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GISc Certification Requirements and Career Possibilities

September 30, 2021
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A recent scan of Geographic Information System (GIS) news stories highlights its critical role in conservation efforts, tropical cyclone risk assessment; citywide collaboration, planning and response; electrical utility infrastructure resilience and U.S. Department of Transportation planning and operation.1,2,3,4,5 These are just a few examples of the far-reaching influence GIS and Geographic Information Science (GISc), the science behind this technology, has in our lives. The global market for GIS was $8.1 billion in 2020 and has a projected growth of $14.5 billion by 2025.6 There’s no better time to get involved in this red-hot field by arming yourself with the education and credentials necessary to compete for the most lucrative, in-demand and rewarding jobs.

In this article, we’ll give you a look inside this exciting industry. Learn what GISc is and related terms you’ll need to know. Discover the value of an online GISc certificate program or online master’s degree in Geographic Information Science. We’ll explain how they differ. You’ll also learn what you can do with GISc certification or a GISc Master’s Degree.

Can you study for this career while working full time? Yes, you can—with an online GISc certificate or online GISc master’s degree program.

What is Geographic Information Science?

Geographic Information Science (GISc) is the scientific theory behind the apps, maps, data, software, satellites and analysis that comprise Geographic Information Systems (GIS). It encompasses the conceptual ideas that are used to implement GIS devices. Scientists and analysts design GIS systems and solve problems by working with the various aspects of GIS—surveying, remote sensing, surveying, geography, mathematics and programming.7,8

You’ll also see the term geospatial in articles and job descriptions in the field—this is used to describe data and technology that has a locational or geographic component. Geospatial data comes from satellite imagery, GPS data and geotagging, which is geographic data added to a digital photograph, video clip and other types of media.9,10

What is the Difference Between GIS and GIScience?

Just as aerodynamics is the science behind the aviation industry, GIScience (GISc) is what makes GIS possible. However, the field of GIS emerged in the 1960s, with computers and early research into quantitative and computational geography, whereas the field of GISc would not be defined until decades later. The first computerized GIS was created in 1963, and the first computer mapping software programs in 1964, though GIS tools were not available to the public until the 1980s.11,12

GISc is focused on how geographic information systems work and is central in its development. Scientists research better ways to store spatial information, gather data and analyze that data, to make better GIS products.7 Michael F. Goodchild defined the term in 1990. He defined GISc research as being centered in the following areas: “spatial analysis and spatial statistics; spatial relationships and database structures; artificial intelligence and expert systems; visualization; and social, economic, and institutional issues.”12

What is a GISc Certification?

GISc certification is an intensive, targeted program for the development of skills that are highly sought after in the field. A postbaccalaureate certification course gives you the quality of a master’s degree program in GISc, but in a short-term program that can be completed in a year’s time. Since GISc certification can vary between colleges and universities, you should research schools of interest to see if their certificate program aligns with your career goals and your schedule.


Although GISc certification requirements may differ between institutions, there are GISc certification programs that do not have a GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) requirement, and only require that you have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university before enrolling. You may also be required to submit letters of recommendation from employers and/or professors, a goal statement, and your resume.


Required and elective courses will depend upon the college you choose, and there may be different concentrations available, such as General GISc or Environmental GISc. General GISc will likely include required courses such as Geographical Information Science and Cartographic Design, with electives such as data science, GIS and health, algorithms and programming, spatial programming, GIS and environmental hazards, global health, spatiotemporal analytics and geodatabases.

What Can You Do with a GISc Certification?

The fields of GIS, geospatial data and GISc are all-encompassing, touching on virtually every industry in public, private and government sectors. There are many career opportunities—if you have the right skills—in fields as diverse as financial services, health care, retail and transportation/logistics.13 GISc certification, or a GISc master’s degree, gives you a deeper knowledge of how GISc functions across many industries and how it can be used to find innovative solutions for the greatest challenges we face around the world.

