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Online GIS Degree Programs – A Map from Education to Career

online GIS degree

GIS, Geographic Information Systems, is a combination of both geography and Information Technology (IT). The demand for GIS professionals is rising, and tremendous growth in this sector is expected in the next ten years. This promising forecast is why many students have started taking an interest in this particular domain. Are you one of them? If so, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant program. This guide presents the best online GIS degree programs to pursue a career in geographic information systems.

Initially, GIS professionals used workstation-based tools to monitor and analyze data. With the recent advancements in this domain, however, the scenario is entirely different these days. State-of-the-art tools have entered the market, which is why precision has increased to a great extent. These software programs are easily accessible through different tech devices, even mobile phones.

What Is an Online GIS Degree, and What Can It Do for You?

The online GIS degree, in terms of curriculum, is the same as what students in on-campus classes will experience. In short, the only aspect that creates the difference is the mode of learning. On-campus degrees need you to visit the campus and take courses in person. But, this is not the case with online GIS degrees. They don’t ask you to follow a proper schedule strictly. Sometimes online classes are conducted at a specific time.

Still, if you cannot attend them for any reason, there is nothing to be concerned about. You can access the recorded lectures at any time from an online portal.

Regarding the learning opportunities, online GIS degrees are known for teaching critical programming skills focused on geography applications. The software tools are integrated with systems to analyze geographical information.

If you plan to enroll in these online degrees, you must have at least an idea of what you will learn here. In simple words, these programs teach you how to use GIS tools to monitor the necessary information associated with cultural conflicts, urban and city planning, climate change, and other similar parameters. This type of information is commonly known as spatial data.

Suppose you enroll in advanced GIS courses. In that case, they will help you learn the science behind spatial issues and how to solve related problems efficiently. Furthermore, online GIS degrees also focus on the latest approaches to exploring geographical data and managing practical algorithms.

Similarly, these courses have proved to be an excellent tool for addressing problems associated with the government sectors and private businesses. The top areas you can work as a GIS specialist include supply chain management, insurance, environmental science, software development, data analysis, and urban planning.

What To Expect From Your Online GIS Program

You can serve private and public organizations by earning an online GIS degree. Most employers prefer giving opportunities to GIS graduates who have gained some practical experience with professional courses. In brief, these courses include intensive training on using various GIS software to get spatial data and solve relevant issues, along with data management and other similar skills.

Most importantly, you get hands-on experience with GIS tools. It helps you perform well in an organization and gives you a full-time opportunity to add to your credibility. You will gain the ability to work in different fields according to your skill set and establish a successful career.

Hundreds of platforms offer online GIS courses, but shortlisting a few of them often becomes a tough nut to crack.

Are you struggling with the same? On the hunt for reliable platforms to purchase short online courses to enhance your GIS skills? Coursera and Udemy are the most trusted online platforms that offer free and paid online courses. You can choose any of these programs to get the course you want. You can choose the one you find the most suitable.

Suppose you are curious about selecting the right GIS course. In that case, a summary of a few top-rated online courses you should look into is listed below.

1. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialization

UC Davis University of California offers this course. It explores the software and terminologies used in GIS modeling and analysis. Around 66,000 people have already benefited from this course.

Total Reviews: 5,000+
Overall Rating: 4.8

2. GIS, Mapping, and Spatial Analysis Specialization

The University of Toronto has designed this course. This certificate helps you learn advanced strategies for making good maps to answer geographic queries. More than 32,000 people have already enrolled in it.

Total Reviews: 1,800+
Overall Rating: 4.9

3. GID Data Acquisition and Map Design

The University of Toronto launched this course. It is a 20-hour-long source that teaches you how to explore GIS data and efficient ways to create a practical map. Around 21,000 people have already registered.

Total Reviews: 550+
Overall Rating: 4.9

4. Machine Learning in GIS: Understand the Theory and Practice

It is all about understanding the implementation of machine learning in remote sensing and GIS in Google Earth. There are a total of 34 lectures in this certificate. It teaches everything from installing QGIS on your laptop to extensive data analysis using Deep Learning (DL) techniques.

