Geographic Information Systems (GIS) certificate

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How to Apply


GIS software and lab


What is GIS?

A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer-based tool for mapping and analyzing things that exist and events that happen on earth. GIS technology integrates common database operations such as query and statistical analysis with the unique visualization and geographic analysis benefits offered by maps. These abilities distinguish GIS from other information systems and make it valuable to a wide range of public and private enterprises for explaining events, predicting outcomes and planning strategies.

Students looking at GIS map

Who uses GIS?

Everyone? Chances are, you've already used GIS, on your smart phone. If you've used Google Maps, Waze, or even The Photographers Ephemeris to simply plan for perfect light to capture an urban outdoor photography image, you've used GIS. GIS is used in nearly all job categories, in some way or another.  It is likely that GIS will enhance your marketability, regardless of your chosen profession.

Why should I enroll in the University of Washington Tacoma GIS Certificate Program?

Because GIS is everyWHERE, and employers are looking for employees who have an understanding of what can be done with GIS. Once you learn how to use GIS, you can utilize the skills in other courses to fulfill other requirements. Depending on your major (e.g. Enviromental Science, Environmental Studies), you may be able to use the GIS Certificate Program as your capstone, or at the very least, as a tool in your capstone.  It is recommended that you consult with an academic advisor for specific information about how to apply credits from the GIS Certificate Program toward your major. 

How do I know if GIS is utilized in my chosen field?

EASY! Google "your chosen field and GIS", "your ideal job and GIS" or "your major and GIS", such as "Urban Studies and GIS", "Business and GIS", "Marketing Manager and GIS", "Urban Planning and GIS", "Computer Science and GIS", etc.

What Majors have enrolled in the GIS Certificate Program?

Urban Studies, Sustainable Urban Development, Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, Politics Philosophy and Economics, Communications, History, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, Law and Policy, Healthcare Leadership, Business Administration, Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Information Technology, and more! Don't see your major listed? Google your major along with 'and GIS' to determine the value GIS will add to your Resume.

Must I be enrolled as a Full Time student at UW Tacoma, to take the GIS Certificate?

NO, in fact, of our GIS Certificate Students (30-50 people yearly), nearly half are 'non-matriculated', meaning they are not enrolled in a Major at UWT. They have chosen to enroll in the Certificate to enhance their job growth, employability, and overall skillset.

About the GIS certificate

The University of Washington Tacoma offers 5 courses leading to a certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The certificate program is a 25-credit curriculum which begins with T GIS 311, Maps and GIS, taken any quarter (Autumn, Winter, Spring or Summer) and serves as a prerequisite for subsequent courses. The remaining four courses are taken over two consecutive quarters (Autumn/Winter). This program is designed for entry-level and intermediate-level GIS users who lack formal education in geography or GIS.

The certificate in GIS provides you with an excellent foundation in the concepts necessary for spatial modeling with a variety of digital data. You will develop the analytical and practical skills needed for research and employment in GIS. The certificate program also provides you with the educational foundation for transfer into a baccalaureate program in related fields of study.

If you want the knowledge and skills to utilize GIS in fields such as urban and regional planning, environmental research, resource management, crime analysis, marketing, real estate, medical research, and various branches of government, this program is for you.


Program goals

  • Provide students with a practical and theoretical understanding of approaches to spatial analysis
  • Introduce students to cartographic techniques that are used to produce maps for a variety of audiences
  • Equip students with the technical skills necessary to pursue careers in the geospatial industry
  • Serve as a graphics and mapping resource for UW Tacoma faculty
  • Assist the local community with spatial analysis and mapping needs

Upon completion of the program, students will have:

  • Demonstrated proficiency in the use of GIS software
  • Learned the analytical skills necessary to apply GIS to common social and environmental problems
  • Acquired the skills and expertise necessary to design and implement an independent geospatial research project
  • Gained the ability to create and present professional-quality graphic representations of social, environmental and economic conditions