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Best Online Degrees & Certificates in GIS
Ready to commit? Explore our comprehensive rankings of the best online programs in GIS and GIScience. To help you make a quick decision, each ranking contains bullet points on the focus of the GIS coursework, estimated cost, and online availability. You can also use the handy program summary to decide if the curriculum and program perks (e.g. fieldwork) are right for your level of expertise.
- Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in GIS
- Best Online Master’s Programs in GIS
- Best Online Certificates in GIS
How to Choose an Online GIS Program
All GIS & GIScience Online Students
Start with basic quality markers. You’re looking for a regionally accredited college or university with a strong brick-and-mortar reputation and a track record of supporting GIS students throughout their studies. Insist upon the following:
- The Department of Geography should be well-respected and (if possible) nationally ranked.
- Professors should have experience teaching online courses and research interests in cutting-edge GIS applications.
- The curriculum should include plenty of real-world assignments and chances to connect with industry partners.
- Online students should have easy access to the latest GIS tools, software & technologies.
Once you’ve chosen a few schools from our online GIS listings, ask the program coordinator the following questions:
- Are there any synchronous elements like live lectures and real-time discussions?
- How will you interact with other online students? Can you work on team-based GIS projects in virtual labs?
- Are students taught Python and other useful data science techniques? Can any of this learning be applied to professional certifications?
- How many students are in online classes? Can you speak to recent GIS alumni and/or observe a class before committing?
- Will you receive hands-on support from online professors? How is this achieved?
Virtual learning doesn’t suit everyone—you’ll need to be self-disciplined and strong on timekeeping. But if you can keep yourself accountable, it may be the ideal way to transform your career.
Online GIS Undergraduate Students
Applying for an online BS in GIS is a big financial step, so don’t accept anything less than the best. When you’re examining the curriculum, look for project-based GIS coursework that will enable you build a portfolio. This will prove to employers that you know how to get real work done. Strong online undergraduate programs in GIS will also finish with an internship or capstone project.
Practically speaking, there won’t be as many choices at the undergraduate level as the graduate level. If none of the GIS degrees in our Online Bachelor’s in GIS listings suit your needs, you could consider a related online degree (e.g. computer science, geospatial intelligence, environmental science, geography, etc.). You can then customize your studies by supplementing the degree with ESRI training, an undergraduate certificate in GIS, and professional certifications.
Online GIS Graduate Students
GIS is a specialist field, so it pays to talk to mentors and peers before you commit to an MS. You may be able to progress in your job with professional certifications and/or industry training. Attend few local GIS events or conferences and network with current GIS experts to receive practical advice on your situation.
If you decide to opt for an academic qualification, you’ll have plenty of choice! Online graduate degrees in GIS are now widely available—take a look at our Online Master’s in GIS listings and Online Graduate Certificates in GIS listings to get a sense of your options. You can dive straight into an online MS or start with a online graduate certificate and then apply your credits to a degree later down the line.
Be sure to ask your employer if they can subsidize your education. Online graduate degrees in GIS are almost always more affordable and time-friendly than on-campus degrees. Point out to them that you can study part-time and apply what you learn to your current position. You may also be able to put your studies on pause for a semester or two if work responsibilities get in the way.