Graduate Degree

Some universities offer graduate programs designed especially for federal workers and contractors. For example, the master’s of science program at George Mason University is tailored to military or government contractors and emphasizes training to solve real-world problems. George Mason University is located near a cluster of federal employers in the Washington, D.C., region, which is attractive to workers seeking part-time graduate training while remaining employed. Moreover, many instructors come from the federal government, which facilitates communication between an academic training center and government employers.

The George Mason University master’s in geographic and cartographic sciences focuses on preparing students for careers in geography, remote sensing, and GIS, as well as cartography, visualization, and modeling.1 Courses concentrate on the techniques of compilation, display, and analysis of spatial data, and on associated applications (see Table A.12, Appendix A). In addition to a core curriculum consisting of coursework in GIS, remote sensing, and quantitative methods, students may take up to 24 credits of elective coursework. Electives focus on environmental applications, such as land use or hydrographic applications; on cultural and human systems, such as transportation, food security, and medical applications (e.g., GIS applications to model disease vectors); or on strategic applications, such as the geography of insurgency. In-depth training in cartography, spatial database management, and programming is also offered.

Professional Science Master’s Program. Many employers are looking for individuals who possess scientific expertise along with practical workforce skills in communication, management, legal and regulatory affairs, and administration. Professional science master’s programs are intended to produce graduates with this mix of scientific and practical skills. Internships are required of students, and an employer advisory board must be involved in program design and evaluation. The degree model was developed from an initiative of the Sloan Foundation in the 1990s, and professional science master’s programs are now coordinated by the Council of Graduate Schools.2

Four universities offer geospatially oriented professional science master’s programs under the Council of Graduate Schools. North Carolina State University offers a professional science master’s degree in Geospatial Information Science and Technology, which is aimed at the development, management, and application of new technology to understand and manage spatial phenomena, such as economic development, disease, emergency planning and response, and environmental resources. Other relevant professional science master’s programs include Applied Geospatial Sciences, Geospatial Technologies Emphasis (Northern Arizona University), Cartography and Geographical Information Systems (Binghamton University), and Geographical Information Systems and Remote Sensing (University of Pittsburgh).

Some master’s programs have similarities to the professional science master’s model, even though they lack the formal designation by the Council of Graduate Schools. For example, several universities offer professional master’s degrees aimed at current practitioners as well as students seeking employment in the geospatial technology industry. Examples include the Pennsylvania State University, University of Minnesota, University of Southern California, Northwest Missouri State University, University of Denver, and the University of Colorado, Denver. Some master’s programs in geography require internships, hire professionals to teach courses as adjunct instructors, and specify applied geography in the degree title or area of concentration.

Distance Learning

The traditional campus-based programs discussed above are not convenient for everyone, including individuals who work full time or who live far from a suitable university. Distance learning programs offer students a path to receiving formal training without requiring physical access to campuses as well as the flexibility to choose the time of day they devote to study. A growing number of universities provide online


1 See <>.

2 See the program description provided by the National Professional Science Masters Association at <> and the criteria required for a Professional Science Masters affiliation at <http://www.>.

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