GIS Certificate Program

The Department of Geography offers a graduate certificate in geographic information systems (GIS), with the following objectives:

  • to provide participants with a concentrated geography background focusing on geographic information techniques
  • to prepare participants with technical skills in using GIS
  • to qualify participants for applications of GIS in various areas

A certificate will be awarded to the participants who successfully complete the required coursework.

What is GIS?

high-resolution near-infrared image
A high-resolution, near-infrared image

A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer-based information system that is capable of storing and analyzing spatial data. GIS integrates various map layers and non-spatial data and produces new spatial information for the decision-making process.

GIS includes common database operations, spatial statistical analysis, computer graphics and visualization, and geographic analysis. Current satellite remote sensors provide GIS with the latest information about the earth’s environment.

Today, GIS is taught and studied in colleges and universities, also applied in many areas ranging from emergency planning to landfill site selection, and from mapping wildlife habitat to land use/land cover change detection.

GIS has become a multi-billion-dollar industry employing hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

Career Opportunities

GIS jobs can be found at public (federal/state/local) and private agencies and organizations. The following are examples of the possible fields:

  • City and regional planning
  • Emergency management
  • Transportation planning
  • Conservation and wildlife management
  • Forest inventory and management
  • Environmental planning and protection
  • Coastal water quality management
  • Real estate assessment
  • Commercial marketing
  • Site selection and analysis
  • Landcover mapping and land-use planning
  • Business logistics

Graduates of the GIS certificate program have found employment with state agencies, such as the Alabama Emergency Management Agency and Alabama Department of Environmental Management; city, county, and metropolitan planning organizations; and private engineering companies and environmental consulting firms.

Program Requirements

To pursue the graduate-level GIS certificate, students must have a bachelor’s degree in a field that deals with geographic information, such as geography, natural resources, and land-use management, environmental analysis, regional and environmental planning, civil engineering, or business applications. Program Requirements

Students must apply to the program via the graduate school here:

Professionals that want to earn the GIS Certificate who are not enrolled in a graduate program are asked to enroll as non-degree seeking graduate students at the link above. This application does not require GRE scores, statement of purpose, or recommendation letters. Non-degree students cannot take classes outside of the GIS Certificate Program.

Required Courses (12 hours)

  • GY 570 Computer Mapping and Graphics (4 hours)
  • GY 520 Remote Sensing I (4 hours)
  • GY 530 Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (4 hours)

Electives (8 hours)

  • GY 539 GIS Programming (4 hours)
  • GY 576 GIS Practicum (4 hours)
  • GY 535 Remote Sensing II (4 hours)
  • GY 536 Advanced GIS (4 hours)
  • GY 537 GIS for Transportation (4 hours)
  • GY 538 Applications of GIS (4 hours)
  • GY 543 Location Science (3 hours)
  • GY 516: Introduction to Geostatistics using R (3 hours)
  • GY 588: Digital Terrain and Watershed (4 hours)
    *Prerequisites or permission to register may apply.

For course descriptions, visit the undergraduate and graduate catalogs.

Associated Faculty

Facilities and Technology


The Department of Geography is a member of the University Consortium for GIS (UCGIS)USGS/NGA Center of Excellence in Geospatial Sciences, and the UN Global Geospatial Information Management Academic Network of Americas.

More Information

For more information about course requirements, contact Eric Courchesne at, or view the GIS brochure 2021 (pdf).

If you have completed the requirements for the certificate, please fill out the GIS Certificate completion form NEW and email it to Eric Courchesne.