USC Dornsife Spatial Sciences Institute

Curriculum

The curriculum is designed to blend conceptual knowledge with hands-on experience using modern GIS software and techniques. The majority of coursework can be completed asynchronously – there are no lectures for the USC GIS graduate programs. Core theoretical concepts are provided via course notes and assigned readings. Written assignments give students the opportunity to analyze and apply the concepts and theory learned from readings. Practical exercises will mainly use ArcGIS Pro, which students will gain access to via virtual desktops and servers.

Online Master’s in Geographic Information Science and Technology (28 units)

Few other GIS master’s programs in the country offer the same balance of broadly applicable knowledge with the opportunity to gain the technical skills to elevate a GIS career. With our online GIST master’s degree, you can tailor your coursework through an extensive selection of electives, and you’ll also have opportunities to develop your own GIS projects on real-world issues that you care about.

Graduates of the program will be able to:

  • Design and implement well-formed spatial database models
  • Design and implement strategies for sourcing spatial data
  • Critically evaluate the impact of data quality within the spatial sciences and on organizational decision making
  • Plan, design, and execute a series of advanced science and/or policy relevant GIS-based projects

Depending on the selection of track or electives, graduates will also gain competency in core skills relevant to more specific areas of interest. For example, students of the GIS application development track will also be able to program one-of-a-kind GIS applications using Python and/or Java.

Required Core Courses (16 units)

SSCI 581: Concepts for Spatial Thinking (4 units)

This course examines the unique characteristics and importance of spatial information as they relate to the evolving science, technology and applications of geographic information systems. It provides the foundation for understanding and applying other concepts and technologies throughout the spatial sciences programs.

SSCI 582: Spatial Databases (4 units)

Students will learn how to design and implement geospatial databases. The course also provides hands-on experience with relational, object-oriented and other types of geospatial databases so that students gain practical knowledge of the structure and management of geospatial data.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 587: Spatial Data Acquisition (4 units)

This course examines the role of global positioning systems, maps, geocoding and other kinds of sensors as geospatial data sources. Students will also participate in a field data acquisition excursion on Catalina Island, in which they will have opportunities to meet their peers as well as network with leading GIS scientists and other experts.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 594ab: Master’s Thesis

Credit on acceptance of thesis. Graded CR/NC. (2-2 units)

Track 1: Spatial Application Development (12 units)

As spatial information becomes more integrated into operations for organizations, spatial functionality and features become more deeply connected to their software. This track equips students with the skills to develop and customized GIS software, including Web and Mobile GIS.

SSCI 586: GIS Programming and Customization (4 units)

This course provides the knowledge and skills for developing customized GIS applications. Students will gain hands-on experience designing, coding and implementing GIS-based software. The course focuses on leveraging programming languages commonly used in GIS software, including Python.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 582

SSCI 591: Web GIS (4 units)

This course provides essential and practical knowledge developing web-hosted GIS applications. Students will gain experience using a variety of tools commonly used for GIS application development, including Google Maps, ArcGIS and several open source technologies.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 592: Mobile GIS (4 units)

This course will provide an understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of using mobile GIS applications. Students will also gain hands-on experience with modern mobile GIS development technologies; this course utilizes a variety of GIS community resources (e.g. public forums), software development kits and cloud-based services (e.g. Parse.com and Carto.com) to ensure students gain exposure to the latest technologies and development strategies.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 591

Track 2: Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization (12 units)

This track provides knowledge and experience in how to use spatial data for insight and decision making. Graduates will learn how to visualize spatial information through animations and multimedia displays as well as how to model spatial phenomena.

SSCI 583: Spatial Analysis (4 units)

This course provides the knowledge and skills necessary to investigate the spatial patterns which result from social and physical processes operating at or near the Earth’s surface. The focus is on providing an understanding of the theories and context of spatial analysis, preparing students to identify the best analytical tool for a given problem and produce valid, defensible spatial analysis output.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 584: Spatial Modeling (4 units)

This course gives students an understanding of as well as hands-on experience using spatial analytical models to both describe and predict geospatial and environmental processes. Students will learn to work directly with domain experts to craft spatial modeling solutions for complex problems, using ArcGIS and open source spatial modeling solutions.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 583

SSCI 589: Cartography and Visualization (4 units)

This course examines the principles of cartographic design and visualization in the context of maps, animations, virtual reality and multimedia displays produced with modern GIS. Students will gain experience with techniques for dealing with continuous surfaces, mapping discrete terrain features and geovisualization.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581 (4 units)

Track 3: Spatial Data Acquisition and Integration (12 units)

The most sophisticated GIS analyses and software in the world are still only as good as the data behind them. This track is designed for individuals interested in more deeply understanding spatial data, including methods for sourcing, maintaining high quality data and integrating data from numerous, varied sources.

