Certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS)






GIS Certificate Program Forms        [Top]

  • GIS Certificate Declaration Form for Graduate Students
  • Plan of Study Form (required for everyone; complete it in the last semester of your program and submit it to the Department of Geography)
  • Application for Certificate Program Completion: required for everyone; complete this step in the last semester of your program; use Apply to Graduate in the Student Records section of Self Service (my.okstate.edu).

WHAT IS GIS?        [Top]

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is an interdisciplinary technology with close theoretical and applied ties to the academic subject of geography. GIS is useful to every discipline which utilizes geographic data. As an example, GIS is used to model population growth and distribution, urban development, transportation expansion, manufacturing location, movement through networks, and many other processes. As these models are constructed, tested, and used, they will play a larger role as decision support systems available to managers, planners, and policy makers in an increasing number of fields.

A CAREER IN GIS        [Top]

In the last five years, many state agencies have created new positions for GIS analysts, technicians, and managers. Some Oklahoma agencies that employ persons with GIS training include the Conservation Commission, Department of Forestry, Department of Transportation, and Department of Commerce. In addition, Native American tribal governments, city planning departments, and regional planning agencies have created new positions for GIS specialists. At a time when the federal government workforce is being scaled back, there continues to be a high demand for GIS analysts in agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Increasingly, there is a demand for GIS professionals in private industry within Oklahoma. Surveying and engineering firms throughout the state routinely hire GIS professionals. Petroleum companies also maintain GIS/mapping departments to keep track of oil and gas production, storage, and transportation. Utilities are forming new GIS departments responsible for automating electrical, gas, or cable telephone network mapping and report-generating activities. There is also a significant demand for persons trained in GIS outside of the state and nation, especially in large cities and in multinational corporations. The GIS/mapping industry is a burgeoning market and one of the fastest growing segments of the computer industry. As a result, GIS- related professionals have never been in greater demand. Opportunities for certificate holders can be found in several areas within the GIS industry including applications development, database creation, sales and marketing, software development and training, data conversion, and public, retail, or commercial project management.


- GIS Project Manager
- Cartographic Technician
- GIS Analyst
- System / Database Administrator
- GIS Sales Specialist
- GIS Software Engineer


The GIS Certificate Program provides students with broad exposure to principles and applications of GIS. A student who has earned the Certificate in GIS will be well-versed in general GIS theory and will have knowledge and/or practical exposure to the following: 1) hardware and software used in GIS, 2) planning and construction of spatial databases, 3) GIS analyses (performed on data related to the student's area of interest), and 4) representation of data in both mapped and tabular form.  Requirements for the Certificate have been designed to parallel skills needed by GIS professionals. Through elective courses, students can focus on one of several areas of specialization. 

Admission into the Certificate Program is open to any student currently enrolled as an undergraduate or graduate student at OSU. Students who intent to earn the GIS certificate must formally declare that they are pursuing the Certificate. Undergraduate students can make the declaration by visiting the Student Services Office in the College of their primary degree and filling out an “Undergraduate Academic Program Declaration Form”. Graduate students need to fill out a “GIS Certificate Declaration Form for Graduate Students” to make the declaration. Students are recommended to make the declaration as early as possible once they decide to pursue the Certificate.

For people who are only interested in earning the GIS certificate but not currently enrolled at OSU, they can apply through the Undergraduate Admissions at OSU and get admission for the purpose of pursuing the GIS Certificate. No further declaration step is required for students who are admitted only for the GIS Certificate Program. (This option is not available to international students.) 

To receive a Certificate in GIS, a student must meet the following requirements: 

1)  Complete 9 credit hours of foundation coursework (Group I) and a minimum of 12 credit hours from course Groups II, III, IV, and V (a total of 21 credit hours), with a minimum 3.0 GPA for all courses taken in Groups II, III, IV and V (Note: a B or better must be earned for courses in Group IV and V);

2)  Hold a bachelors or higher degree from OSU or another accredited college or university (students may work towards the Certificate while completing their bachelors degree); and

3)  Complete at least 9 hours from Groups II, III, IV, and V and 12 hours overall at Oklahoma State University. Waivers of course requirements for courses taken at another University, or for professional experience can be given for up to 9 hours total, and 3 hours from Groups II, III, IV, and V.

The student MUST take GEOG 4203 (or an equivalent course) BEFORE taking either GEOG 4343 or GEOG 4353 from Group IV, and the Group IV course MUST be completed before taking the Group V course selection.  Also, the Advanced GIS courses listed in Group V are to be taken in concert with the associated Group IV course (as noted below).  For this reason the minimum normal time required to complete the GIS Certificate program is 3 semesters (excluding summer terms, when these courses are not normally offered).  It is the responsibility of the student to be aware of course scheduling options, as not all courses in the GIS course sequence are offered every term.


GROUP ONE: Foundation Courses


GEOG 4203

Fundamentals of Geographic Information Systems

GEOG 2343

Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (before Fall 2013)


GEOG 4383

Introduction to GIS Programming

CS 1113

Computer Science I

MSIS 3363

Advanced Management Information Systems Programming


GEOG 3333

Spatial Analysis

GEOG 5303

Geographical Analysis I

GENT 1153

Engineering Graphics

MET 1223

Industrial Computer-Aided Design

Group I.C can be satisfied with the approval of the Certificate Coordinator if the student has completed 9 or more credits of Statistics courses other than the Spatial Statistics courses outlined above with an average grade of B or better.  These courses MUST be taken at the Senior or Graduate Level.  Normally, no other substitutions are allowed.

