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University Bulletin
Graduate Degree Programs

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Program Home Page

Department of Geography, via World Campus

Anthony C. Robinson, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Geography Director, Online Geospatial Education Programs
John A. Dutton e-Education Institute

Degrees Conferred:



The Graduate Faculty


The Program

The Master of Geographic Information Systems (M.G.I.S.) degree is awarded to students who demonstrate mastery of the technical competencies and leadership skills required to design, manage, and use geographic information technologies successfully in a wide range of professional fields. The M.G.I.S. program is intended specifically for working professionals who are able to participate only on a part-time basis and at a distance. It is offered exclusively through World Campus. The M.G.I.S. complements, but does not replace, the Department of Geography's research-focused Master of Science program, which is offered at the University Park campus. Students who expect to pursue the Ph.D. in Geography should apply for admission to the residential M.S. program.

Admission Requirements

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements stated in the GENERAL INFORMATION section of the Graduate Bulletin. Applicants apply for admission to the program via the Graduate School application for admission.

The language of instruction at Penn State is English. English proficiency test scores (TOEFL/IELTS) may be required for international applicants. Consult the English Proficiency section of the Graduate Bulletin Application and Admission Procedures page for more information.

Additional requirements imposed by the Department of Geography include:

  • Statement of professional experience and goals including documentation of a minimum two years of professional experience, preferably (but not necessarily) related to geographic information technologies. A résumé may be attached as a supplement, but the statement itself should be an essay (two to three pages) that demonstrates the applicant's verbal communication skills;
  • Three letters of recommendation that attest to the applicant's readiness for graduate study and that he or she has the requisite minimum of two years of professional experience;
  • Official transcripts from all post-secondary institution attended, including the institution that conferred the applicant's baccalaureate degree (and any graduate degrees, if applicable).Official Graduate Records Examinations (GRE) score reported directly from the testing center to Penn State. GRE scores are required: however, this requirement may be waived at the discretion of the program. Please contact the graduate program directly for information on obtaining a waiver of the GRE requirement.

Credits earned at other institutions but not used to earn a degree may be applied toward the requirements for a graduate degree, subject to restrictions outlined in the Transfer Courses section of the Graduate Bulletin.

Degree Requirements

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements stated in the DEGREE REQUIREMENTS section of the Graduate Bulletin.

Students earn the M.G.I.S. degree by successfully completing 36 credits of course work, including a supervised independent project. Course requirements include a minimum of 18 credits at the 500 or 800 level, with at least 6 credits at the 500 level. The culminating experience for the degree is an independent project completed while enrolled in GEOG 596. A minimum of 6 credits and a maximum of 9 credits of GEOG 596 will count towards the degree. The independent project demonstrates the student's ability to apply advanced knowledge and skills related to geographic information systems in a way that makes a substantial contribution to his or her professional work. For most students, the project culminates in a formal public presentation, attended by a member of the graduate faculty associated with the M.G.I.S. program, which takes place at an appropriate professional conference. Alternative arrangements are made for students with special needs or constraints. For example, students who submit written reports of project aims and outcomes for publication in adviser-approved peer-reviewed journals are exempt from the public presentation requirement. Presentations and papers are preceded by dress rehearsals that are open to all students in the program through Web and audio conferencing. As part of his or her individual studies, every student is expected to contribute a formal peer review of one other student's rehearsal.




  • 482. Making Maps that Matter with GIS (3)
    864. Professionalism in GIS&T (2)
    483. Problem-Solving with GIS (3)
    484. GIS Database Development (3)
    583. Geospatial System Analysis and Design (3)
    871. Geospatial Technology Project Management (3)
    586. Geographical Information Analysis (3)
    596. Individual Studies (6-9)

In lieu of specified prescribed and elective courses, MGIS students may elect to substitute those for courses that comprise an option. There are two option choices: Geospatial Intelligence Option (15 credits) and Geodesign Option (12 credits).


M.G.I.S. students who choose to complete the Geospatial Intelligence Option may substitute the 15 credits that comprise the option for 15 credits of prescribed and elective courses (including GEOG 482 or 864+483+484). This option is designed for current or aspiring practitioners in government agencies, businesses, and non-governmental organizations that rely on insights produced through skillful, knowledgeable, and conscientious analysis of diverse geo-referenced data to plan for emergencies, to coordinate responses to natural and human induced disasters, to enforce the law, and to plan and conduct military operations.

Core required courses: GEOG 583 (3), GEOG 586 (3), GEOG 871 (3), and GEOG 596 (6-9).

Courses required for the option (15 cr.):


  • 571. Intelligence Analysis, Cultural Geography, and Homeland Security (3)
  • 882. Geographic Foundations of Geospatial Intelligence (3)
  • 883. Remote Sensing for the Geospatial Intelligence Professional (3)
  • 884. Geographic Information Systems for the Geospatial Intelligence Professional (3)
  • 885. Advanced Analytic Methods in Geospatial Intelligence (3)


In lieu of 3 credits of a prescribed introductory course (GEOG 484) plus 9 additional elective credits, M.G.I.S. students may substitute 12 credits associated with courses that comprise the Geodesign Option. This option is designed for current or aspiring professionals in government agencies, businesses, and non-profit organizations who see limitations in current regional and urban planning and design approaches, and who seek a foundation in geospatially-based design through investigating the methods and collaborative nature of the Geodesign process.

Core required courses: GEOG 482 (3) or GEOG 864 (2), GEOG 483 (3), GEOG 583 (3), GEOG 586 (3), GEOG 871 (3), and GEOG 596 (6-9).

Courses required for the option (12 cr.):

511. Geodesign History, Theory, Principles (3)
822. Geodesign Models I: Evaluation and Decision (3)

487. Environmental Applications of GIS (3)
865. Cloud and Server GIS (3)

Student Aid

Graduate assistantships are not available. World Campus students in graduate degree programs may be eligible for financial aid. Refer to the Tuition and Financial Aid section of the World Campus website for more information.


Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 699 and 800 to 899. Advanced undergraduate courses numbered between 400 and 499 may be used to meet some graduate degree requirements when taken by graduate students. Courses below the 400 level may not. A graduate student may register for or audit these courses in order to make up deficiencies or to fill in gaps in previous education but not to meet requirements for an advanced degree.





Last Revised by the Department: Spring Semester 2018

Blue Sheet Item #: 46-04

Review Date: 1/9/2018

Faculty linked: 8/14/14


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