SSCI 585: Geospatial Technology Project Management (4 units)

This course examines the concepts, principles and use of project management tools, with a focus on the common people-centric issues encountered running GIS projects. Topics covered include the geospatial project lifecycle, budgets, risk management, team building and ongoing trends that may influence geospatial project management (e.g. increasing usage of open source software).

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 588: Remote Sensing for GIS (4 units)

This course examines the principles and technology of remote sensing and role of remote sensing data in GIS applications. Students will learn to implement and evaluate digital image processing methodologies. This course also explores common uses of remote sensing data in human security and environmental sciences.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 593: Geospatial Data Integration (4 units)

This course examines the role of crowdsourcing, volunteered geographic information, spatial data infrastructures and web portals in collecting and managing geospatial data assets. Students will also learn to critically analyze data sources to identify their best usage within GIS environments.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 587

Track 4: Spatial Thinking (choose three)

This track is designed to be highly flexible, giving students additional freedom to gain a deeper conceptual understanding of spatial thinking and analysis as well as practical experience with GIS.

SSCI 583: Spatial Analysis (4 units)

This course provides the knowledge and skills necessary to investigate the spatial patterns which result from social and physical processes operating at or near the Earth’s surface. The focus is on providing an understanding of the theories and context of spatial analysis, preparing students to identify the best analytical tool for a given problem and produce valid, defensible spatial analysis output.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 584: Spatial Modeling (4 units)

This course gives students an understanding of as well as hands-on experience using spatial analytical models to both describe and predict geospatial and environmental processes. Students will learn to work directly with domain experts to craft spatial modeling solutions for complex problems, using ArcGIS and open source spatial modeling solutions.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 583

SSCI 585: Geospatial Technology Project Management (4 units)

This course examines the concepts, principles and use of project management tools, with a focus on the common people-centric issues encountered running GIS projects. Topics covered include the geospatial project lifecycle, budgets, risk management, team building and ongoing trends that may influence geospatial project management (e.g. increasing usage of open source software).

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 586: GIS Programming and Customization (4 units)

This course provides the knowledge and skills for developing customized GIS applications. Students will gain hands-on experience designing, coding and implementing GIS-based software. The course focuses on leveraging programming languages commonly used in GIS software, including Python.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 582

SSCI 588: Remote Sensing for GIS (4 units)

This course examines the principles and technology of remote sensing and role of remote sensing data in GIS applications. Students will learn to implement and evaluate digital image processing methodologies. This course also explores common uses of remote sensing data in human security and environmental sciences.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 589: Cartography and Visualization (4 units)

This course examines the principles of cartographic design and visualization in the context of maps, animations, virtual reality and multimedia displays produced with modern GIS. Students will gain experience with techniques for dealing with continuous surfaces, mapping discrete terrain features and geovisualization.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581 (4 units)

SSCI 591: Web GIS (4 units)

This course provides essential and practical knowledge developing web-hosted GIS applications. Students will gain experience using a variety of tools commonly used for GIS application development, including Google Maps, ArcGIS and several open source technologies.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 592: Mobile GIS (4 units)

This course will provide an understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of using mobile GIS applications. Students will also gain hands-on experience with modern mobile GIS development technologies; this course utilizes a variety of GIS community resources (e.g. public forums), software development kits and cloud-based services (e.g. Parse.com and Carto.com) to ensure students gain exposure to the latest technologies and development strategies.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 591

SSCI 593: Geospatial Data Integration (4 units)

This course examines the role of crowdsourcing, volunteered geographic information, spatial data infrastructures and web portals in collecting and managing geospatial data assets. Students will also learn to critically analyze data sources to identify their best usage within GIS environments.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 587

Online Master’s in Human Security and Geospatial Intelligence (34 units)

The USC online Master of Science in Human Security and Geospatial Intelligence degree provides students with an understanding of where human security has both stability and instability. This degree connects collaborative and interrelated sciences and disciplines and provides a set of viable tools for graduate-level planning and leadership on future human security and geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) work within the U.S. DoD, U.S. State Department, related U.S. support/non-governmental agencies and within comparable international organizations.

