The Geographic Information Science and Technology online graduate programs serve as an academic pathway for students who are motivated to address major global challenges and make future technological breakthroughs via geospatial technologies. Our Master of Science in Geographic Information Science and Technology and our graduate certificates in GIST, Geospatial Intelligence and Geospatial Leadership support a multitude of backgrounds, occupations and applications that rely on geospatial technologies.
We provide an exceptional online learning environment in which you can work intensively with faculty and fellow students to examine the various ways in which spatial science is used to acquire, represent, organize, analyze and visualize information. These comprehensive programs combine a world-class scientific education with advanced GIS techniques applicable to today’s forward-thinking job market.
When you choose USC, you choose a GIS program known for academic excellence and unrivaled technological resources. Our extensive array of proprietary GIS and other programming software, electronic library holdings and webinars take these programs far past theoretical discourse and into a world of fully immersive learning.
The graduate programs’ curricula focuses on learning the various ways in which place or space (i.e., location or geography) are used to acquire, represent, organize, analyze, model and visualize information. We’ve designed the coursework rigorously, but the ultimate benefit to you is a more expansive, professionally relevant knowledge of geographic information science. During the programs, students examine the cyclical relationship between fundamental geographic information science, GIS technology and scientific discovery. Those pursuing the MS in GIST will enroll in 28 units. By taking 2 courses in each fall, spring and summer semester, you can complete the master’s program in as few as 16 to 20 months. The 16-unit graduate certificates can be completed in two semesters, taking 2 courses each semester.
When you enroll in our M.S. or graduate certificate in GIST, you’ll get hands-on spatial data acquisition experience during a one-week field excursion to the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island. You’ll design and conduct your own geospatial data collection projects and work side by side with faculty. This real-world experience can help you learn and understand the science behind the GIS/GPS hardware and software and get a glimpse into the practical methodology of GIS research.
- M.S. in Geographic Information Science & Technology (28 Units)
Required Core (16 Units) SSCI 581 Concepts for Spatial Thinking 4 units SSCI 582 Spatial Databases 4 units SSCI 587 Spatial Data Acquisition 4 units SSCI 594ab Master’s Thesis 2-2 units Tracks and Electives (Choose 3 courses using one of the following tracks) Track 1: Spatial Data Acquisition and Integration SSCI 585 Geospatial Technology Project Management 4 units SSCI 588 Remote Sensing for GIS 4 units SSCI 593 Spatial Data Integration 4 units Track 2: Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization SSCI 583 Spatial Analysis 4 units SSCI 584 Spatial Modeling 4 units SSCI 589 Cartography and Visualization 4 units Track 3: Spatial Application Development SSCI 586 GIS Programming and Customization 4 units SSCI 591 Web GIS 4 units SSCI 592 Mobile GIS 4 units Track 4: Spatial Thinking SSCI 583 Spatial Analysis 4 units SSCI 584 Spatial Modeling 4 units SSCI 585 Geospatial Technology Project Management 4 units SSCI 586 GIS Programming and Customization 4 units SSCI 588 Remote Sensing for GIS 4 units SSCI 589 Cartography and Visualization 4 units
- Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Science & Technology (16 Units)
Required Core (12 units) SSCI 581 Concepts for Spatial Thinking 4 units SSCI 582 Spatial Database 4 units SSCI 587 Spatial Data Acquisition 4 units Electives (Choose one of the following courses): SSCI 583 Spatial Analysis 4 units SSCI 584 Spatial Modeling 4 units SSCI 585 Geospatial Technology Project Management 4 units SSCI 586 GIS Programming and Customization 4 units SSCI 588 Remote Sensing for GIS 4 units SSCI 589 Cartography and Visualization 4 units SSCI 591 Web GIS 4 units SSCI 592 Mobile GIS 4 units SSCI 593 Spatial Data Integration SSCI 599 Special Topic: Geospatial Data Integration 4 units
- Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Leadership (16 Units)
Electives (Choose three of the following courses): SSCI 579 Geospatial Intelligence Tradecraft 4 units SSCI 583 Spatial Analysis 4 units SSCI 584 Spatial Modeling 4 units SSCI 585 Geospatial Technology Project Management 4 units SSCI 586 GIS Programming and Customization 4 units SSCI 588 Remote Sensing for GIS 4 units SSCI 589 Cartography and Visulization 4 units SSCI 591 Web GIS 4 units SSCI 592 Mobile GIS 4 units SSCI 593 Spatial Data Integration 4 units Required Capstone Course (4 units) SSCI 578 The Practice of Geospatial Leadership 4 units
- Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence (16 Units)
Required Core (8 units) SSCI 581 Concepts for Spatial Thinking 4 units SSCI 588 Remote Sensing for GIS 4 units Electives (Choose one of the following courses): SSCI 583 Spatial Analysis 4 units SSCI 584 Spatial Modeling 4 units SSCI 589 Cartography and Visualization 4 units Required Capstone Course (4 units) SSOC 579 Geospatial Intelligence Tradecraft 4 units
A Respected Faculty of GIST Experts With
Up-to-the-Minute Advanced Knowledge
USC’s GIST faculty is made up of a diverse team of GIST experts who are renowned for their academic research and work in the field. Our educators play an invaluable role in building USC’s reputation as a world-class institution, and they also help ensure our graduates enter the industry prepared to succeed. We pull faculty from various academic disciplines that include geographic information science, geology, geography and computer science. We strive for proactive teaching, and keeping current with the latest theory and innovations in the world of GIST is a top priority for each instructor. What they see in the field is what you’ll learn during the GIST program. Read below to find out more about these exceptional educators.
