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USC Dornsife Spatial Sciences Institute

GIS Graduate Programs

Geographic information science (GIS) touches all our lives, and the field will only become more important as we generate an ever-growing volume of spatial information. From online mapping software to connected electronic devices to smarter cities, we will soon be creating hundreds of petabytes-worth of spatial data in real time.

The University of Southern California’s accelerated GIS graduate programs are unique in higher education. Designed and taught by world-renowned faculty, a USC GIS education offers a multidisciplinary framework for understanding and applying spatial information to modern business, government, military and organizational challenges. We offer five master’s programs, which can be completed in 24 months and four GIS certificates that can be completed in as little as eight months.

We combine education in research and theory with extensive hands-on experience using the latest data sourcing techniques, leveraging the best GIS software and working with spatial data in a real-world context. Graduates will be able to go beyond basic analysis of GIS data; they will be adept at developing solutions for some of the industry’s most complex problems.

Simply put, we provide a comprehensive, sophisticated GIS education that you can’t get anywhere else.


This video was created in 2019 and may contain out-of-date information.


Learn More About USC’s GIS Graduate Programs

Our master’s programs and graduate certificates offer options for individuals of all backgrounds, from people just beginning their career to career changers to industry veterans. The geospatial leadership graduate certificate is specifically designed for experienced GIS professionals who are interested in managerial positions. If you have questions about any of our graduate GIS programs, please contact an enrollment advisor.


GIS Career Outlook

Professionals with the vision and insight to address major global challenges and make innovative breakthroughs with GIS are in high demand across numerous industries, in government and military operations, and not-for-profit organizations around the world. In addition to commanding rising salaries, GIS professionals contribute to solutions at the very heart of human security and well-being.

Learn more about GIS careers >


Why Choose USC for Your GIS Graduate Program

Whether you study remotely or on campus, as a USC GIS graduate student you are part of the Trojan community. This means you not only receive an education from a top-ranked independent university, you benefit from a combination of professional networking, academic rigor and personal attention that few, if any, other GIS graduate programs have the ability to offer. Other USC advantages include:

  • Individual and small group meetings, allowing you to build close professional relationships with your peers and USC faculty
  • Accelerated 24-month master’s degrees in GIST, human security and geospatial intelligence, global security studies, spatial economics and data analysis and spatial data science, in addition to four eight-month graduate certificates in GIST, geospatial intelligence, geospatial leadership and remote sensing for Earth observation
  • Multiple opportunities to design, develop and execute your own GIS projects, providing real-world experience using GIS for challenges you want to solve
  • Hands-on experience with the leading GIS software and technologies
  • Access to on-campus lectures that you can attend in-person, virtually or on demand via our course delivery system.

Request a Brochure

To learn more about the University of Southern California's GIS Graduate Programs and download a free brochure. If you have any additional questions, please call 877-650-9054 to speak to an enrollment advisor.

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"The best part about my experience at USC is that through the help of GIST professors, I have a great job as a significant contributor to critical humanitarian mapping projects, while also having a paleontological and geological-based thesis project that is completely different. It is the best of both worlds for me — geoscience and helping to save lives."

– Kacey Johnson Pham, M.S. in GIST, Class of 2015, GIS Manager at International Medical Corps

Read the rest of Kacey’s story

Program Name Modality Program Overview
M.S. in Geographic Information Science and Technology (M.S. GIST) Online and residential Learn how to capture, analyze and leverage geographic data — such as location, attribute and temporal information — in order to make informed decisions. This degree is a good fit for anyone who wants specialized knowledge in GIS techniques that can apply to virtually any industry.
M.S. in Human Security and Geospatial Intelligence (M.S. HSGI) Online and residential Blend principles of human security (including individual safety, community stability and global protection measures) with the technical capabilities of geospatial technologies. This degree is ideal for those interested in risk mitigation, disaster planning, threat response and other dynamic fields.
M.S. in Spatial Data Science (M.S. SPDS) Online and residential Focus on the acquisition, management, analysis and visualization of spatial data using data science techniques. Prepare to extract insights from complex geographic information systems for informed decision-making. This degree is a good fit for those who want to work with spatial data in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.
M.S. in Spatial Economics and Data Analysis (M.S. SEDA) Residential Combine economic theory with spatial analysis and data science to understand the spatial dimensions of economic activities. Using advanced statistical methods and GIS technologies, gain the tools to analyze economic phenomena in relation to geographic space. This degree is well-suited for individuals who want to use a combination of economics and data analysis in regional planning, real estate, economic development, policy analysis and more.
M.A. in Global Security Studies (M.A. GSEC) Residential Gain an understanding of the complex issues surrounding global security. Study a wide range of topics, including international relations, national security, terrorism, cybersecurity, intelligence, conflict resolution and the impact of globalization on security dynamics. The program typically involves studying the political, social, economic and cultural factors influencing global security. This degree is good for a wide variety of professionals, including those in the military, law enforcement, international relations, security and defense, journalism and policymaking fields.
Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Science and Technology Online (GIST CERT) Online and residential* Study the methods and technologies used to collect, process, analyze and interpret geographic data. This certificate is designed for professionals who want to enhance their GIS skills and apply them to fields such as urban planning, environmental management and a wide range of other industries.
Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence Online (GEOINT CERT) Online and residential* Gain specialized training in the analysis and application of geospatial information to make informed decisions about security, national defense and disaster response. This advanced certificate is particularly suited for those who are in or want to join the intelligence, military, homeland security, law enforcement or emergency management sectors.
Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Leadership Online Online and residential* Develop the strategic management and technical skills needed to lead geospatial initiatives in a variety of organizations. Learn leadership principles with geospatial technology competencies, emphasizing strategic planning, project management and policy development in the geospatial realm. This certificate is a good fit for current and aspiring geospatial professionals who want to take on leadership roles within government agencies, private sector firms, non-profit groups or academic institutions.
Graduate Certificate in Remote Sensing for Earth Observations Online (RSEO CERT) Online and residential* Delve into sophisticated techniques for collecting, managing and integrating spatial data from diverse sources, including satellites, drones, sensors, mobile devices and the internet of things. The certificate caters to those already in remote sensing jobs who want to update their skills as well as to professionals looking to enter this specialized field.

*The application for residential graduate certificates is currently unavailable. We expect to begin accepting applications for the residential graduate certificates beginning April 2024.

Ranked among the Top 30 National Universities and among the Top 15 Best Universities for Veterans
(U.S. News & World Report, 2024)

Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

Member of the UNIGIS International Association

The M.S. in Human Security and Geospatial Intelligence and Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence are accredited by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF)

The Office for the Director of National Intelligence has designated the University of Southern California as an Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence (IC CAE).