Any of the prerequisite courses can be waived in consultation with the Certificate Coordinator if the student can demonstrate that he/she has satisfactorily completed similar coursework or has significant professional experience in the area.  However, the 12/9 hour minimum requirements outlined elsewhere in these rules will continue to be required regardless of any waivers.


GROUP TWO: Database Management


MSIS 3103

Database Design, Manipulation, and Management for End Users

MSIS 5643

Advanced Database Management

NREM 5193

Spatial / Non-spatial Database Management for Natural Resources


GROUP THREE: Data Capture & Representation


BAE 5313

Watershed Modeling and Water Quality

CIVE 3614

Engineering Surveying

CIVE 5263

Terrain Analysis

GEOG 4263/5263

Geospatial Applications for Unmanned Aerial Systems

GEOG 4303

Applications of the Global Positioning System in Field Research

GEOG 4313

Field Techniques and Geodata Collection

GEOG 4323

Computer Cartography

GEOG 4333/5333

Remote Sensing

GEOG 6313

Advanced Geodata Collection


GROUP FOUR: GIS Theory and Applications *


GEOG 4343/5323

Geographic Information Systems: Resource Management
Required Prerequisite: GEOG 4203 or Equivalent

GEOG 4353

Geographic Information Systems: Socioeconomic
Required Prerequisite: GEOG 4203 or Equivalent

* Please note that there are "corresponding" Advanced GIS courses for the two courses listed in Group IV (GEOG 4343 & GEOG 5343 and GEOG 4353 & GEOG 5353).  The student is required to take the Advanced GIS course that matches his/her Group IV course if they intend to use Advanced GIS to satisfy Group V (which is the preferred and most common path to completion of the Certificate).  If the student wishes to use either GEOG 4510 or GEOG 5510 to satisfy Group V, he/she must have prior approval of the Certificate Coordinator.


GROUP FIVE: Advanced GIS Applications


GEOG 5343

Advanced GIS: Resource Management
Required Prerequisite: GEOG 4343/5323

GEOG 5353

Advanced GIS: Socioeconomic Applications
Required Prerequisite: GEOG 4353

GEOG 6333

Advanced Technolgoies in Image Analysis/GIS
Required Prerequisite: GEOG 4333/5333

GEOG 4510

Senior Project  (3 hrs - Undergraduate Geography Majors)

GEOG 5510

Research Problems in Geography  (3 hrs)



In the last semester when a student enrolls for final class(es) required for the GIS Certificate, the student needs to fill out and submit the following two forms to indicate the completion of the program:

1) Complete a Plan of Study form for the GIS Certificate digitally and email it to the GIS Certificate Coordinator; and

2) Apply for certificate program completion using the Apply to Graduate option in the Student Records section of Self service (my.okstate.edu).

The last day to submit the forms is the Friday of finals week. The summer term deadline is the last day of the eight-week summer term. Certificates are available approximately six weeks after the end of the semester of completion. However, for students who are simultaneously completing a bachelor’s degree, the GIS certificate will be granted only after the bachelor’s degree is conferred.


The Department of Geography maintains a state-of-the-art facility for GIS instruction. A microcomputer laboratory is equipped with mainstream computers and several output devices including laser and inkjet printers and a large format color plotter. The workstation lab has four stations, a large format scanner, and a variety of other peripherals such as CD readers/burners, digitizers, and other printers. The department's software holdings include ArcGIS, ArcView GIS, Idrisi, and ERDAS Imagine. Labs are linked to OSU's fiber-optic network to facilitate access to data sources on the Internet. Global positioning system (GPS) equipment is also available to students for collecting spatially referenced information in the field that can be used in a GIS.

GIS FACULTY & SUPPORT STAFF  (Department of Geography)        [Top]

  • Jonathan Comer, Ph.D., Ohio State, 1994.  Economic and Spatial Modeling.
  • Allen Finchum, Ph.D., Tennessee, 1992.  Urban and Planning Applications, Database Development, Demographic/Population Analysis.
  • Amy Frazier, Ph.D., SUNY Buffalo, 2013.  Remote Sensing, Land Cover Ecology, Natural Resource Management, Human-Environment Interactions, Spatial Analysis.
  • Michael P. Larson, M.S., Oklahoma State, 2003.  OSU Cartography Services Coordinator.
  • Dale Lightfoot, Ph.D., Colorado, 1990.  Archaeological Applications, Resource Management, Remote Sensing.
  • Adam Mathews, Ph.D., Texas State, 2014. GIScience, Remote Sensing, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles/Systems, Cartography.
  • Bob Springer, M.S., Oklahoma State, 1977.  GIS Applications.
  • Stephen Stadler, Ph.D., Indiana State, 1979.  Surface/Atmospheric Interaction, Climatological Modeling.
  • Jacqueline Vadjunec, Ph.D., Clark, 2007.  Geodata Collection, Human Dimensions of Global Environment Change.
  • Thomas Wikle, Ph.D., Southern Illinois, 1989.  Resource Management, Computer Mapping, GPS.
  • Hongbo Yu, Ph.D., Tennessee, 2005.  Transportation, Socioeconomic Applications.



Hongbo Yu
Associate Professor & GIS Certificate Coordinator
Department of Geography
316 Murray Hall
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, Oklahoma  74078-4073
Phone:  (405) 744-9167
Fax:  (405) 744-5620
Email: hongbo.yu@okstate.edu