Geographic Information Systems Certificate

The Department of Geology and Planetary Science offers a certificate in geographic information systems (GIS). GIS is a computer-based system that accommodates virtually any type of information about features that are referenced by geographical location. For example, a GIS database may include both location and attribute data, providing a spatial visualization capability for analyzing descriptive characteristics about geographical features, both natural and man-made. One of the most important benefits of GIS analysis is the ability to spatially interrelate multiple types of information stemming from a range of sources. Such computational manipulation of geographic data has become increasingly important in many areas of science, government, and industry. Students who demonstrate experience with computers in general, and GIS/image processing in particular, are at a distinct advantage when looking for jobs in geology, environmental science, city and regional planning, and engineering. This cerificate is designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed for immediate success in GIS-related jobs.


Only University of Pittsburgh undergraduates pursuing a degree are eligible to enroll in this Certificate Program. 16 total credits will be required to complete this certificate program; approximately four terms (two academic years).  It is therefore suggested that undergraduates begin no later than their junior year. A grade of C or better is required in all courses for successful completion of the certificate. GIS topics covered include the nature of geographic data, map projections, raster images, the basic elements of a GIS database, sources of data, and training in the Arc/Info software package. Students also have the option of focusing on remote sensing theory and applications. RS topics include image analysis and processing, field validation of satellite and airborne datasets, GPS training, and the use of software packages such as ENVI, Erdas Imagine, ERMapper, and Trimble's Pathfinder Office.

Students must declare their intent to complete the GIS Certificate by filling out the appropriate form in the Arts and Sciences Advising Center (201 Thackeray) or Student Records (140 Thackeray).

Core Courses (6 credits)

Elective Courses (6 credits)

Two elective courses may be chosen which have special relevance to the student's major or employment goals. Appropriate courses will be available from many different departments. Courses not on the following list may be selected contingent on approval by the certificate advisor.



GEOL 1901 Independent Study (4 credits)

The independent study for the GIS/Remote Sensing Certificate is a major project intended to allow students to reinforce and polish their GIS and/or remote sensing skills.  Students may either generate their own projects in consultation with one or more faculty members, or they can adopt a project generated by a faculty member.  Each project should attempt to answer a particular question, and these projects should involve the integration of 3 to 5 GIS map layers or at least 2 different remote sensing datasets.  After defining the scope, students should plan on spending at least five hours each week working on the project and having meetings every 2 weeks with the sponsoring faculty member.  The purpose of these meetings is to ensure that adequate progress is being made and that the final product will meet the needs of the project sponsor.  Sufficient work must be performed to earn four independent study or directed research credits. Faculty from any department may serve as the advisor, but students are encouraged to work with faculty in their primary area of interest. Projects must use GIS and/or RS as a major tool, and result in a published report/map/CD-ROM that describes the results of the research.  Click here for complete details on what you should hand in.

A copy of your project should be turned in to your faculty advisor and (in order to receive a grade) either Dr. Harbert (for projects that are mainly GIS) or Dr. Ramsey (for projects that are mainly remote sensing).