Geographic Information Systems Fundamentals

hands type on a computer

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 four-year Bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 3.0 from an accredited institution of higher learning.
  • Non-native English speakers must take either the TOEFL exam or the IELTS exam with scores of:
    • TOEFL- 92 for internet-based test (IBT) and 580 for paper test.
    • IELTS- 7.0.
  • GRE scores are not required.
  • Not be enrolled in another undergraduate or graduate program while completing our GIS Certificate program.

To apply:

  • Online application to UW–Madison as University Special Student.
  • Online application to GIS program.
  • Unofficial transcripts.
  • Brief letter of interest essay.
  • Contact information for two references.

Applications accepted for fall, spring, or summer enrollment.

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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)

Ready to learn more about Geographic Information Systems Fundamentals?
View the UW-Madison Guide

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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

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Danielle Lee

 It was perfect for me: there was loads of spatial analysis and problem-solving, yet at the same time the artistic expression could come through in designing the maps and deciding how to visualize the data. Let’s just say I fell head over heels.  

Danielle Lee, GIS position at a "fantastic environmental engineering company"
Read more about Danielle