C, lasers, LIDAR, electronic compasses, cellular signal positioning, video signal positioning, odometers, wheel speed sensors, ultra wideband, RFID, Bluetooth, DSRC, etc.).
  • Trajectory Magazine: Trajectory is the official publication of the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) and covers current issues & technology developments in defense, intelligence, and homeland security communities.

Geospatial Journals

Geographic Information Science Journals

  • Annals of GIS: This is an international peer-reviewed journal with an interest in theory, methods, development, and applications in the field of Geographical Information Science.
  • Computers & Geosciences: Computers & Geosciences aims to publish original research papers that use modern computer science paradigms, (computational or informatics-based) to address problems in the geosciences.
  • Geocarto International: Geocarto is a professional academic journal serving the world-wide scientific and user community in the fields of remote sensing, GIS, geoscience, and environmental sciences.
  • GeoJournal: GeoJournal is an international journal devoted to all branches of social sciences and humanities that have an explicit geographical/spatial component. Submissions on emerging new fields such as GeoEthics, Neogeography, Digital Humanities, and other emerging topics are also welcome.
  • GeoInformatica: GeoInformatica publishes research on the application of computer science to geographic information systems. Topics cover spatial modeling and databases, human-computer interfaces for GIS, digital cartography, space imagery, spatio-temporal reasoning, and more.
  • Geo-spatial Information Science: This journal is focused on the research, application, and development of surveying and mapping technology, including photogrammetry, remote sensing, geographical information systems, cartography, engineering surveying, GPS, geodesy, geomatics, geophysics, and other related fields.
  • International Journal of Digital Earth (IJDE): IJDE focuses on the theories, technologies, applications, and societal implications of Digital Earth, and the concepts that will enable a modeled virtual world.
  • International Journal of Geographical Information Science (GIS): GIS publishes research into fundamental and computational issues of geographic information, as well as issues related to the design, implementation, and use of geographical inform target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”ation for monitoring, prediction, and decision-making.
  • ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information (IJGI): IJGI is an international, open-access journal devoted to the science and technology of geographic information.
  • Journal of Geographical Sciences: Co-sponsored by the Geographical Society of China and the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, this natural science journal aims to strengthen academic exchange on advanced geography research between China and other countries.
  • Journal of Geographical Systems: JGS aims to provide an outlet for innovative research in regional science, urban and regional economics, spatial economics, geography, GIScience, and environmental sciences.
  • Journal of Spatial Science (JSS): JSS publishes peer-reviewed Research and Review Papers on the theory and practice of the spatial sciences and Professional Papers on areas related to cartography, geodesy, geographic information science, hydrography, photogrammetry, remote sensing, and surveying.
  • Transactions in GIS: This is a popular and international, peer-reviewed journal that publishes original research on the latest advances and best practices in the spatial sciences. You’ll often see it mentioned in message boards.

Remote Sensing & Photogrammetry Journals

  • GIScience & Remote Sensing: This journal publishes peer-reviewed articles on GIS, remote sensing of the environment (including digital image processing), geocomputation, spatial data mining, and geographic environmental modelling. Papers reflecting both basic and applied research are accepted.
  • IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing (J-STARS): J-STARS is intended to address current issues and techniques in applied remote and in situ sensing, integration, and applied modeling and information creation for understanding the Earth.
  • IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing (TGRS): TRGS is a monthly publication that focuses on remote sensing theory, concepts, and techniques as applied to the land, oceans, atmosphere, and space. It also has a monthly publication called Letters for short papers that address new ideas and formative concepts in remote sensing.
  • International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation: This journal publishes original papers that apply earth observation data to “inventarisation and management of natural resources and the environment”.
  • International Journal of Remote Sensing (IJRS): As the official journal of the Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society, IJRS is concerned with the theory, science, and technology of remote sensing and novel applications. This includes remote sensing of the atmosphere, biosphere, cryosphere, and the terrestrial earth, as well as human modifications to the earth system.
  • ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing: ISPRS’s journal publishes the work of many professionals & academics in disciplines that employ photogrammetry, remote sensing, spatial information systems, computer vision, and related fields.
  • Photogrammetric Engineering & Remote Sensing (PE&RS): PE&RS is a journal for imaging and geospatial information science and technology. It’s very well respected in the industry.
  • Remote Sensing: Published monthly by MDPI, this is an online, open access journal about the science and application of remote sensing technology .
  • Remote Sensing of Environment: This journal features results on the theory, science, applications, and technology of remote sensing as related to the Earth’s resources and environment.
  • The Photogrammetric Record (TPR): TPR is an international journal containing original, refereed articles that reflect modern advancements in photogrammetry, 3D imaging, computer vision, and other related non-contact fields. It’s published on behalf of the Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society.

Cartography Journals

Specialized/Multidisciplinary Journals

  • Computers, Environment and Urban Systems: This interdisciplinary journal publishes computer-based research on urban systems, systems of cities, and built and natural environments. Research should privilege the geospatial perspective.
  • International Journal of Health Geographics (IJHG): IJHG articles tackle all aspects of GIS and science applications in health and healthcare, including diverse areas like real-time GIS-enabled surveillance services, remote sensing applications, spatial epidemiology, spatio-temporal statistics, and cyberspace mapping.
  • Journal of Land Use Science (JLUS): JLUS features research on theoretical and empirical aspects of land-use science at the interface of social and environmental systems.
  • Landscape and Urban Planning (LUP): LUP is an international journal devoted to advancing conceptual, scientific, and applied understandings of landscape in order to create sustainable solutions for landscape change.
  • Marine Geodesy: With its focus on research in the marine and coastal environment, this journal aims to stimulate progress in ocean surveys, mapping, and remote sensing.
  • Spatial Cognition & Computation (SSC): SSI is a multidisciplinary journal that brings together research in fields like cognitive psychology, cognitive science, mathematics and computer science, geography and cartography, animal behavior, neuropsychology, artificial intelligence, philosophy, and planning and architecture.
  • Survey Review (SR): SR deals with the theory and practice of positioning and measurement, engineering surveying, cadastre and land management, and spatial information management.

School Listings

We found 21 universities in our directory offering Geospatial Science programs.

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