PhD Programs in Geospatial Analytics

Students can pursue a PhD in geospatial analytics that involves cutting edge research in data collection and sensing technologies, as well as the visualization to create a coherent picture. Read below about the coursework and some sample careers.

Curriculum for Geospatial Analytics PhDs

Applicants to geospatial analytics PhD programs generally need undergraduate degrees in related fields, such as computer science, engineering, or geology. The core curriculum for these programs tends to be dwarfed in comparison to the number of credit hours spent in dissertation coursework. Of the average 72 hours a student will spend after undergraduate school working on a geospatial analytics PhD, only 18 or so of those hours will be devoted to core curriculum.

Data Management Courses

Students learn how to collect and interpret spatial and temporal data and how to use software management systems. They learn how to mine data and analyze it to achieve a full picture of a problem set. Students are taught to use geospatial analytics systems such as NoSQL and graphing software, as well as using that technology to pick out trends such as clustering, colocations, and to delineate anomalies.

Sustainability and Other Issues Courses

These courses investigate how geospatial analytics inform global challenges. Students study how geospatial information can be used to analyze and derive solutions for societal problems such as infectious diseases, unsafe water sources, and unsustainable migration patterns. Courses may also go over geospatial information collection limits, theory, and other issues such as uncertainty.

Remote Sensing Courses

In these courses students learn how to use remote sensing technology including satellites and other airborne sensing technology. They learn how electromagnetic radiation works and how it plays a part in remote sensing. They also learn how to interpret and enhance the digital images and data obtained from various remote sensing platforms to convey vital information about the composition, dynamics, and other aspects of the target.

Simulation and Computation Courses

Students learn how to use different algorithms, methods, and tools to map out geospatial information and create models. They also learn how to run different simulations, such as deterministic, stochastic, and multi-agent simulations. Students look at process based and empirical models, as well as learn to calibrate the various systems necessary to create these simulations and models.

Visualization Courses

Visualization courses in geospatial analytics involve understanding how a person sees information, and then applying those principles to represent data in a comprehendible way. Students study how to create a useable visual representation of large sets of geospatial data. Courses may go over tangible interaction techniques and immersive visualization.


As with most PhD programs, geospatial analytics will require the majority of the credit hours for the program to be spent in a research study, which will culminate in a dissertation. Geospatial analytics programs utilize the quantitative or in rare cases a mixed methods research approach. The dissertation study is written, published, and then defended orally to a board of faculty members, and a successful defense represents the point at which the PhD candidate earns his doctorate.

Careers With a PhD in Geospatial Analytics

Cartographers and Photogrammetrists

These professions make and update maps, as well as create information overlays and other vital sources necessary for any number of projects. Geospatial information is used to create both user-friendly and highly technical products for geographic visualization. Someone with a PhD in geospatial analytics might lead a team of either cartographers or photogrammetrists.


A geographer would be in charge of using geospatial information, such as maps, collected geographic information systems (GIS) data, and remotely sensed data to create maps and other digital products for their customers. Someone with a PhD in geospatial analytics might choose this profession to work in physical geography, such as lands, climates, waters, and soils, or human geography, which examines any number of issues including environmental, cultural, political, or sociological concerns. Geographers often work with city officials, urban planners, legislators, and civil engineers to create sustainable living spaces and study societal issues.


Geoscientists plan and conduct studies having to do with natural resources and the environment. They are often in the field collecting samples of rocks, soil, and other metrics to analyze in a lab, as well as using remote sensing technology to inform studies. A geospatial analytics PhD might lead teams of technicians and scientists to work on natural resource harvesting, sustainability, and protection, or perhaps work for environmental protection groups and preservation agencies.

Job Title Median Salary (2018-2019) Job Growth (2018-2028)
Cartographers and Photogrammetrists $64,43015%
Geographer $80,3003%
Geoscientist $91,1306%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Geospatial analytics is a highly specialized field in which to obtain a doctorate. Finding a faculty member whose research interests align with your own is crucial in finding the right program for you because much of the coursework is spent in dissertation research study.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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