What is the difference between Geographic Information Science (GISc) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS)?

techno graphic of world

Even if you’re considering enrolling in a GIS program and pursuing a GIS master’s degree, you may not realize how prevalent Geographic Information Science (GISc) is in our world.

It is the science behind the devices that are woven into our daily lives. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are everywhere, from the mapping applications on our phones to systems that monitor our health, manage communications networks, plan disaster responses, and study environmental sustainability.1

The online master’s degree in Geographic Information Science and the online graduate certificate in Geographic Information Science at Kent State University prepares students with skills that extend beyond simply understanding software features or capabilities.

What is Geographic Information Science (GISc)?

Geographic Information Science, also known as GIScience or GISc, is the scientific study of the methods and techniques used to research, process, and analyze geographic or spatial data.

Learn more about GISc.

In this field, scientists study geographic concepts and their function within GIS applications. They also investigate the impact of these systems on individuals and society. GISc research incorporates and plays an important role in the diverse fields of geography, computer science, mathematics, engineering, geostatistics, psychology, cognitive science, and social science.2

GISc relies on research and analysis to solve problems relating to multiple topics and industries. GISc professionals use, create and improve geographic information systems. Consequently, people in informational science fields have an in-depth understanding of computational languages and may specialize in various aspects of GIS. The main areas of study include:

  • Urban and regional planning
  • Cartography
  • Surveying
  • Anthropology
  • Economics
  • Political science
  • Market research and analysis

What is Geographic Information Systems (GIS)?

Geographic information systems refer to software, hardware, and processes for gathering, storing, manipulating, analyzing, managing, and visualizing spatial information. Analysts use raster and vector data types during the process.

Along with geographic data, GIS looks at attribute data, also called tabular data. This information provides details about a location, such as a site name, type, number of people who go there, or other qualities that further define a spatial area. In short, GIS describes the “where” and “what” of geographical data.

Corporations use GIS in marketing and business decision-making.

How is GISc Different from Geographic Information Systems (GIS)?

While GIS focuses on the hardware and software that captures, manipulates, and represents geographic information, GIScience examines the conceptual ideas behind the systems—it is the foundation upon which these systems are built and operated.

Geographic Information Systems look at the “what” and the “where” (the tools and procedures), while GIScience also delves into how this technology works and the science behind it.

Getting an online master’s degree in Geographic Information Science (GISc)

A master’s degree in geographic information science is the best way to acquire the skills necessary for a career as a geographic information scientist. In these programs, you will learn about cartography, geovisualization, programming, and data analysis to develop practical skills that will set you up for a successful career in GIS or GISc.

Upon graduation, students will have an advanced understanding of theories and techniques for working with geographic information systems. They will also understand how to build and use maps and how to incorporate algorithms and software tools to analyze geospatial data.

Getting an online certificate in Geographic Information Science (GISc)

Kent State’s Online Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Science (GISc) offers a great way to grow skills within a shorter timeframe than a master’s degree. This can help gain a quicker entry into a GISc career.

Online certificates provide the same quality and flexibility as online master’s programs and might take place in the same learning management system. Certificates typically focus more on the practical skills of a discipline, while a master’s will also give you time to dig into theory.

Additionally, earning an online GISc certificate might be a great jump-start for earning your master’s in GISc later down the line. Many institutions allow you to apply the credits of a certificate to credits necessary to attain a Master of Science in the same discipline.

Kent State University’s Online Master of Geographic Information Science (GISc)

Kent State’s Online Master of Geographic Information Science (GISc) helps students develop a more robust understanding of how GISc functions across different sectors and have a positive impact on some of the greatest global challenges of our age, including climate change, and transportation, public health and more.

The online graduate program in GISc is designed for busy working professionals and students seeking graduate education. With one of the lowest tuition rates in the nation and no GRE requirement or on-campus visits, students can invest in their education without the financial burden and advance their careers on their schedule.

For more information on Kent State’s Online Master of Geographic Information Science (GISc), visit https://onlinedegrees.kent.edu/geography/geographic-information-science/.

Kent State University’s Online Geographic Information Science (GISc) Graduate Certificate

Kent State’s Online Geographic Information Science (GISc) Graduate Certificate combines the quality and flexibility of the Online Masters of Geographic Information Science degree with the agility of a short-term, targeted professional skills-development program. You can prepare for analytical and managerial roles utilizing geospatial technologies in just 15 courses that can be completed in as few as 12 months.

  • Complete the Postbaccalaureate Certificate in as little as a year
  • Choose from two certificates: Environmental GISc or General GISc
  • 15 credits
  • No GRE requirement

For more information on Kent State’s Online Geographic Information Science (GISc) Graduate Certificate, visit https://onlinedegrees.kent.edu/geography/geographic-information-science/certificate.



1 Retrieved on August 1, 2022, from https://www.esri.com/en-us/what-is-gis/overview

2 Retrieved on August 1, 2022, from https://gisgeography.com/giscience-geographic-information-science

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