GIS Certificate Program

The Department of Geography offers a graduate and an undergraduate 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 environment.

Today, GIS is not only taught and studied in colleges and universities, but 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

Courses in the GIS certificate program can be taken at the undergraduate or graduate level.

To pursue the undergraduate-level GIS certificate, students must be currently enrolled at The University of Alabama or another four-year college or university, or have two years of work experience 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.

For the graduate-level GIS certificate, students must have a bachelor’s degree in one of the above fields.

Required Courses (12 hours) Electives (8 hours)

  • GY 330 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 Fall 2020 (pdf).

If you have completed the requirements for the certificate, please fill out the GIS Certificate Completion Form (PDF) and email it to Eric Courchesne.