Industries and uses of GISc knowledge and skills include:


Geospatial data gives retailers detailed information about their customers that helps them determine what brands and products to offer. This data can include housing prices, income, the performance of surrounding businesses and population demographics. Socioeconomic data, traffic patterns, foot traffic and local residences can help companies decide on future construction.13

Health Care

The study of epidemiology and geography of health care relies on geospatial data. Medical professionals and researchers use it to discover and investigate influencing factors and patterns. Data can include environmental hazards, migrations, water location and the prevalence of drug users. There are many potential benefits for human health.13

Financial Services

This industry uses geospatial data to determine the most promising ventures and the best investments. In addition to financial forecasts and accounting data, financial firms use geospatial analysis to visualize land and real estate holdings, track changes to regional development, analyze infrastructure and services in a region and better understand geographic and demographic data related to current and prospective investments.13

Logistics and Transportation

Geospatial data uses now go far beyond navigational maps. GPS is used to dispatch and track vehicles, analyze transportation routes for maximum efficiency, and map warehouse locations for inventory purposes.13

Future uses (and career opportunities) include biosecurity and health informatics, civil engineering, environmental and food security; urban health, education, crime and economic development; disease treatments and outcomes, and regional climate response.13

GISc certification is an attractive choice for professionals, as you can continue to work while studying in an online GISc certification program. Consider a master’s degree in GISc if you have a bit more time and wish to start your career at a higher level with greater earning potential. Professionals with graduate degrees earn more and experience lower unemployment than those without. Professionals with a master’s degree earn 20% more than those with a bachelor’s degree.14

Kent State University Online GISc Certificate and Master’s Degree Programs: Your Key to an Exciting Career

If you’re ready to take the next step on your way to a rewarding and lucrative career for future success, the online Master’s and Certification Programs in Geographic Information Science at Kent State University can help you get there, quickly and affordably. These GISc programs are designed for busy professionals. You’ll learn from full-time faculty with extensive expertise in geospatial analysis, remote sensing, public health mapping, crime analysis, geomorphology and more.

With Kent State’s online GISc certificate program, you can choose Environmental GISc or General GISc, depending upon your desired career. The Kent State online Master of Geographic Information Science (MGISc) program provides you with the technical, programming and analytical knowledge you need to be a leader in this field. Electives in the MGISc program include GIS and Health, Urban and Economic GIS, Spatiotemporal Analytics, Environmental GIS and Global Health.

Upon obtaining your certificate or master’s degree, you’ll be able to embark on a rewarding journey and have a meaningful impact in the world, with virtually unlimited career possibilities.


1. Retrieved on June 9, 2021, from directionsmag.com/article/10799
2. Retrieved on June 9, 2021, from geospatialworld.net/blogs/tropical-cyclone-risk-assessment-using-gis-mapping/
3. Retrieved on June 9, 2021, from geoconnexion.com/news/hexagon-introduces-hxgn-connect-a-saas-workspace-enabling-seamless-citywide-collaboration-planning-and-response
4. Retrieved on June 9, 2021, from geoconnexion.com/news/trimble-introduces-vegetation-management-solution-for-improving-electric-utility-infrastructure-resilience
5. Retrieved on June 9, 2021, from geoconnexion.com/news/here-announces-mobile-lidar-data-street-level-imagery-and-core-geospatial-data-now-accessible-within-bentleys-orbit-for-reality-modelling-and-digital-twin-workflows
6. Retrieved on June 9, 2021, from marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/geographic-information-system-market-55818039.html
7. Retrieved on June 10, 2021, from gisgeography.com/giscience-geographic-information-science/
8. Retrieved on June 10, 2021, from gisgeography.com/what-gis-geographic-information-systems/
9. Retrieved on June 10, 2021, from gislounge.com/difference-gis-geospatial/
10. Retrieved on June 10, 2021, from techopedia.com/definition/86/geotagging
11. Retrieved on June 10, 2021, from esri.com/en-us/what-is-gis/history-of-gis
12. Retrieved on June 10, 2021, from josis.org/index.php/josis/article/viewArticle/32
13. Retrieved on June 10, 2021, from trajectorymagazine.com/past-present-future-geospatial-data-use/
14. Retrieved on June 10, 2021, from https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2020/data-on-display/education-pays.htm