The faculty members at USC are here to guide you through your online GIST graduate studies. They’ll work closely with you to explore your strengths and interests, help you plan your academic career and assist you with professional guidance.
Our online M.S. in GIST and GIST Graduate Certificate programs offer small class sizes to ensure you get the one-on-one faculty interaction you desire. Classes are limited to 20 students and typically are smaller.
- Yao-Yi Chiang
- Yao-Yi Chiang is an Assistant Professor (Research) in the Spatial Sciences Institute and a research scientist at the USC Information Sciences Institute. He received his Ph.D. in computer science from USC in 2010. Chiang is an expert in spatial databases and GIS programing. He has published many articles on automated techniques for geospatial data extraction and integration. Prior to USC, he was a research scientist at Geosemble Technologies, which was founded based on a patent on geospatial data fusion techniques that he co-invented.
- Steve Fleming
- Steve Fleming, Professor of the Practice of Spatial Sciences, originally from Jacksonville, FL, is a retired U.S. Army colonel with command and staff experience in short-range air defense operations at the battalion, brigade and division levels. He also has operational combat experience with Joint and NATO staffs, twice deploying in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He served as the Deputy Head of the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at the United States Military Academy (West Point, NY). In this capacity, he performed duties in educational leadership, institutional governance, organizational management, applied research and teaching. Academically, Dr. Fleming served as an Academy Professor of Geospatial Information Science, specializing in: (1) dynamic mapping of coastal regions; (2) emerging terrestrial, airborne and space-based image collection systems; (3) applications of geospatial technologies for national defense (military operations, homeland security, and disaster management); and (4) online, blended education/training using mobile devices. He has taught numerous courses including Physical Geography, Remote Sensing, Photogrammetry, Surveying, Geographic Information Systems, Cartography, Military Geospatial Operations, Advanced Topics in Geography and the Environment, and Advanced Independent Studies in GIS.
- Karen Kemp
- An internationally known GIScience educator, Karen Kemp is Professor of the Practice of Spatial Sciences who joined USC in 2008. Prior to that, she was founder and director of the MS GIS program at the University of Redlands. A fellow of the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science and former associate director of the National Center for Geographic Information Science, Kemp has published many articles on GIS education, environmental modeling and GIS for the humanities, and has edited several publications including the Sage Encyclopedia of Geographic Information Science.
- Su Jin Lee
- Su Jin Lee is a lecturer in the Spatial Sciences Institute. He received his Ph.D. in geography from USC in 2012. His research focuses on human-environment dynamics and the various ways in which geoprocessing analysis methods and datasets can be used to document the role of nature in cities.
- Travis Longcore
- With a background in geography and conservation biology, Travis Longcore uses spatial tools to solve applied research questions in biological conservation, with a focus on nature in cities. His research interests include endangered species conservation, historical ecology, urban bioresource management and ecological light pollution. Longcore’s work is published in top academic journals and has been featured widely in the popular press, including National Geographic, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation. He holds appointments as an associate professor (Research) of Spatial Sciences and lecturer in Landscape Architecture in the USC School of Architecture.
- Laura Loyola
- Laura C. Loyola, Ph.D., is Lecturer of Spatial Sciences with the Spatial Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California (USC). She received her Ph.D. in 2015 in Integrative and Evolutionary Biology from USC. Her research is in the behavioral ecology and conservation of the Tana River red colobus (Procolobus rufomitratus). She investigates the behavioral observations and spatio-temporal analyses on the relationship between habitat quality and metabolizable energy for an endangered species in its natural habitat, which have consequences for wildlife conservation and forest management. She uses Geographic Information Science (GIS) and remote sensing techniques to achieve applied conservation goals on a broad scale. Her research interests draw upon her academic and field work experience in anthropology, biology, ecology, primatology, spatial sciences, and conservation. She is a member of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Sciences (SACNAS), the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, the Animal Behavioral Society, the International Society of Primatologists, the American Society of Primatologists, The Sierra Club, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and The Nature Conservancy.
