GIS Distance Learning – Certificate and Degree Programs



Don’t have a school near you offering GIS? If you don’t live near a college or university offering GIS coursework, distance learning can be a valuable way to learn GIS skills and software programs online. Find schools offering GIS distance learning coursework via internet-based classes in the field for certificate and degree-based programs.

The program descriptions listed here have been supplied by the colleges and universities.

GIS Distance Learning Programs

American Sentinel University
American Sentinel has provided Geographic Information Systems related degree programs since 2007. Current programs offered include our undergraduate ASGIS and BSGIS programs, and our newly approved graduate MGIS and GISGC programs. Totally online programs with courses start each month, are on 8 week terms, and students can enroll anytime.

GIS Education

GIS Programs
GIS Certification
GIS Tutorials
K-12 GIS Education

Delta State University
Delta State University offers a Master degree program, Master of Applied Science in Geospatial Information Technologies (MAS-GIT). The MAS-GIT is an intensive one-year online degree program. The program  offers education and practice in GIS, advanced geospatial analysis, remote sensing, digital image processing and information extraction, photogrammetry, computer programing and innovative research etc.

Elmhurst College
The Online Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Certificate Program at Elmhurst College will prepare you to succeed in the exciting geospatial technologies industry. Designed for working professionals, the program is offered entirely online through the Elmhurst College Online Center. You’ll work closely with faculty who are experienced educators and active professionals, and you’ll complete hands-on projects and electronic portfolios. The Online GIS program aligns with the core guidelines of the National Center for Geographic Information Analysis (NCGIA), the proposed standards of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) and the GIS Certification Institute (GISCI) for professional GIS certification. Most students complete the Online GIS program in less than a year. There are no prerequisites for introductory courses, and you may be able to apply previous college coursework toward your certificate.

Esri Virtual Campus
Esri provides free introductory courses and, for a fee, more advanced courses in GIS and using their software.

Distance Learning courses from Birkbeck College, London. Students on the course access the Internet to read the course materials, access course discussion groups and submit coursework. Students will need access to a personal computer running an approved desktop GIS package.

Johns Hopkins University – Online Certificate in GIS
The Certificate Program in GIS is a graduate program providing a strong foundational education that delves into the principles and real-world applications of GIS. This is 5 course certificate offered completely online, with rolling admissions, applications are accepted year-round.

MGI at City University
The MGI at City University is an online Masters Degree in Geographic Information available through face to face study in London or by distance learning. Access the managed learning environment to find out more about the various resources and means of communication that support learning.

North Dakota – Geographic Information Science Graduate Certificate
University of North Dakota – Online GISc Graduate Certificate Earn your GISc Graduate Certificate. The 1-year online program begins every summer.

Northwest Missouri – Online GIS Masters
The Department of Geology/Geography at Northwest Missouri offers a thesis-based online M.S. in Geographic Information Science. Students may also elect to take a 4-5 course graduate certificate in GIScience. This fully online program began in 2003 with 23 graduate students. The department reviews applicants in November and April.

Penn State
The Department of Geography at Penn State offers multiple Online Geospatial Education options for the experienced or aspiring Geospatial professional. Certificate programs in GIS and Geospatial Intelligence are available, as well as a Master of GIS degree program. Students may also opt to take individual courses for professional development purposes. Penn State offers over 30 courses across a wide range of cutting-edge GIS Application, Geospatial Intelligence, Remote Sensing, and Spatial Analysis topics. Penn State’s award-winning online programs are completely asynchronous, taught by world-leading faculty from both research and professional domains, and have served over 4000 students online since 1999. Penn State was one of the first institutions to offer GIS via Distance Learning.

Salisbury University
The MS in GIS Management degree was designed as a Professional Science Master’s degree, with an equal amount of management and GIS technical courses.  Its goal is to enhance the GIS proficiency of professionals working in business, government, and non-profit organizations, as well as teach GIS professionals the political and leadership skills of management. With such proficiency, graduates are well-equipped to integrate and apply enterprise GIS solutions in their respective fields. We know that some government agencies and many businesses have been slow to embrace fully the power of GIS. This is due in large measure to the fact that either technically-adept GIS professionals don’t have the management skills necessary to push the technology to a higher profile or management professionals don’t know enough about the technical capabilities to leverage the potential of spatial analysis to improve their organization’s competitiveness.  The MS in GIS Management degree at Salisbury University seeks to bridge the gap and create spatially-enabled managers, ready to take GIS to the next level.  The program is 80% online, with only one month of initial in-person courses and can be completed in 13 months.

UNIGIS International
UNIGIS is a worldwide network of educational institutions which offers distance learning courses in GIS.

University of Southern California
The University of Southern California has a comprehensive curriculum for studies in geographic informations systems. The university offers a distance learning Graduate Certificate Program in GIS as well as a Master of Science degree in GIS.

University of Toronto
Distance learning program from the Centre for Environment.  The objective of the Certificate in GIS for Environmental Management program is to build a foundation for understanding the GIS and Remote Sensing theory and techniques.  Students develop GIS software skills to solve practical tasks related to environmental management.

University of Twente, Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC)
7 weeks online Distance course: Principles of Geographical Information Systems.  This course introduces participants to the basic concepts and operational skills necessary for data entry, data manipulation and analysis, and the production of interpretable output. The course is useful to novices, as well as to those experienced in some aspects of GIS but lacking a complete overview of the state of the art and/or the conceptual foundation.