Total Reviews: 165+
Overall Rating: 4.6

5. Advanced Career Opportunities in Geographic Information System (GIS)

The primary goal of this GIS program is to gain experience in implementing Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques in advanced GIS mapping. It consists of 11 in-depth lectures. In brief, around 2,000 students have already enrolled themselves in this certificate.

Total Reviews: 13+
Overall Rating: 4.6

How To Find the Best Online GIS Degree Programs

Choosing the right online GIS degree is essential because your future will depend on it. Therefore, never decide in a hurry. It is always better to visit the official websites of different schools, colleges, and universities to get an idea of what they are doing in the GIS domain.

Doing this will make it easy for you to draw a solid comparison between their services, and you will be able to make an informed decision. You must consider a few crucial parameters when choosing the best online GIS degree programs.

Location

Many students prefer to choose an institute that they can visit if needed. Therefore, location matters even if you want to enroll in an online degree. If you want the ability to visit the campus at least once, select a university in a reachable area.

Accreditation

Accredited programs are essentially the best kind of degree to earn. Almost all organizations, companies, or even start-ups require a degree earned from a regionally accredited institution. Therefore, don’t forget to look at the university’s accreditation before enrolling in any program.

Faculty

Getting familiar with the type of faculty an institute has matters because they will teach you throughout the degree. Always shortlist universities having highly qualified, well-experienced, and dedicated instructors.

Subjects

Keep a close eye on the subjects offered. Above all, carefully choose the topics you want to excel in. Because they must be related to what you want to achieve in your career.

Cost of the Program

For many people, cost becomes a primary concern. They want a quick return on investment, which is not a bad idea. So, before choosing an online GIS degree, ensure you know its tuition fee and other expected expenses.

Student Support

Lastly, student support services play a crucial role if any issue arises. Therefore, getting an idea of these services is also a must.

Requirements and Qualifications

Before you start applying, take a closer look at the qualifications and requirements of the degree. There are some standard admission requirements, but some parameters vary depending on the institute you select. Let’s get into the specifics of each degree’s requirements.

Associate Degree in GIS

The two most important requirements for an associate degree in GIS program include having a high school diploma and a satisfactory score on the ACT or SAT. If you have a solid computer science and math background, an associate degree in GIS is for you. Some institutes may ask you for a specific GPA and prerequisite courses.

Bachelor’s Degree in GIS

Depending upon the institution you choose for your bachelor's degree in GIS, requirements may vary a bit. For example, a few things that every university or school will ask you about include GED or a high school diploma. You must also have a decent score on SAT or ACT. To apply online, you must submit a complete application providing your personal, educational, and contact information. Consequently, submitting transcripts from every institute attended is a must. Lastly, many but not all schools need a letter of intent.

Master’s Degree in GIS

To enroll in an online master's degree in GIS, almost every school asks for at least a bachelor’s degree in GIS, environment science, geography, cartography, and other similar disciplines. To increase your chances of getting admission, universities may ask you for a minimum of 3.0 GPA (on a scale of 4.0). You may need to have some practical experience working in the area of geographic information systems.

Suppose you don’t have a bachelor’s degree in the program mentioned above. In that case, you may still be able to enroll in an online master’s degree in GIS with appropriate work experience.

Ph.D. Degree in GIS

Applicants may be required to submit proof of a master’s degree in GIS or a related program, recommendation letters, and a resume. Some institutes may also have specific GPA or work experience requirements.

Top Online GIS Associate’s Degree Programs

Are you done with your high school diploma or equivalent education? Want to do an online associate degree in GIS? Then check out the list mentioning the five best associate degree programs in GIS below:

1. Northland Community and Technical College

If you have a high school diploma or equivalent education, you can get admission to the Associate in Applied Science in Geospatial Intelligence Analysis. ACT, SAT, or ACCUPLACER testing is required. It is purely an online program. So, don’t worry if you can’t follow a tight schedule.

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2. Roane State Community College

Roane State Community College is a licensed college offering a high-quality online Associate of Applied Science in Geographic Information Systems. The requirements for admission consideration are a high school diploma and ACCUPLACER or SAT/ACT testing results.

View More About This Degree

3. Bismarck State College

HLC has given this college regional accreditation. Therefore, enrolling in the Associate in Applied Science in Geographic Information Systems offered by this institute can add value to your professional career. The program is purely online.

