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Geographic Information Science &
Technology Graduate Programs

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Fuel Scientific Discovery – Drive Innovation

The Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIST) online graduate programs expose students to a core, geographic-innovation science foundation plus real-world GIS applications from leading educators.

The GIST graduate programs are offered by the USC Spatial Sciences Institute (SSI), headquartered within the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Established in 2010, the SSI promotes spatial thinking, analysis, modeling and visualization across USC. Through interdisciplinary research and collaboration, faculty, staff and students work to increase the scope and hasten the pace of spatial thinking as a core-learning objective.

Thanks to a faculty of leading GIS experts, plus regular and significant investment in information technology, USC GIST graduates are uniquely equipped to keep apace of an increasingly diverse and dynamic field. They are distinguishable from graduates of other programs in how they think about and use GIS principles and the technology they use to implement those principles, redefining spatial thinking for the 21st century.

Why Choose USC?

  • 20 Months – This accelerated program allows you to graduate quickly to focus on your career.
  • Ranking – In 2015, U.S. News & World Report ranked USC among the top colleges in the country.
  • Online – Continue working and learn on your own time.
  • Accredited – USC is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), and is a proud member of the UNIGIS International Network.
  • Field Excursion – Students attend a one-week field excursion to the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island.

What are the GIST Graduate Online Degree Programs?

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 certifications 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

Gainful Employment (GE) Disclosure

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

Gainful Employment (GE) Disclosure

Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence (12 Units)
Required Core (4 units)
SSCI 581 Concepts for Spatial Thinking 4 units
Electives (Choose two of the following courses):
SSCI 583 Spatial Analysis 4 units
SSCI 584 Spatial Modeling 4 units
SSCI 588 Remote Sensing for GIS 4 units
SSCI 589 Cartography and Visualization 4 units
Required Capstone Course (4 units)
SSOC 579 Geospatial Intelligence Tradecraft 4 units

Gainful Employment (GE) Disclosure

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.

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.
Karen Kemp
An internationally known GIScience educator, Karen Kemp is a 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.
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, 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.
Jennifer Swift
Jennifer Swift is an 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.
Darren Ruddell
Darren Ruddell is an assistant 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.
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.
Jordan Hastings
Jordan Hastings, an assistant professor of the practice of spatial sciences, is a computational geographer whose interests span computer algorithms, database management, geographic information systems, scientific modeling, cartography and visualization. Prior to joining USC, he was the Nevada state cartographer, with broad responsibility for geologic and hazard mapping in that state. He also is an experienced project manager, having led numerous database and GIS/mapping activities for DOE, EPA, NOAA, NSF and USGS, as well as private industry. Hastings’ ongoing research activities include conflation, geolibraries and scientific data management generally.
Robert Vos
Robert Vos is an adjunct assistant professor of the practice 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. An expert in sustainability science, he 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.
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.
Katsuhiko “Kirk” Oda
Katsuhiko “Kirk” Oda is a lecturer 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 a 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.
Tarek Rashed
Tarek Rashed is a lecturer of spatial sciences with more than 20 years of experience in GIS and spatial decision-making and their applications. Rashed has published and presented extensively on these topics and is an experienced leader and manager, having variously served as business development consultant, technical advisor, associate director and most recently as president of GSAREH LLC, based in Austin, Texas.
Daniel Warshawsky
Daniel Warshawsky is a lecturer in the Spatial Sciences Institute, where he teaches courses in geography and geographic information science. He received his Ph.D. in geography from USC in 2011, and his research is focused on the urban geographies of food insecurity in southern Africa and the U.S., with a special interest in NGOs and nonprofits, state-civil society relations and city governance. He was awarded the best dissertation in urban geography and named a finalist for the J. Warren Nystrom Award for the best dissertation in geography by the Association of American Geographers in 2012.
Mariko Dawson Zare
Mariko Dawson Zare is a lecturer with the Writing Program at the University of Southern California. She received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Southern California, and her B.A. in English from the University of California at Los Angeles. Zare’s research interests include auditory studies, modernist fiction, especially the works of Virginia Woolf and Dorothy Richardson, and gender studies. She co-authored the chapter, “From Advocacy to Action: Making Graduate School Family-Friendly,” in the book Establishing the Family-Friendly Campus: Models for Effective Practice, which explored the challenges of finding work-family balance within a graduate student context.

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)
  • eCognition
  • GeoDA, R, and SAS
  • Pathfinder Office and TerraSync
  • Python
  • SQL Server
  • TerrSet Geographical Monitoring and Modeling System
  • Visual Studio
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Why Choose the USC GIST Graduate Online Degree Programs?

