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Geographic Information Systems Fundamentals

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Learn the core conceptual and applied underpinnings of GIS at your own pace and around your schedule. Our GIS Fundamentals program is 100% online and flexible, so you can earn your certificate without disrupting your career.


Is this program right for you?

With the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Fundamentals Capstone Certificate at UW–Madison, you will acquire the core technological skills needed to apply GIS regardless of your career—from engineering to natural sciences to business. Over the last few decades, GIS tools have become increasingly complex, prompting a large demand for individuals with formal training. After completing your certificate, you will be poised to join this expanding sector.

You will gain experience with common commercial and open-source GIS software (Esri, CARTO, Mapbox, QGIS, and more). Core courses will train you across the three core competencies of GIS: cartography, spatial analysis, and GIS programming. Our flexible program is offered completely online, so you can take courses on your own schedule from anywhere in the world.

The Cartography/GIS programs in UW–Madison’s Department of Geography are world-renowned and have a long tradition of excellence in the field. After completion of the GIS Fundamentals Capstone Certificate, many students enroll in the Advanced GIS Capstone Certificate to expand their geographic information systems knowledge and gain a valuable career advantage.

Is this program right for you?

With the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Fundamentals Capstone Certificate at UW–Madison, you will acquire the core technological skills needed to apply GIS regardless of your career—from engineering to natural sciences to business. Over the last few decades, GIS tools have become increasingly complex, prompting a large demand for individuals with formal training. After completing your certificate, you will be poised to join this expanding sector.

You will gain experience with common commercial and open-source GIS software (Esri, CARTO, Mapbox, QGIS, and more). Core courses will train you across the three core competencies of GIS: cartography, spatial analysis, and GIS programming. Our flexible program is offered completely online, so you can take courses on your own schedule from anywhere in the world.

The Cartography/GIS programs in UW–Madison’s Department of Geography are world-renowned and have a long tradition of excellence in the field. After completion of the GIS Fundamentals Capstone Certificate, many students enroll in the Advanced GIS Capstone Certificate to expand their geographic information systems knowledge and gain a valuable career advantage.

Admissions requirements

All applicants must:

  • Have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.
  • Have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0.
  • Submit evidence of English language proficiency, if applicable. The required proficiency scores are: TOEFL IBT 92, PBT 580; or IELTS 7.0.

Application materials required:

Program highlights

  • In just 1-3 semesters, you will learn how to evaluate spatial and non-spatial information used in mapping, planning, and decision making.
  • You learn from the best: Our GIS Program is world-renowned as a leader in geographic information technology and computer-generated mapping technologies.
  • UW–Madison’s GIS Fundamentals Certificate program is offered entirely online, so you can earn your certificate on your schedule, from anywhere in the world.

How you'll learn

  • Fully online curriculum completed full- or part-time; you choose when you do most of your work each week.
  • If you have already taken a single entry-level GIS or Cartography course as an undergraduate, you can transfer that single four-credit course into the capstone, leaving only 8 credits needed to complete your certificate.

Sample curriculum

  • Introduction to Cartography (Geog 370)
  • Introduction to GIS (Geog 377)
  • Geocomputing (Geog 378)

Job outlook

Top Job Titles
  • GIS Analyst
  • GIS Specialist
  • GIS Technician
  • Cartographer
Top Industries
  • Government (Federal, state and regional)
  • Surveying, engineering and construction
  • Utilities (Electrical, telecommunications)
  • Academic
  • Environment and natural resources

Projected Job Growth
10.6% for Surveying and Mapping Technicians (2016-2026)

Job Postings
5,543 in 2019

Source: Burning Glass Technologies: Labor Insight. 2020.
Burning Glass Technologies’ Market Salary is an estimated expected salary. Market Salary uses machine learning algorithms to account for experience, skill, and education among other factors that may impact individual salaries.
Source 1 : Burning Glass and alumni survey data
Source 2: What Can You Do with a GIS Degree?

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Connect with our enrollment coaches

Our friendly, knowledgeable enrollment coaches are here to answer your questions. Contact an enrollment coach to:

  • Learn how to make this program work with your life/schedule
  • Verify credit transfers
  • Get help with your application
  • Determine if financial aid is available

Visit with our coaches on campus or at an upcoming student fair in your area. Search student fairs & events

Connect with a coach

Ellie Glynn

 There are great opportunities to get involved in various groups and labs on campus that do GIS and cartography work. I worked in the UW Cartography Lab (in the geography department) and the Applied Population Lab (in community & environmental sociology), and I loved every minute of getting to work and becomes friends with such talented people. 

Ellie Glynn, GIS Accelerated/Non-thesis Option