University of Washington
The Professional Master’s Program in Geographic Information Systems (PMPGIS) teaches students how to design a sustainable world with GIS. Learn how to model complex land, transportation and resource problems using geospatial technologies and sustainability management workflows. This unique program teaches students advanced spatial thinking skills and GIS techniques, and is the only program of its kind to offer a concentration in sustainability management.

Vancouver Island University (Canada) – Advanced Diploma in GIS Applications
Completely online Advanced Diploma in GIS Applications over a 16 month period (part-time).  Program begins each January. Learn to use GIS as a spatial information and problem-solving tool in addressing real-world issues or problems. Training involves course work with a number of GIS project assignments using ESRI’s Virtual Campus.

To have your school’s program listed please send an email with a brief (less than 200 words) description of your program, the URL, and school name to

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  1. The British Columbia Insititute of Technology (BCIT.CA) offers GIS bachelors degrees which can be done completely online. Requires a previous under-grad in some related science though (geography, geology, environmental studies etc.)

  2. update of comment above, the url changed
    For those who want to quickly learn GIS but not for a degree, you can look up the Institute for Mapping Technology (IMT).

    I work for IMT and we do short online GIS courses on GIS 101, GIS 201. The courses are designed for laymen who need to learn about GIS for their occupation, but aren’t mapping professionals. Also, they offer credit hours for continuing education in several industries. Surveyors, engineers, geologists and others.

    The Institute for Mapping Technology issues certificates of completion.

    To see the online GIS courses:

  3. Alas, I too have been looking for a BS in GIS. The only regionally accredited school that comes close is this: Unfortunately their GIS courses are pretty slim. Would be great to learn some scripting, programming, database management, etc. I had my sights set on American Sentinel University until I too found out that they are not regionally accredited and the resulting implications. By the way, American Sentinel University has been increasing their tuition about 10% per year on average for the last 4 years. They were $250 per credit hour in 2007 and now they are up to $350 per credit hour. They even told me tuition would increase further starting January. They are accredited via DETC but like Sam James says above, it is worthless if you want to pursue a Masters in GIS via Penn State Online (for example). Absolutely worthless.

  4. Just wanted to comment that I have an AS degree in Engineering Graphics. I have also been looking for a way to get a degree in GIS. I did find an AS degree in IT/GIS at American Sentinle College. Problem being I would really like to not have another AS degree. I would like to have a BS degree. If anyone finds anything let me know. I am always interested in learning. I have been working with GIS now for over 12 years. I have learned most of it from the school of work.


  5. Hello Sam James

    I am also looking for a BS in GIS on-line/distance learning. I was wondering if you have found any other BS programs that would be regionally accredited?

  6. Unfortunately, all I can seem to find available via distance learning are “GIS certificates” and MS programs. The only online BS program in GIS I did find was from American Sentinel University, but it is not regionally accredited – and that means it would be worthless if you wanted to use it to continue on for an online MS in GIS at Penn State or one of the other schools mentioned in this article.

    Does anyone know of a distance learning program for a BS in GIS that is regionally accredited?

    1. Hi, Sam

      American Sentinel University is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) . Doesn’t that make them regionally accredited?


  7. For those who want to quickly learn GIS but not for a degree, you can look up the Institute for Mapping Technology (IMT).

    I work for IMT and we do short online GIS courses on GIS 101, GIS 201. The courses are designed for laymen who need to learn about GIS for their occupation, but aren’t mapping professionals. Also, they offer credit hours for continuing education in several industries. Surveyors, engineers, geologists and others.

    The Institute for Mapping Technology issues certificates of completion.

    To see the online GIS courses:

  8. University of California San Diego Extension is offering an online Introduction to GIS course this
    quarter. This course can be taken by itself or as the first of four courses in a
    GIS Certificate Program.

    Course Description:
    In this introductory course, students will learn the fundamentals of
    geographic information systems (GIS), including coordinate systems,
    editing geographic and tabular data, spatial data analysis, database
    creation, and map creation. This is an ideal class for people who would
    like to learn how to incorporate GIS into the workplace or apply GIS to a
    specific area of interest. This course will use the GIS software ArcGIS by

  9. I am in the GIST Master’s program at USC. It is a distance-learning curriculum, but it is extremely difficult to utilize. The instructions are confusing, and the access to instruction is severely lacking. The coursework is conducted through a server on campus, and it is not user-friendly. The best thing I can say about this program is that the academic advisors are pleasant to work with. This is not a good GIS program for those who may be working while in school.

  10. I am a surveyor for one of the largest mining companies in the world.

    I have a Diploma in Surveying and I would like to consolidate this with a GIS degree, however I cant find any undergraduate programs to suite my needs. Online or by distance learning. do you have any recomendations?

  11. I am a land surveyor in the process of using GPS to collect data. I am looking for a program that will provide education complying the collected data in to useable maps.

    The classes need to be over the internet.

    I received a Certification Geographic Information from Ferris State Universty.

    All suggestions would be helpful.

    Thank you


  12. There is also a Masters of Engineering degree in Geographic Information Systems that is online through the Civil Engineering Department at the University of Colorado at Denver

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