The importance of geographic information science (GIS) is emphasized each time someone pulls out a smartphone or uses GPS on the way to a new destination. As the need for spatial interconnectivity increases in the private and public sectors, so does the need for professionals with advanced GIS knowledge. Simply put, major global challenges — climate change, human health and sustainability, and urbanization, to name a few — will demand a higher educational standard, and an undergraduate degree will be insufficient.GIS is a timely and meaningful growth industry. It is also rapidly evolving. USC’s approach to GIS study is anticipatory, meaning our faculty has the utmost dedication to shaping innovative thinkers via cutting-edge technology and practices. The Master of Science in GIST and the graduate certificates are offered by USC’s Spatial Sciences Institute, giving you access to its full complement of geospatial data resources and research. By choosing USC, you can earn your master’s degree or graduate certificate online from one of the most recognized names in higher education. You can graduate in as few as 16 to 20 months with an in-demand, specialized set of skills that can increase your professional value in the marketplace. And, you can tap into the vast and versatile world of GIS with USC’s reputation on your side.
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Who Should Choose The Master of Science in GIST?

  • Geology
  • Geography
  • Biology
  • Environmental Studies
  • Public Health
  • Managed Care
  • Hospital & Health Systems
  • Climate Changes
  • Agriculture
  • Forestry
  • Water Resources
  • Marine & Coastal
  • Archaeology
  • Highways
  • Railways
  • Logistics
  • Public Transportation
  • Ports & Marritime
  • Economic Development
  • Land Administration
  • Public Works
  • Surveying
  • Urban Planning
  • Disaster Management
  • Fire, Rescue & EMS
  • Homeland Security
  • Law Enforcement
  • Wildfire Management
  • Schools (K-12)
  • Universities & Colleges
  • Libraries Museums
  • Cultural Herritage

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GIS is all about understanding the world around you. Those who view life through a spatial lens can use their unique perspective to create responsible, sustainable and scalable solutions that benefit individuals and society. The GIST programs provide you with a common spatial language that connects data to geography and people to place. To address global challenges such as climate change, sustainability and urbanization, the program pairs global thinking with nuanced, intricate GIS knowledge. If you work in fields related to environmental science or city planning, the GIST programs can help you build a foundation for long-term success.

Location data and location analytics are driving business strategies to improve operational performance, manage costs, reduce complexity, and connect companies to consumers. The education offered in the GIST programs not only gives the ability to mine location data, but also to analyze and translate it to business solutions, which are especially relevant to the banking, real estate, retail, insurance and media industries. Careers in logistics can also make excellent use of the fundamentals of geographic information systems, global positioning systems and location-based services.

The business world applications for an advanced GIS education are especially notable because today’s entrepreneurs and innovators are constantly seeking ways to incorporate location intelligence into business models. With our M.S. in GIST or graduate certificate, you could be the forward-thinker who helps a company break through.  Geospatial visualization was listed by Delotte’s as one of the top 10 technical priorities for business professionals in 2012.

As technology makes society more globally interconnected, societal threats loom larger. From unstable economies to terrorism plots to environmental changes and political turmoil, geospatial intelligence is vital to addressing all of them.

The GIST programs allow you to thoroughly explore how Geospatial Intelligence Preparation of the Environment (GPE) methodology and Structured Geospatial Analytic Method (SGAM) can be used to meet core intelligence needs. The coursework will examine existing and emerging techniques in the intelligence community.

An M.S. in GIST or Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence can prepare you for a career with:

  • Military geospatial units
  • Domestic and international humanitarian agencies and NGOs
  • First responders on local, regional, state, federal and international levels
  • Disaster relief agencies
  • Defense contracting firms
  • Federal agencies (Department of Defense, U.S. Census Bureau)

The ultimate purpose of GIS leadership is to be an ambassador and advocate for the profession by helping to change the way organizations think and act. The best GIS leaders can generate and implement ideas across an organization to develop valuable products, services and businesses. Our coursework helps determined professionals make the most of technological and human resources through an innovative curriculum and collaborative learning environment.

If you already are grappling with leadership opportunities and issues or anticipate these responsibilities and you want to sharpen your abilities to lead change as GIScience and technology continues to evolve, the USC graduate certificate in geospatial leadership is for you.

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UNIGIS International
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Introduction to the Spatial
Sciences Institute
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Catalina Field Excursion
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Applications of Spatial
Information
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3D Flyover
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60 Second Seminar
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