Graduates of the program will be able to:

  • Lead and manage new initiatives within the rapidly evolving GEOINT landscape
  • Apply innovation to influence the successful generation, adoption and deployment of new ideas
  • Evaluate and solve for how disruptive technologies might affect GIS organizations in the future
  • Design and implement strategies for sourcing and managing spatial data for use in geospatial initiatives and applications
  • Leverage GIS and related software to develop innovative insights using spatial data
  • Master the theory and protocols of radar interpretation, infrared and multispectral imagery, full motion video, legacy maps, digital geospatial datasets and social media feeds
  • Shape the results of geospatial information management groups and organizations

Required core (28 units)

SSCI 577: Human Security and Disaster Management (4 units)

This course examines the relationship between human security (population growth, urbanization, conflict) and disasters, both man-made and natural, where complex emergencies are impactful to human populations. Students will gain an understanding of the concepts and multidisciplinary forces that impact incident response.

SSCI 581: Concepts for Spatial Thinking (4 units)

This course examines the unique characteristics and importance of spatial information as they relate to the evolving science, technology and applications of geographic information systems. It provides the foundation for understanding and applying other concepts and technologies throughout the spatial sciences programs.

SSCI 587: Spatial Data Acquisition (4 units)

This course examines the role of global positioning systems, maps, geocoding and other kinds of sensors as geospatial data sources. Students will also participate in a field data acquisition excursion on Catalina Island, in which they will have opportunities to meet their peers as well as network with leading GIS scientists and other experts.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 588: Remote Sensing for GIS (4 units)

This course examines the principles and technology of remote sensing and role of remote sensing data in GIS applications. Students will learn to implement and evaluate digital image processing methodologies. This course also explores common uses of remote sensing data in human security and environmental sciences.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 579: Geospatial Intelligence Tradecraft (4 units)

This course explores the practical application of geospatial intelligence, highlighting specific examples of its use in military operations, national security, international relief work and disaster management. Students will gain a comprehensive understanding of the many and varied types of threats that impact human security and how geospatial technologies and methodologies can be used in each type of scenario.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 585: Geospatial Technology Project Management (4 units)

This course examines the concepts, principles and use of project management tools, with a focus on the common people-centric issues encountered running GIS projects. Topics covered include the geospatial project lifecycle, budgets, risk management, team building and ongoing trends that may influence geospatial project management (e.g. increasing usage of open source software).

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 578: The Practice of Geospatial Leadership (4 units)

This course closely examines the way GIS provides value within an organizational context. Students will also learn the qualities and skills leaders need to help their teams form new ideas and how to drive their organizations toward success.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

Electives: Choose One

SSCI 583: Spatial Analysis (4 units)

This course provides the knowledge and skills necessary to investigate the spatial patterns which result from social and physical processes operating at or near the Earth’s surface. The focus is on providing an understanding of the theories and context of spatial analysis, preparing students to identify the best analytical tool for a given problem and produce valid, defensible spatial analysis output.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 584: Spatial Modeling (4 units)

This course gives students an understanding of as well as hands-on experience using spatial analytical models to both describe and predict geospatial and environmental processes. Students will learn to work directly with domain experts to craft spatial modeling solutions for complex problems, using ArcGIS and open source spatial modeling solutions.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 583

SSCI 589: Cartography and Visualization (4 units)

This course examines the principles of cartographic design and visualization in the context of maps, animations, virtual reality and multimedia displays produced with modern GIS. Students will gain experience with techniques for dealing with continuous surfaces, mapping discrete terrain features and geovisualization.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581 (4 units)

SSCI 593: Geospatial Data Integration (4 units)

This course examines the role of crowdsourcing, volunteered geographic information, spatial data infrastructures and web portals in collecting and managing geospatial data assets. Students will also learn to critically analyze data sources to identify their best usage within GIS environments.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 587

Capstone course

SSCI 595: Applied Geospatial Intelligence Problem Solving (2 units)

This course provides a hands-on opportunity in which students apply the knowledge and GEOINT skills to make an informed human security recommendation. In the capstone course, students will work with one of USC's GEOINT partners to solve a real-world GEOINT challenge.

Pre-requisites:
SSCI 577; SSCI 588; SSCI 579; SSCI 581;
SSCI 585 (can also be taken as a co-requisite)

Online Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Science and Technology (16 units)

The online graduate certificate in GIST provides the foundational knowledge for professional advancement utilizing fundamental geographic information science principles and the latest GIS, GPS and remote sensing platforms and applications. Upon graduating from this program, students will be able to:

  • Design and implement well-formed database models using appropriate design techniques and relational database software
  • Design and implemenet strategies for capturing or sourcing geospatial data and accompanying metadata for one or more GIS projects
  • Critically evaluate the potential impact of data quality on spatial analysis and decision-making outcomes

Students will also gain skills in at least one other area, depending on choice of elective. Electives cover topics ranging from GIS software development to spatial modeling.

