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Announcing USC’s Online Graduate Certificate in Remote Sensing for Earth Observation

The University of Southern California’s Spatial Sciences Institute now offers an online Graduate Certificate in Remote Sensing for Earth Observation (RSEO). This program is a convenient way to gain an education in the principles of spatial data acquisition that can benefit both experienced professionals and newcomers to the field.

Information from sources such as satellites, radar and infrared sensors provides valuable insights into areas of the Earth where it’s difficult or dangerous for humans to take first-hand measurements. Remote sensing is a powerful way of seeing the world, and it opens the possibility for entirely new areas of research as well as security and disaster relief efforts. For example, remote sensing allows users to develop highly accurate and detailed maps of difficult-to-traverse areas. Remote sensing also makes possible the monitoring of the long-term effects on key planetary systems, such as forests, glaciers, water and wildlife, and to assess ecosystem integrity.

With the growth of internet of things (IoT) technology and an increasing number of small satellites, remote sensing produces petabytes of georeferenced data, a trend that will continue. Geographic information systems (GIS) can integrate this enormous volume of data to reveal meaningful patterns and anomalies. Experts analyze, visualize and apply remote sensing data to enable wiser planning and faster responses to humanitarian or environmental problems. With the skills to identify significant events and trends, remote sensing professionals discover unique perspectives that can benefit businesses, nonprofits, government agencies or the military.

You can build those skills and prepare to start or advance a career in remote sensing by completing USC’s online Graduate Certificate in RSEO.


Remote Sensing with the USC Spatial Sciences Institute

Specialists in remote sensing use a variety of tools and techniques to collect valuable information about the planet’s features for applications like weather observation, environmental stewardship, land surveying, crisis management and much more. USC’s online RSEO graduate certificate prepares students to capture these opportunities and succeed in careers as engineers, analysts or technicians.

The program, which can be completed in as little as seven months, offers a thorough grounding in the methods that professionals need to spot relevant details and make more informed decisions. COL [R] Steven D. Fleming, Ph.D., a professor of the practice of spatial sciences at the USC Spatial Sciences Institute, explained that remote sensing has emerged as a vital area of study for professionals interested in pursuing roles in geospatial problem-solving.

“The growing development of remote sensing devices and systems, coupled with the resultant demand to integrate and manage the data from these new (and legacy) acquisition sources, demands that forward-thinking academic organizations build educational programs like this one,” said Professor Fleming. “Our certificate is uniquely designed to address diverse and evolving data acquisition methods, plus develop the requisite data integration and management skills necessary to handle the big data challenge of the geospatial field.”


Remote Sensing Curriculum Highlights

The RSEO graduate certificate curriculum presents strategies and advanced approaches for managing and interpreting remote sensing information in a variety of contexts. In courses taught by leading researchers and practitioners in spatial sciences, students learn to:

  • Use geospatial methods and technology to gather, generate and analyze data.
  • Use GIS to visualize spatial information and apply findings to decision-making.
  • Account for the technical demands and constraints involved in collecting spatial information.
  • Integrate traditional remote sensing data with information from innovative sources like mobile location sensors and Internet-of-Things devices and with emerging text-scraping technologies

To earn the RSEO graduate certificate, students must complete 16 units of coursework, consisting of two required core courses and two electives:

Required Core

  • SSCI 576 Remote Sensing Applications and Emerging Technologies
  • SSCI 581 Concepts for Spatial Thinking

Electives (Choose Two)

  • SSCI 587 Spatial Data Acquisition
  • SSCI 588 Remote Sensing for GIS
  • SSCI 593 Geospatial Data Integration

Students who select SSCI 587: Spatial Data Acquisition as an elective will participate in a weeklong fieldwork excursion to the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on Catalina Island. Based at this USC research and educational campus, they’ll gain hands-on experience in using GPS and unmanned autonomous systems to collect information for research projects. This course is optional, and students can instead earn the graduate certificate entirely online.

The Graduate Certificate in RSEO can be completed in as little as seven months. Graduates may then choose to continue their studies with the USC Spatial Sciences Institute to earn a Master of Science in Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIST) or Human Security and Geospatial Intelligence (HSGI). All credit earned in the RSEO graduate certificate program can be applied toward the requirements for a USC GIST or HSGI master’s degree.

Professor Fleming sees the remote sensing program as an excellent start to learning advanced concepts in the spatial sciences that can open further possibilities for educational and professional development.

“We envision that inquisitive graduate students with interests in geospatial solutions will gravitate our way, many taking follow-on coursework from the Spatial Sciences Institute to achieve either our Master of Science degree in GIST or HSGI,” he said. “We look forward to the opportunity to work with these budding and purposeful professionals.”

If you’re interested in using big data to learn about our world and confront urgent challenges, visit the program page. You can learn more about what you can expect from the online Graduate Certificate in Remote Sensing for Earth Observation and download a free brochure with details on all of USC’s online GIS graduate programs.


About USC’s Online GIS Graduate Programs

The University of Southern California offers a comprehensive selection of online GIS programs, including GIS master’s degrees and GIS graduate certificates. This gives our students the ultimate flexibility in tailoring their education for their career goals. Click on the programs below to learn about our leading geographic information science education.

Online GIS Master’s Degrees

Online GIS Graduate Certificates


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