Geospatial science is the collection of data relating to people, places, environments, ecology, geological processes and geographical variation. This information is analyzed through applied information technology. The subject combines environmental analytics with spatial analysis, a tool used in a range of environmental sciences such as ecology and geology. Geospatial science degrees are available in both bachelor's and master's. They help students see a landscape as a resource, as a relic and as a series of interlinked environmental elements.
A bachelor's degree in geospatial science will help prepare students for a range of roles such as a GIS technician, remote sensing specialist, as a statistician or data scientist, or in analytics. Master's degrees will provide the student with more intense research, analytical and processing skills that could lead to a management position or project design and management.
Below is a list of programs including information on available degrees at both undergraduate and postgraduate study.
Research Geospatial Specialties
Courses in Geospatial Science
Most degrees comprise core modules that ensure that students get the full breadth of required skills and help them develop their professional interests. There will also be a number of options for the student to tailor their pathway. A typical bachelor's degree in geospatial science will include some of the following modules:
- Math, physics and data science (to include statistics) as core principles of the science
- Information technology and science including use of ArcGIS, Map Info and SPSS
- Principles and practice of GIS and cartography
- Modules centered on a range of surveying techniques and methods
- Human geography and physical geography
Students can then choose relevant minors and electives based on their area of interest including environmental science, archaeology, ecology and other areas that benefit from principles, methods and technology of geospatial science. Depending on the college, you may or may not work on a final project such as a dissertation.
A typical master's degree in geospatial science will include the following modules:
- Landscape analysis and administration
- Geospatial data infrastructure
- Advanced research skills
- Advanced research projects
- Geospatial computing including cloud technology
Most master's programs finish with a dissertation or a thesis that will form a large part of the final grade.
Earth science, geography or environmental science schools, depending on the structure, will administer geospatial science courses. Their admission process is usually tough with good grades expected in math, geography and information technology. Each school will set their own admission requirements onto a master's program, but a high GPA will usually secure the offer of a place.
Geospatial Science for Environmental Sciences
Geospatial science degrees allow students with a more technical understanding and interest blend principles of information technology and data science with the environment. Those who wish to enter into a career in the environment should examine each available course and seek those who offer concentrations in this area. Particularly examine those colleges with more prestigious environmental science departments.
Relevant modules will include ecology, environmental studies, environmental policy or planning. Each of these choices will provide different entry points into an environmental career so try to understand your own motivations, strengths and interest before choosing a course of study.
New Developments in Geospatial Science
The major new development in this industry is the rapid expansion of the use of GIS. It's become almost ubiquitous in government, private industry and charity as a means of mapping landscapes and acquiring usable data from it. Mobile technology and Cloud have both contributed to this but the major reason for its uptake is reduced cost. The devastation of Hurricane Katrina proved a landmark for the use of GIS in relief efforts as up-to-the-minute data allowed FEMA and relief charities to monitor the changing topography.
Further advances include robotic mapping technology that now routinely collect sample data from sites. However, we will need human interaction and interpretation the correct collection of the data. One major development is in the use of aerial drones for monitoring and survey. These are far cheaper than manned light aircraft used previously to collect aerial photography and other data only seen from the air.
With applications in archaeology, ecology, disaster relief and mitigation, coastal zone management, urban planning and development, geospatial science is a growing industry with some exciting new technologies on the way. It is fast replacing conventional cartography in some areas.
Geospatial Technologies Degrees
Geospatial technologies have grown exponentially in the last couple of decades. They are now cheaper and more efficient than they have ever been, representing a cost and time saving. Geospatial technologies include GIS, photogrammetry and remote sensing. These tools are used extensively in a wide range of environmental sciences, in academia and in practical application. They are useful for job roles such as regional planning, conservation, site analyses in archaeology and disaster relief.
Each tool and technical method presents its own benefits and fulfils certain roles. They output data used in a range of applications suitable for almost any field. It can be produced as a cartographic map or other visual format and convertible to a database to work with almost any software type. It allows a range of decision makers to plan activities and to investigate sites without destroying the environmental, historical or cultural fabric.
Geospatial technologies are a growing techniological area. Most degree courses in the environmental sector offer some form of education with geospatial technologies today. However, some professionals never had this opportunity when studying their degree. That is why a growing number of colleges offer postgraduate certification in geospatial technologies to take either immediately after degree graduation, or as a practical study with many years of on-the-job experience.
Courses in Proficiency in Geospatial Technologies
These courses are designed (usually as certificates or diplomas) as a course of postgraduate study. Prospective students must already have a bachelor's degree in a relevant subject such as those mentioned above. It is also useful to courses such as geography and geoscience. The certificate will teach students most or all of the most common methods of geospatial technology, the theory and the practice - allowing them to take this knowledge into their existing jobs. Students will typically typical the certificate will contain modules with such titles as:
- Foundations of geospatial technologies
- ArcGIS certification
- Intern programs to learn the skills in a practical setting
- Data mining and processing
- Concepts in Big Data
- Spatial analysis in GIS
These will form the core of the degree/certificate, and students may find some courses offer electives in order to specialize in a certain area. Example titles may include GIS for marine conservation, spatial analysis in archaeology.