Required Core (12 units)

SSCI 581: Concepts for Spatial Thinking (4 units)

This course examines the unique characteristics and importance of spatial information as they relate to the evolving science, technology and applications of geographic information systems. It provides the foundation for understanding and applying other concepts and technologies throughout the spatial sciences programs.

SSCI 582: Spatial Databases (4 units)

Students will learn how to design and implement geospatial databases. The course also provides hands-on experience with relational, object-oriented and other types of geospatial databases so that students gain practical knowledge of the structure and management of geospatial data.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 587: Spatial Data Acquisition (4 units)

This course examines the role of global positioning systems, maps, geocoding and other kinds of sensors as geospatial data sources. Students will also participate in a field data acquisition excursion on Catalina Island, in which they will have opportunities to meet their peers as well as network with leading GIS scientists and other experts.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

Electives (choose one)

SSCI 583: Spatial Analysis (4 units)

This course provides the knowledge and skills necessary to investigate the spatial patterns which result from social and physical processes operating at or near the Earth’s surface. The focus is on providing an understanding of the theories and context of spatial analysis, preparing students to identify the best analytical tool for a given problem and produce valid, defensible spatial analysis output.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 584: Spatial Modeling (4 units)

This course gives students an understanding of as well as hands-on experience using spatial analytical models to both describe and predict geospatial and environmental processes. Students will learn to work directly with domain experts to craft spatial modeling solutions for complex problems, using ArcGIS and open source spatial modeling solutions.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 583

SSCI 585: Geospatial Technology Project Management (4 units)

This course examines the concepts, principles and use of project management tools, with a focus on the common people-centric issues encountered running GIS projects. Topics covered include the geospatial project lifecycle, budgets, risk management, team building and ongoing trends that may influence geospatial project management (e.g. increasing usage of open source software).

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 586: GIS Programming and Customization (4 units)

This course provides the knowledge and skills for developing customized GIS applications. Students will gain hands-on experience designing, coding and implementing GIS-based software. The course focuses on leveraging programming languages commonly used in GIS software, including Python.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 582

SSCI 588: Remote Sensing for GIS (4 units)

This course examines the principles and technology of remote sensing and role of remote sensing data in GIS applications. Students will learn to implement and evaluate digital image processing methodologies. This course also explores common uses of remote sensing data in human security and environmental sciences.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 589: Cartography and Visualization (4 units)

This course examines the principles of cartographic design and visualization in the context of maps, animations, virtual reality and multimedia displays produced with modern GIS. Students will gain experience with techniques for dealing with continuous surfaces, mapping discrete terrain features and geovisualization.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581 (4 units)

SSCI 591: Web GIS (4 units)

This course provides essential and practical knowledge developing web-hosted GIS applications. Students will gain experience using a variety of tools commonly used for GIS application development, including Google Maps, ArcGIS and several open source technologies.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 592: Mobile GIS (4 units)

This course will provide an understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of using mobile GIS applications. Students will also gain hands-on experience with modern mobile GIS development technologies; this course utilizes a variety of GIS community resources (e.g. public forums), software development kits and cloud-based services (e.g. Parse.com and Carto.com) to ensure students gain exposure to the latest technologies and development strategies.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 591

SSCI 593: Geospatial Data Integration (4 units)

This course examines the role of crowdsourcing, volunteered geographic information, spatial data infrastructures and web portals in collecting and managing geospatial data assets. Students will also learn to critically analyze data sources to identify their best usage within GIS environments.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 587

Online Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence (16 units)

Accredited by the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF), this program helps develop your readiness for careers in disaster management, human security, international relief and many other fields. USGIF accreditation signifies that the USC GEOINT graduate certificate meets the high academic standards to ensure it develops students with the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed in the professional GEOINT workforce.

Graduates will be able to:

  • Develop further critical thinking, collaboration and communication skills
  • Understand surveillance, targeting and navigation needs
  • Design and implement strategies for capturing or sourcing geospatial data and any accompanying metadata
  • Critically evaluate potential impacts of data quality on spatial analysis and decision making
  • Master the theory and protocols of radar interpretation, infrared and multispectral imagery, full motion video, legacy maps, digital geospatial datasets and social media feeds
  • Prepare and present intelligence reports tailored to a variety of human security applications

Required Core (8 units)

SSCI 581: Concepts for Spatial Thinking (4 units)

This course examines the unique characteristics and importance of spatial information as they relate to the evolving science, technology and applications of geographic information systems. It provides the foundation for understanding and applying other concepts and technologies throughout the spatial sciences programs.

