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GIS PhD Program Information

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are used to collect and analyze geographic data to gain a more accurate understanding of the topography of Earth. GIS-related doctoral programs are usually offered as a Ph.D. in Geospatial Information Sciences.

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Essential Information

Most land surveyors, professional map-makers or other GIS professionals gain a basic understanding of geographic information systems through a bachelor's degree or even a master's degree program in the field. A GIS Ph.D. is designed for those individuals who are interested in pursuing further research in geospatial sciences with the goal of developing new sciences and GIS technologies. Students are expected to choose a specialization, such as artificial intelligence in GIS, computer programming for GIS, database design or image processing and conduct independent research.

A bachelor's and master's degree in geology or land surveying, combined with work experience with GIS technologies, are the most typical prerequisites for gaining admittance into a GIS doctoral program.


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  • Cartography
  • Geography

Ph.D. in GIS

While many GIS Ph.D. courses are tailored to a student's specialized field of study, a few common seminar courses might be taken by all geographic information science doctoral students:

  • Applied GIS
  • GIS theories and issues
  • GIS models
  • Advanced regression
  • Remote sensing research
  • GIS pattern analysis

Popular Careers

Ph.D. programs in GIS provide graduates with the background in research and training necessary to take on roles in research or advising. Some of these and other options include:

  • Professor of GIS systems
  • Geophysical surveyor
  • Senior surveying technician
  • GIS system engineers
  • Environmental scientist

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected job decline of 2% for geographers between 2014 and 2024. However, the number of cartographers and photogrammetrists is expected to increase 29% during that same time. The BLS reported that, as of May 2015, the average annual salary for geographers was $74,920, while cartographers and photogrammetrists earned an average of $65,410 per year.

A Ph.D. program in GIS caters to a student's area of specialization and provides more detailed study of GIS while further developing the student's research skills. Graduates can pursue careers as GIS professors or engineers, as well as environmental scientists or geographers.

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