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4. Columbus State Community College

Taking admission to this college for an online Associate of Applied Science in Geographic Information Systems would be a significant step in your career. The school is respected because it is certified by HLC and has a good reputation in the United States. Also, the admission materials required are the same as for the programs mentioned above.

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5. Harrisburg Area Community College

An online and asynchronous Associate in Science in Geospatial Technologies has proved to be an excellent support for high school graduates. Moreover, the requirements for a successful admission are precisely the same as mentioned above for the first three associate programs.

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Top Online GIS Bachelor’s Degree Programs

If you are interested in earning a bachelor’s degree in GIS but don’t know about the top-grade programs in 2022, here is a list of the best online bachelor’s degrees in GIS.

1. Troy University

Troy is one of the leading US universities (certified by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges), offering a Bachelor’s of Science in Geographic Information Systems. In this case, the program is asynchronous and works in a purely online format.

To enroll in this degree program, you must have a high school diploma with a recommended GPA of 2.0 (on a scale of 4.0). ACT or SAT score is required. Submitting an English language proficiency certificate is a must for all international students.

View More About This Degree

2. University of Arizona

Consider this university (having HLC accreditation) to get the most out of a Bachelor of Science in Geographic Information Systems Technology. The basic requirements include:

  • SAT or ACT satisfactory score
  • High school diploma
  • Official transcript
  • English proficiency test (for overseas students only)
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3. Oregon State University

Oregon State University offers a top-rated online Bachelor of Science in Geography & Geospatial Science. It is certified by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. A high school diploma, SAT/ACT score, official transcripts, and English proficiency test are required for admission.

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4. North Carolina A&T State University

This university is known for offering an online Bachelor of Science in Geomatics. It is a regionally accredited institution that requires applicants to submit a high school diploma, SAT/ACT scores, and transcripts from any previously attended institutions. Additionally, the English proficiency test is a must for overseas applicants.

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5. University of the Potomac

Bachelor of Science in Computer Science / Geospatial Intelligence is a top online degree taught at this university. Also, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education accredits it. The admission requirements are the same as mentioned for the above programs. Lastly, one other requirement you may come across is an interview.

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Top Online GIS Master’s Degree Programs

Have you completed your bachelor’s in GIS or other relevant programs? Are you looking to enroll in a master’s degree? Then let’s look at the five best online GIS master’s degrees.

1. University of Central Arkansas

This reputed university offers a Master of Geographic Information Systems for those who have at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant discipline with a minimum of 3.0 GPA (out of 4.0). The program is 100% online. You should have a decent score on the GRE. If you are an international student, giving an English proficiency test will be an additional requirement.

View More About This Degree

2. University of Denver

If you are on the search for an online Master of Science in GIS, the University of Denver will be your go-to institute. In short, all you need to take admission in this program is a bachelor’s degree in a relevant program, a 2.5 GPA (out of 4.0), a resume, and a statement of purpose. This institute is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

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3. University of Wisconsin-Madison

A bachelor’s degree in a related major with a minimum GPA of 3.0 (on a scale of 4.0) will make you eligible to apply for the Master of Science in Cartography & Geographic Information Systems at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Additionally, HLC accredits this institute.

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4. Elmhurst University

This regionally accredited university offers a Master of Science in Geographic Information Systems. The basic requirements to enroll in this program are a bachelor’s degree, statement of purpose, letter of recommendation, and official transcripts of all schools or universities attended.

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5. Florida Atlantic University

Florida Atlantic University has offered an online Master of Science in Geoscience for several years. The program is 100% online. The requirements for successful candidates are similar to those for the above programs.

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The Benefits of Getting an Online GIS Degree

The demand for GIS skills and professionals is exponentially increasing every day. The first benefit of enrolling in an online GIS degree is that you can learn from nearly any place of your choice. It also saves the time required to go to campus and take classes there. In short, you can learn everything without disturbing your schedule.

The countless benefits of getting an online GIS degree encourage youngsters and working professionals to follow this route. For instance, these programs improve your communication skills and decision-making abilities.

Furthermore, regardless of the region you live in, you can choose to learn from highly qualified and experienced professionals from around the world. Apart from that, these degrees are accepted in all sorts of companies and organizations, both public and private.