SSCI 588: Remote Sensing for GIS (4 units)

This course examines the principles and technology of remote sensing and role of remote sensing data in GIS applications. Students will learn to implement and evaluate digital image processing methodologies. This course also explores common uses of remote sensing data in human security and environmental sciences.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

Electives (choose one)

SSCI 583: Spatial Analysis (4 units)

This course provides the knowledge and skills necessary to investigate the spatial patterns which result from social and physical processes operating at or near the Earth’s surface. The focus is on providing an understanding of the theories and context of spatial analysis, preparing students to identify the best analytical tool for a given problem and produce valid, defensible spatial analysis output.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 584: Spatial Modeling (4 units)

This course gives students an understanding of as well as hands-on experience using spatial analytical models to both describe and predict geospatial and environmental processes. Students will learn to work directly with domain experts to craft spatial modeling solutions for complex problems, using ArcGIS and open source spatial modeling solutions.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 583

SSCI 589: Cartography and Visualization (4 units)

This course examines the principles of cartographic design and visualization in the context of maps, animations, virtual reality and multimedia displays produced with modern GIS. Students will gain experience with techniques for dealing with continuous surfaces, mapping discrete terrain features and geovisualization.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581 (4 units)

Required Capstone Course

SSCI 579: Geospatial Intelligence Tradecraft (4 units)

This course explores the practical application of geospatial intelligence, highlighting specific examples of its use in military operations, national security, international relief work and disaster management. Students will gain a comprehensive understanding of the many and varied types of threats that impact human security and how geospatial technologies and methodologies can be used in each type of scenario.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

Online Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Leadership (16 units)

The online Geospatial Leadership Certificate program is designed to expand the geospatial knowledge and leadership skills of GIS managers or those who aspire to leadership positions. The capstone course allows you to build a personal leadership plan to position yourself to make high-level and strategic decisions in the geospatial field.

Electives (choose three)

SSCI 583: Spatial Analysis (4 units)

This course provides the knowledge and skills necessary to investigate the spatial patterns which result from social and physical processes operating at or near the Earth’s surface. The focus is on providing an understanding of the theories and context of spatial analysis, preparing students to identify the best analytical tool for a given problem and produce valid, defensible spatial analysis output.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 584: Spatial Modeling (4 units)

This course gives students an understanding of as well as hands-on experience using spatial analytical models to both describe and predict geospatial and environmental processes. Students will learn to work directly with domain experts to craft spatial modeling solutions for complex problems, using ArcGIS and open source spatial modeling solutions.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 583

SSCI 585: Geospatial Technology Project Management (4 units)

This course examines the concepts, principles and use of project management tools, with a focus on the common people-centric issues encountered running GIS projects. Topics covered include the geospatial project lifecycle, budgets, risk management, team building and ongoing trends that may influence geospatial project management (e.g. increasing usage of open source software).

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 586: GIS Programming and Customization (4 units)

This course provides the knowledge and skills for developing customized GIS applications. Students will gain hands-on experience designing, coding and implementing GIS-based software. The course focuses on leveraging programming languages commonly used in GIS software, including Python.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 582

SSCI 588: Remote Sensing for GIS (4 units)

This course examines the principles and technology of remote sensing and role of remote sensing data in GIS applications. Students will learn to implement and evaluate digital image processing methodologies. This course also explores common uses of remote sensing data in human security and environmental sciences.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 589: Cartography and Visualization (4 units)

This course examines the principles of cartographic design and visualization in the context of maps, animations, virtual reality and multimedia displays produced with modern GIS. Students will gain experience with techniques for dealing with continuous surfaces, mapping discrete terrain features and geovisualization.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581 (4 units)

SSCI 591: Web GIS (4 units)

This course provides essential and practical knowledge developing web-hosted GIS applications. Students will gain experience using a variety of tools commonly used for GIS application development, including Google Maps, ArcGIS and several open source technologies.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

SSCI 592: Mobile GIS (4 units)

This course will provide an understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of using mobile GIS applications. Students will also gain hands-on experience with modern mobile GIS development technologies; this course utilizes a variety of GIS community resources (e.g. public forums), software development kits and cloud-based services (e.g. Parse.com and Carto.com) to ensure students gain exposure to the latest technologies and development strategies.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 591

SSCI 593: Geospatial Data Integration (4 units)

This course examines the role of crowdsourcing, volunteered geographic information, spatial data infrastructures and web portals in collecting and managing geospatial data assets. Students will also learn to critically analyze data sources to identify their best usage within GIS environments.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 587

Capstone Course

SSCI 578: The Practice of Geospatial Leadership (4 units)

This course closely examines the way GIS provides value within an organizational context. Students will also learn the qualities and skills leaders need to help their teams form new ideas and how to drive their organizations toward success.

Recommended preparation: SSCI 581

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