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University of Pittsburgh    
2018-2019 Undergraduate Catalog 
  Jun 21, 2024
2018-2019 Undergraduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Geographic Information Systems Certificate

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The Geology and Planetary Science Department 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 manmade. 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 certificate is designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed for immediate success in GIS-related jobs.


The program is open to any University of Pittsburgh student, including post-baccalaureate students (professionals seeking to expand their job-related computer skills). Approximately four terms (two academic years) will be required to complete this certificate program. 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. Remote sensing (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.


Two elective courses may be chosen that 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.

Independent Study

Students should work with faculty in their primary area of interest to define and develop the capstone project. It must use GIS and/or RS as a major tool and result in a published report, map, or media that describes the results of the research.

Additional information and requirements

  • A minimum grade of C is required in each course required for this certificate.
  • No course that counts toward the certificate can be taken on an S/NC basis unless the student receives special permission from the certificate advisor. 

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