What is a GISc Certification Program?

Want to maximize your career potential in Geographic Information Science? Explore GISc certification and what you could do with one on the Kent State blog.


A GISc program can help professionals advance their knowledge and prepare for work in fields such as anthropology, economics, geoscience, market research, political science, disaster relief, real estate, surveying or urban planning. GISc professionals can choose from a broad spectrum of careers in different sectors, from the government to cartographers or geoscientists.

To maximize your career potential in Geographic Information Science and possibly to increase your salary, you could pursue a couple of different paths. In this post, we’ll explore the different GISc certificate programs available and what you could do with a GISc Certificate.

What is Geographic Information Science?

Geographic Information Science (GISc or GIScience) is the science that studies and improves upon the systems that store geographic data. GISc professionals often use GIS equipment, and they work hand-in-hand with GIS specialists and analysts to solve complex global challenges such as climate change, transportation, population growth, resource management and public health.

What is GIS?

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) looks specifically at the spatial relationships and trends in geography. GIS is more than maps. It encompasses the creation of geographic data, database management and pattern analysis, as well as visualization on a map. Historically, GIS tools have been used to trace a London Cholera epidemic in 1854 and to map Canadian land capability for different crops in the 1960s and 70s.¹ GIS tools and equipment have grown even more relevant today.

How Do GIScience and GIS Differ?

When comparing the two, GIS has a more technical focus. In contrast, GIScience delves deeper into how geographic information can be stored and analyzed. People who work in the GISc field, geographic scientists, can actually develop and improve GIS tools like 2D and 3D mapping, modeling and remote sensing. Geographic scientists are the people behind the tools that GIS analysts use every day.

What is a GISc Certification?

A GISc program is a graduate-level certification or degree that people can complete after their bachelor’s degree. For people interested in pursuing the GISc field, a GISc certification is highly recommended to further their skill set, advance their career and broaden their professional network.² Typically a GISc program takes one of two paths: a master’s degree, or a postbaccalaureate certificate.

Online GISc Certificate

An online GISc Certificate can be completed more quickly and may cost less than a master’s degree. Sometimes classes completed in a certificate program can count towards a master’s degree. The total number of courses for a GISc Certificate may be around 15 credits chosen from a set of electives or a mixture of required courses and chosen electives.

In a general GISc certificate program, students will need to take an introductory course that covers the theories and methods of geographic data processing. In a certificate program that is more specific in nature, such as in Environmental GISc, students may have the flexibility to choose classes that focus on the reasons for health variance between cities or neighborhoods or the management of natural environmental hazards.

How is the Master of Geographic Information Science Different from a GISc Certificate?

A master’s degree in GIScience, on the other hand, takes about two years to complete and is broader in scope than the GISc certificate. Both the certificate and the degree are at the master’s level, but the master’s degree covers everything from cartographic design and remote sensing to biostatistics, algorithms and programming, data architecture and urban and economic applications. Students in a GISc master’s degree often complete a real-world practicum that culminates their experience in a professional environment.

What Can You Do with a GISc Certificate?

GISc professionals can work in many different roles and industries. Their jobs are often behind-the-scenes but they have a far-reaching impact. Any industry that relies heavily on data-driven decisions probably relies on geographic information systems and the GISc professions that design and manage them.

Industries that often employ GISc professionals include finance, real estate, marketing, government, agriculture and emergency response crews. Imagine a business that wants to select a new site or a city office that needs to expand services to alleviate homelessness. A GISc professional can help drive informed decisions in both of these scenarios.

Below are some examples of what careers you could pursue after completing a GISc certification program:

Urban and Regional Planner

Urban and regional planners can help cities and communities accommodate for population growth and plan for economic development. They can administer policies and plan land use, gather and analyze census data and market research, review and help with site selections and stay abreast of zoning and building codes.

The career outlook for urban and regional planners is excellent. Job growth is projected to grow 11% by 2029 and the median annual wage was $75,950 in May 2020 with the highest-paying jobs in the federal government.³ A master’s degree is typically required to work in this field.

Cartographer and Photogrammetrist

Cartographers typically collect and examine geographic data from ground surveys, aerial photographs and satellite images. They create digital or graphic maps, charts and visual representations of data. Photogrammetrists, on the other hand, plan aerial and satellite surveys and collect spatial data like elevation and distance.

The career outlook is growing for cartographers and photogrammetrists. They often create interactive maps with population density and demographic characteristics for governments, businesses, real estate professions and urban and regional planners. The median annual wage was $68,380 in May 2020.⁴ Although it is not necessarily required, a master’s degree may be helpful to advance to management or administrative positions.


Geoscientists encompass a broad range of professionals, from geologists to oceanographers and paleontologists. Most geoscientists work in architectural engineering or related services, followed by mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction. Geoscientists might conduct field studies, collect rock samples, analyze aerial photographs, create geologic maps and charts, use remote sensing equipment and GIS software to analyze data, supervise technicians and prepare scientific reports to present to clients or colleagues.

Employment for geoscientists is likely to grow due to the need for energy, environmental protection and responsible land use. Geoscientists might aid in searching for and developing natural resources, preserving and protecting the environment or reclaiming land. The median annual wage was $93,580 in May 2020.⁵

Gain New Skills and Advance Your GISc Career

The future is bright for GISc professionals, and a GISc certification can help you achieve your potential. If you complete an online GISc certificate program or an online Master of Geographic Information Science, you can advance your career in several industries including agriculture, government, real estate, finance or marketing, just to name a few.

If you’re looking for a flexible and affordable GISc certification program, consider how a Kent State University GISc program can take you to the next level. You’ll learn how to solve global challenges from dedicated experts using cutting-edge technology. Talk to an Admissions Advisor to determine which path is right for you.


  1. Retrieved on 8, June, 2021, from, gisgeography.com/history-of-gis/
  2. Retrieved on 9, June, 2021, from, urisa.org/clientuploads/directory/Documents/Committees/Professional%20Education/URISA_GeospatialFactSheet_GeospatialCareers_Dec2019.pdf
  3. Retrieved on 9, June, 2021, from, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/urban-and-regional-planners.htm
  4. Retrieved on 9, June, 2021, from, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/cartographers-and-photogrammetrists.htm
  5. Retrieved on 9, June, 2021, from, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/geoscientists.htm
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Dr. Astrid N. Sambolín Morales is an Assistant Professor in Kent State Online’s 100% Online Master of Education degree in Cultural Foundations. She received her PhD in Educational Equity and Cultural Diversity from the University of Colorado Boulder and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research provides a more nuanced picture of the agency, resistance, and empowerment enacted by displaced Puerto Rican m(others) in the U.S., and her work was funded by several grants, including the University of Colorado Natural Hazards Center, the BUENO Center for Multicultural Education, the URBAN Research Network, and the NAEd Spencer Foundation.
Felesia McDonald, ’14 is an adjunct instructor in the iSchool, teaching courses in the 100% Online Master of Science in User Experience. McDonald is also the Sr Manager UX Design at Optum, a branch of UnitedHealth Group.