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What Are the Best GIS Schools?

Learn about some important considerations for choosing a school with a good program in geographic information systems (GIS). Review three top-ranked schools with GIS programs, and explore the degrees you could pursue at each school.

What Should I Look for in a GIS Program?

Geography, urban planning and environmental studies are majors that are directly related to GIS, but GIS analysis could be applied to anything from marketing to emergency management and national defense. You might land an entry-level position after taking a few courses and obtaining a certificate, or decide to pursue advanced studies in graduate school. When researching schools, keep in mind that GIS-related institutes, internship opportunities and state-of-the-art equipment could be attractive program assets.

What Are Three of the Best GIS Programs?

University of Cincinnati in Ohio

UC tied for 147th among U.S. News & World Report's 2019 national universities. The Joint Center of Geographic Information Systems and Spatial Analysis (GISSA) at UC is co-sponsored by several departments. GISSA's more than 70 work stations, spread among several labs, feature current ArcGIS and other software.

Six bachelor's degree tracks are available in geography and geographic information science. A geography department-sponsored 5-course GIS certificate program covers basics like cartography and remote sensing. For the Master of Arts in Geography, you can choose from a geographic information science concentration, a physical concentration or an urban-economic historical concentration. A Ph.D. program in geography is available. These are some of the programs that could include GIS studies:

  • Certificate in Geographic Information Science
  • Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Geography, Geographic Information Science
  • B.S. in Geography, Remote Sensing
  • Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)/B.S. in Geography, Environmental Geography
  • M.A. in Geography
  • Ph.D. in Geography

University of Texas in Dallas

UT Dallas tied for 129th in the 2019 U.S. News & World Report ranking of national universities. Its Department of Geospatial Science hosts a major, a master's degree, an interdisciplinary Ph.D. and three 15-hour GIS-related graduate certificates. Dallas County Community College students may be able to transfer their GIS associate degree, technician or engineering assistant certificate credits. You could also earn both a bachelor's and master's degree in the 5-year Fast Track program.

UT Dallas also operates a career center that can help you search and apply for internships. GIS facilities at the university's Bruton Center in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences and the NASA Center for Excellence in Remote Sensing include labs, multiple computer operating systems and large-scale and high-resolution output devices. The following academic programs are offered:

  • B.S. in Geospatial Information Sciences
  • Graduate Certificate - Geospatial Information Systems
  • Graduate Certificate - Remote Sensing
  • Graduate Certificate - Geospatial Intelligence
  • Master of Science (M.S.) in Geospatial Information Sciences
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Geospatial Information Sciences

University of Wisconsin in Madison

UW tied for 49th in the 2019 U.S. News & World Report evaluation of national universities. Geography graduate students have won Fulbright Scholarships and a federal National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant.

The Department of Geography offers a GIS certificate program, majors in geography or cartography and geographic information systems and a double major in geography and cartography and GIS. Honors options are possible. The 1-year certificate program will qualify you for GIS Certification Institute professional certification.

Undergraduate colloquia and the GIS Day Expo offer opportunities to present GIS analyses. You'll have access to the UW-Cartography Laboratory and the Robinson Map Library. You might participate in Cartography Laboratory projects like the preparation of bike maps, national park datasets and atlases. Perhaps you could join a Map Library project on Wisconsin landscapes. UW also has a Geography Library with over 70,000 books and journals. The following degrees are offered:

  • B.A. in Geography
  • B.S. in Geography
  • B.S. in Cartography and GIS
  • M.S. in Geography
  • M.S. in Cartography and GIS
  • Ph.D. in Geography
  • Certificate in GIS

More Schools with GIS Programs

College/University Institution Type Location Estimated Undergrad In-State Tuition*
Clark University 4-year, Private Worcester, MA $46,000
Duke University 4-year, Private Durham, NC $56,000
Florida International University 4-year, Public Miami, FL $6,500
Indiana University Purdue University 4-year, Public Indianapolis, IN $9,500
University of Colorado-Denver 4-year, Public Denver, CO $9,500
University of Maryland- Baltimore 4-year, Public Baltimore, MD $11,000
Johns Hopkins University 4-year, Private Baltimore, MD $54,000
Central Connecticut State University 4-year, Public New Britain, CT $11,000
George Mason University 4-year, Public Fairfax, VA $12,500

*Source: NCES, U.S. Department of Education