How To Pay for Your Online GIS Degree

There are different ways to pay for your online GIS degrees. If you are fortunate enough to have cash in hand, you have the option to pay the complete semester fee in one go. But, if you can’t submit it as a single payment, as most people can’t, you can ask the relevant department to allow you to submit the fee in multiple installments.

If you want to support your education through your earnings but don’t have enough to pay, you can go to the nearby banks and ask for student loans. By following a few of their requirements, you can get a decent loan package to continue your online degree.

Similarly, governments also provide loans for education. Usually, the schools, colleges, and universities define the criteria for issuing these loans to different students. Both subsidized and unsubsidized loans are available.

Getting a loan from the government is one of the safest and most decent approaches because you get great rates. You must repay your loan amount plus any applicable interest per the instructions.

You may also be eligible for grants, which do not need to be repaid. In this case, you typically have to fulfill compulsory GPA requirements. You can also ask for scholarships from your institute or search them out from various companies and philanthropic organizations.

GIS Careers

GIS technology is utilized in a wide range of companies worldwide. Therefore, being a GIS specialist, you can work in different domains in different sectors. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), California, Colorado, Maryland, and Texas are the top four US states providing the highest employment opportunities in GIS. The GIS job outlook will likely increase by 1% in ten years (2020 to 2030).

Data science is one of the decent fields offering the highest employment opportunities for GIS specialists compared to any other domain. Though the employment growth in GIS is limited, around 100 job positions are being offered annually, and the trend will likely continue during the period 2020-2030.

Get Started With Your Favorite Online GIS Degree

Does the geographic information systems domain inspire you? Are you looking forward to a professional career in this sector? On the hunt for relevant degrees and job opportunities? Then the above discussion has got you covered. Indeed it has presented everything from the best GIS online degrees from the top-rated schools to employment opportunities and career growth.

For more information on online college degrees and career opportunities, visit GetEducated’s educational resources, and then get started by choosing the best online GIS degree for your needs.

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How does an online GIS degree work?

Answer: Online and on-campus degrees share several properties. But, online GIS degrees are more flexible if you are already working somewhere. All you need is a computer and a stable internet connection. Online GIS degrees ask you to submit assignments, but you don’t need to hand them over to your instructors.

Suppose you want to discuss something with your instructor. In that case, you can use various communication mediums: instant messaging, chat, and emails.

How do I become a successful geographic information systems specialist?

Answer: Four components are required to make your career successful in GIS. First of all, you need to master technical skills. The second component is to have an analytical approach. This skill helps you carefully analyze GIS information. Similarly, critical thinking and problem solving are the third and fourth components. Every component is a must for you to become a successful GIS professional.

What are the top schools that offer online GIS degrees?

Answer: If you are looking forward to becoming a GIS professional, the top seven schools you can get admission to in 2022 are listed below. They offer both online and on-campus classes. You can choose any of these, keeping in mind your requirements.

  • Johns Hopkins University
  • University of Denver
  • University of West Florida
  • Northeastern University
  • Ohio University
  • University of Colorado Denver
  • Northern Illinois University

How much does an online GIS degree cost?

Answer: Well, it all depends on which degree you enroll yourself in. If you want admission to an online bachelor’s degree in GIS, the tuition fee may vary between $7,500 and $21,595 per year. Bachelor’s degrees typically take four years to complete.

Suppose you are already done with your online bachelor’s in GIS and want to continue your master’s degree online in the same domain. In that case, the annual tuition fee will vary between $13,000 and $50,000. Generally, master’s degrees are two- to three-year programs. The tuition fee for an online Ph.D. degree in GIS is usually the same as for a master’s program. But, this program lasts from four to seven years.

What jobs can you get with an online GIS degree?

Answer: If you have a GIS degree in hand, you can apply to several jobs, including but not limited to GIS Developer, City Planner, Remote Sensing Analyst, Cartographer, Conservationist, Climate Scientist, and Health Geographer.

Apart from that, different law enforcement areas also need the services of GIS professionals. For example, police or other security agencies use GIS to locate and catch criminals. Similarly, firefighting helicopters use GIS technology to get familiar with the areas experiencing large fires.