New GIS Education Options for Fall 2012

By Adena Schutzberg

New Certificate and Degree Programs

Below are just some of the new residence and online GIS courses and programs offered by U.S. colleges and universities.

  • The University of Wisconsin Stevens Point offers, in addition to its credit and non-credit courses and workshops, self-paced online GIS courses. Two are currently available for $250 each: Fundamentals of ArcGIS (ArcGIS 10.1) and GIS for Farmland Preservation Planning.
  • Stark State College, Ohio, will offer a residence associate degree in GIS starting this fall.
  • California State University, Fresno's Division of Continuing and Global Education offers a new online 12 credit certificate of advanced study in GIS. A Professional Science Master's in Water Resource Management is in development and shares one course with the certificate.
  • The University of Florida Department of Urban and Regional Planning in the College of Design, Construction and Planning will launch a new online master’s degree in urban and regional planning with specializations in geographic information systems, or GIS, and sustainability.
  • An online advanced certificate program offered by Long Island University (LIU) for mobile and Web GIS is up and running.
  • Nicolet College in Rhinelander, WI (part of the state Technical College System) is offering a new residence associate degree in GIS this fall.
  • Penn State’s certificate and master’s programs are not new, but the calendar has changed, making it possible to better manage financial aid, and if preferred, complete the programs faster. [Disclosure: I am an advisor to this program.]


With just six data points, it’s hard to draw any substantial conclusions, but some observations may be valuable.

  • Of the new programs cited, five are from state schools and one is from a private school (LIU).
  • Three schools offer associate degrees or post-baccalaureate certificates, while one offers a graduate degree.
  • Four of the offerings are fully online, while two are taught in residence.

Because states have been cutting funding for their public higher education systems, I am a bit surprised so many of them are introducing new degrees. On the other hand, the mission of technical schools and community colleges is tied to employment. The LIU program is, so far as I know, unique, but is clearly positioning the university to capture a specific niche and better enable students to compete in the job market.

Two-year degrees or certificates seem to reflect the economic situation. They can quickly give students the skills needed to enter the job market for the first time or support a career change.

Online education is growing fast, in part due to demand from potential students who want to study while working full-time. College and universities are also exploring online education because the teaching burden can sometimes be met with existing faculty or using less expensive adjunct instructors.

Published Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Written by Adena Schutzberg

Published in


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