Find GIS Degree Programs Near You
Take advantage of our handy state guides to find a GIS degree on your home turf! Many schools now offer everything from associate degrees to PhD programs. GIS is a niche field, so can be difficult to find academic programs in certain states (we’re looking at you, Vermont). If that’s the case, you may wish to explore public and private options in neighboring areas.
Select Your State
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Washington, DC
- West Virginia
How to Choose a GIS Program in Your Region
Let’s say you live in Northern Virginia and you’re considering GIS degree programs in the Mid-Atlantic region. How do you decide on a school? Should you choose James Madison, UMD, Virginia Tech, or Penn State? Should you be willing to consider out-of-state tuition? And does the university name make a difference to local employers?
Here’s the hard truth—once you graduate, schools may have zero name recognition for GIS employers outside of the local area. When you hit the job market, the most important items on your résumé will be internships & relevant work experience (e.g. real-world class projects). So we recommend you:
- Match the school to your GIS focus. For example, Virginia Tech and Penn State might be good choices for GIS developers & data scientists. James Madison might be an ideal fit if you’re fascinated by intelligence & defense work.
- Ask the Department of Geography (or relevant school) if it has ties to local industries, government employers & companies. What kinds of GIS work do they do together?
- Connect with professors & graduate students who have a passion for your field of GIS interest. They will advise you on career paths and introduce you to potential employers.
In general, powerhouse GIS schools are often flagship public universities (e.g. Texas A&M-College Station, UMD-College Park, UIUC, UW-Madison, etc.), major public research universities (e.g. Penn State, UCLA, etc.), or well-endowed private schools (e.g. USC, Johns Hopkins, etc.). Many of these are also USGIF Accredited Education Partners.
But don’t be afraid to go with your gut. You may find that a smaller private university pays more attention to its GIS undergraduates than a large research university that favors its MS & PhD students.
What States are Strong in GIS?
Picking a state for your GIS career is a bit like choosing your favorite restaurant—it’s a matter of personal taste. If you fancy the idea of analyzing oil & gas pipelines, then Texas should be at the top of your shortlist. If you’re focused on complex urban planning, you could explore jobs in major Florida, New York, and California cities. Here are a few of the most well-known regions for GIS experts:
- Dulles Tech Corridor & Capitol Area: This region broadly encompasses Washington DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland. Thanks to heavy tech investment, it’s also a hub for geospatial research, intelligence, and government contract jobs (e.g. military & defense).
- Southern Energy Region: We’re talking about states like Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. Oil, gas, and energy companies always need GIS specialists who understand the landscape. Plus they’re willing to pay employees for their expertise.
- Pacific Northwest: Oregon and Washington State are known for their strengths in forestry, water, environmental consulting, and planning. But keep in mind that Seattle also has a thriving tech sector.
Big states with large infrastructures usually have more diverse job openings than small states. But it all comes down to your individual situation. GIS graduates who love fieldwork could be miserable in DC and joyous in Idaho. Do your research before packing your bags:
- Talk to leaders of local chapters in the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) or folks in the ESRI Young Professionals Network.
- Find out what industries & sectors are hungry for GIS specialists.
- Skim through average GIS salaries by state.
Remember, too, that local and regional governments across the USA will almost always be dependable employers of recent GIS graduates.