- Katsuhiko “Kirk” Oda
- Katsuhiko “Kirk” Oda is Assistant Professor (Teaching) in the Spatial Sciences Institute. He received his Ph.D. in geography from Texas A&M University in 2011. His research focuses on how students’ spatial thinking skills can be augmented in higher education and the various ways in which spatial thinking can help foster a broader engagement with lifelong learning across multiple disciplines and application domains.
- Vanessa Griffith Osborne
- Vanessa Osborne is Lecturer with the Writing Program at the University of Southern California. She received her Ph.D. in English from the University of California at Irvine in 2007. In 2008 she was hired at USC where she has taught courses for the Writing Program, American Studies Department, Summer @USC Program and General Education Program. Her academic interests include 20th Century American Literature and Popular Culture, and she has published essays on shop windows in Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie and the organization of space and labor in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain. Sadly she lost badly to trivia whiz Ken Jennings on Jeopardy.
- Darren Ruddell
- Darren Ruddell is Associate Professor (Teaching) and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Spatial Sciences Institute. He received his Ph.D. in geography from Arizona State University in 2009. Ruddell utilizes geospatial technologies to investigate issues of urban sustainability and resiliency.
- Jennifer Swift
- Jennifer Swift is Associate Professor (Teaching) in the Spatial Sciences Institute and director of graduate studies for the online GIST programs. Her primary interests are in geographic information science and systems (GIS) teaching and research related to innovative programming of web maps, mobile device applications and earthquake vulnerability modeling of the built environment.
- Robert Vos
- Robert Vos is Assistant Professor (teaching) of Spatial Sciences in the Spatial Sciences Institute, where he is heavily engaged with the master’s thesis component of the online M.S. in GIST program. He also serves as director of graduate studies. An expert in sustainability science, Dr. Vos has published research in the areas of sustainable cities, environmental justice and industrial ecology. Vos also teaches courses at USC’s Price School of Public Policy and Viterbi School of Engineering, and is vice president of research with Clean Agency Inc., a sustainability consulting firm in South Pasadena, California.
- John Wilson
- The Master of Science in GIST and the GIST Certificate programs were founded by Professor John P. Wilson, director of the Spatial Sciences Institute and the GIST graduate programs, and professor of Spatial Sciences and Sociology. A renowned and respected expert in GIS and spatial thinking, Wilson is a leading advocate for spatial competency in higher education. He has published many books and articles on GIS tool development, spatial analysis and environmental modeling, and has received numerous honors for his research and teaching.
- An-Min Wu
- An-Min Wu, Ph.D., is Lecturer in the Spatial Sciences Institute, University of Southern California (USC). Her teaching experience and research interests are in the integration of environmental sciences and geographic information science. In her Ph.D. dissertation research, she examined the effect of agricultural erosion and deposition to soil carbon in depressional landscapes of Minnesota. With advanced GIS technologies and associated software/languages such as ArcGIS, SAGA-GIS, Python, and R, she developed upslope terrain attributes to better predict the spatial redistribution of soil mass and soil organic carbon under this human disturbance. She has worked as a GIS analyst, mapping engineer, and mapping project manager. Dr. Wu is a member of the American Geophysical Union, the Association for Women Geoscientists, the California Geographic Information Association, and the Minnesota GIS/LIS Consortium.
- Wei Yang
- Wei Yang, Ph.D., is Lecturer in Spatial Sciences with the Spatial Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California. She received her Ph.D. in Geography (Geographic Information Science) at the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, in 2015. Her dissertation was on “GIS analysis of geographically distributed health issues using location-based social media data.” She focused on spatiotemporal clustering analysis of depressive Twitter users using more than 600 million tweets downloaded from Twitter streaming APIs. She also analyzed the socioeconomic and climatic risk factors for depression. One highlight from her research is that an advanced text mining algorithm – Non-negative Matrix Factorization – was adopted to automatically detect depressed Twitter users by differentiating the word context related to depression from those not related to depression. She also proposed a framework to conceptualize the procedure of studying geographically distributed health issues using location-based social media data. Her ongoing research also includes studying the effect of transportation on depression amongst Weibo users in Beijing, China. She is a member of the Association of American Geographers, the Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geographers, and the International Association of Chinese Professionals in Geographic Information Science.
Coupling academic excellence with significant information technology investment means you have access to the best data, tools and research to equip you with skills necessary to evolve in a complex and sophisticated landscape.
All students develop a fundamental understanding and use of Esri’s ArcGIS for Desktop and Server. In addition, depending upon the choice of electives, students will gain experience working with:
- ArcGIS Online (including Business Analyst, Community Analyst, and GeoPlanner)
- GeoDA, R, and SAS
- Pathfinder Office and TerraSync
- SQL Server
- TerrSet Geographical Monitoring and Modeling System
- Visual Studio