Course material will focus on the methods and tools of Geospatial Intelligence Analytics and developing methods of knowledge. As this is an applied science, there is likely to be a large project at the end that will constitute a major part of the grade. It will incorporate practical, methodological and analytical methods.
Proficiency in Geospatial Technologies for Environmental Sciences
Geospatial technologies have proven highly useful for the environmental sector. GIS has been useful for for conservation and landscape analysis. Aerial photography has helped researchers identify archaeological sites. Most of these tools are also useful for the logistics of regional planning for new facilities. It's easier to examine potential natural disasters - are we trying to build on a flood plain? Will the pollution harm the fabric of an environmentally sensitive area?
These skills are transferable; you will not necessarily have to come from an environmental background in order to develop the skills necessary. Students could work as a GIS technician in the environment with almost any relevant degree course. These courses teach the practical methods and theory only. Student have the opportunity to develop their own projects within the framework of the course.
New Developments in Geospatial Technologies
The major development for geospatial technologies concerns affordability and flexibility. The exponential growth of use of the technology, especially in the environment, is due to available hardware, cloud technology and the real cost saving that it represents for conservationists, archaeologists and landscape planners. It is used by small and large businesses, by charities and governments more now than ever before and this is expected to continue to grow. Professionals can now collect more data, more cheaply and much faster. With database and statistical software packages it's possible to do more with the existing data and process it much faster than ever before.
This means potentially up to the minute data sets that can provide an accurate picture of a landscape or area on any given day or month. Most areas of environmental science have benefited, particularly in tracking glacier retreat, flooding, pollution spread and the impact of human traffic on a landscape.
Read more about geospatial technology.
List of Geospatial Degree Programs
Boston University Earth & Environment
685 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
BU offers students a chance to study a Master of Arts degree in Remote Sensing and Geospatial Science. The prestigious department will allow the student to develop their skills in GIS, remote sensing, cartography and geospatial analysis to an advanced level. At the end, students will be able to use these tools to develop solutions to some of the most common contemporary social, logistical and environmental issues.
College of Arts and Sciences
School of Earth, Environemntal and Society
190 Overman Hall
Bowling Green, OH 43403
This institute offers a MS in Applied Geospatial Science. The student has a large choice of module options from GIS, remote sensing, spatial modelling, seminars in various environmental aspects and the ability to combine these studies with a number of Earth sciences such as geology, geography and sustainability.
3775 Pentagon Blvd.
Beavercreek, OH 45431
Students have the choice of an Associates Degree or an Applied Science Degree at Clarke State. Whichever you choose, you will develop skills in information acquisition, manipulation, management and interpretation. You also have the further option for taking these programs to a full bachelor's degree in the future.
Nicholas School of the Environment
9 Circuit Drive
Durham, NC 27708
Part of the Nicholas School of the Environment, their Geospatial Analysis Certification program of study includes undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral courses. They also offer non-degree programs and distance learning for those who already have a degree and wish to include these skills in their employment portfolio. Students will learn practical application of epidemiology, environment, planning, economics and other critical areas.
777 Grandview Drive
Kalispell, MT 59901
Students can expect to study the full range of course options for geospatial technologies plus some emerging technologies. This is one of the few colleges that offer a course of study in unmanned aerial photography. This is expected to be a growing area of study and land management. It also focuses on elements of data science such as databases.
Department of Geography and GeoInformation Science
4400 University Dr.
Suite 2400, Exploratory Hall
Fairfax, VA 22030
They offer a Master of Science in Geoinformatics and Geospatial Intelligence. It mostly focuses on data science and the computational processes of data acquisition, processing and modeling. Applications for this science include military, government planning and conservation. The student will study theory and practice of GIS, analyzing digital imaging and computational principles of all aspects of the methods and the science.
Cultural Science Department
1833 West Southern Ave.
Mesa, AZ 85202
This Arizona community college offers four pathways for the student. The first is an Associates Degree in Geospatial Technologies. The second, third and fourth options include Certificate of Completion grades I (technician), II (analyst/developer) and III (transfer emphasis). Each focuses on a different application of the technology.
Administration Buidling, 4th Floor
1400 Townsend Drive
Houghton, MI 49931
Offering a MS in Integrated Geospatial Technologies, students have the option to study on campus or online. It teaches practical skills in geospatial technologies for postgraduate students wishing to enter into this field. The course covers photogrammetry, surveying, GIS, data acquisition and use. At the end, the student will have transferable skills suitable for most job roles.
College of Natural and Applied Sciences
Geography, Geology, Planning
901 S. National Avenue
Springfield, MO 65897
MSU offers a Geospatial Sciences in Geography, Geology, and Planning Masters as well a postgraduate certificate, designed to follow on from a degree program. It covers a range of practical applications including GIS, remote sensing and internet mapping, LIDAR and photogrammetry. It is highly recommended to current students of MSU studying anthropology, criminology, biology and the Earth sciences. The department also welcomes professionals from the USGS and other experienced employees looking to update and expand their skills.
College of Natural Resources
2820 Faucette Dr.
Campus Box 8001
Raleigh, NC 27695
This is an online Master of Science program in Geospatial Information Science and Technology. Utilizing both theoretical and practical application, students will finish their degree with working knowledge of the science for public planning, private organization use and in logistics. This is a one-year full-time study program conducted online only. No campus attendance course is available.
College of Social and Behavorial Sciences
Geogrpahy, Planning, and Recreation
19 W. McConnell Drive
SBS West - Bldg #70, Room 201
PO BOX 15016
Flagstaff, AZ 86011
Students of this MS in Applied Geospatial Sciences will cover a number of areas from human geography (including community development, cultural geography, and recreation management), logistical areas such as urban and regional planning and land management, physical geography and natural processes. They will use up to date technologies in practical application of some of the issues facing the environment and local communities.
Southern New Hampshire University - Online
2500 N. River Rd.
Hookset, NH 03106
Offering a BS for geospatial technology for geosciences, SNHU's course of study examines the natural processes of the Earth. Students will learn to apply the technology to geography, geology, physics, chemistry and other core sciences. Graduates have gone on to work in the geosciences, planning, conservation and remote sensing. Many end up as GIS technicians.
College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Department of Environmental Resources Engineering
Syracuse, NY 13210
SUNY offers a Master of Science program in Geospatial Information Science and Engineering (GIScE). It is offered to those students who desire to study spatial information collection and analysis, but also as an applied science such as modeling. The MS includes projects that focus on both the applied and theory aspects of recording topographical features and subterranean resources. Students will study Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for both engineering and environmental problems.
College of Science and Engineering
Department of Computing Science
6300 Ocean Dr. Unit 5868
Corpus Christi, TX 78412
The Geographic Information Science & Geospatial Surveying Engineering degree (and variations on) are available at BS, MS and PhD level from this prestigious college. Using both practical and theoretical methods and tools, students will prepare for geomatics and surveying roles in their future careers.
Department of Geosciences
340 N. Campus Drive
216 Gearhart Hall
Fayetteville, AR 72701
This comprehensive online postgraduate certificate is designed for existing professionals in any field that may use geospatial technology. It is also a useful course of study for students who wish to explore a career in the geospatial technologies but do not want to limit their study to just one method. Students will study GIS, surveying photogrammetry and receive full certification in ArcGIS at the end of their studies.
College of Arts and Sciences
Department of Geography
Wesleyan Hall 129A
Florence, AL 35632
Their Master of Science program applies spatial knowledge and emerging science to solve a variety of practical problems for the modern world. Students of this program will use technologies and mathematical methods in the development of practical solutions including environmental monitoring and research, transport and civic planning and even in the private sector. Most graduates of UNA tend to work in developing government policy.
School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences
800 West Campbell Road, GR31
Cecil H. Green Hall 3.104
Richardson, TX 75080
This institution offers the following programs of study:
- Bachelor of Science in Geospatial Information Sciences: : This 120 semester credit hour degree gives students the choice between Geocomputation or Geography. It covers a full program of theory and practice of GIS and related technologies.
- Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence: This 15 credit course focuses on the practical application of GIS for public, private and charitable organizations
- Master of Science in Geospatial Information Sciences: A 36 semester credit hour as a joint program between the schools of economics and political and policy science, and with natural science and mathematics
- PhD in Geospatial Information Sciences: a full doctoral program on offer from the same schools
University of Utah, Department of Geography
332 South 1400 East
BLDG 73, Rm. 217
Salt Lake City, UT 84112
UU offers three options to study geospatial technologies. The first is a terminal Associates Degree. Secondly, they offer a Certification of Completion. Third is a Certificate of Proficiency. All three focus heavily on GIS. The courses also include other forms of geospatial technology in a working environment.
Department of Geography
1301 College Avenue
Fredericksburg, VA 22401
The MSGA enables students to develop advanced skills in all aspects of geospatial technology. They will be able to assess and critique data to develop solutions to spatial questions. The course follows a program of both technology and methods and theory and practice. It is designed to provide students with practical, working experience to take into a career. There is no thesis/dissertation with this program.
1900 Commerce Street
Pinkerton Building, 3rd Floor
Tacoma, WA 98402-3100
Forming part of the Urban Studies school, this MS in Geospatial Technologies will prepare students for a career as an environmental or urban planner. It focuses heavily on GIS software, hardware and data processing. One specialist area it offers that others may not is the application of mobile-based LBS as a data collection and analysis method.
Geospatial Science - Related Degrees
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