2020 Best Online Bachelor's in GIS Degrees

By OnlineU Staff | Updated 11/24/2020

Online geographic information systems (GIS) degrees are available at the bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate levels. Geographic information systems (GIS) is the science of capturing, storing, manipulating, analyzing, and managing different types of geographical or spacial data. People study GIS because it aids in solving a number of spatial problems such as creating maps, locating geographic data, measuring physical characteristics of the earth, and extracting information from structured sets of geographic data.

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2020 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Geographic Information Systems Degrees

2020 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Geographic Information Systems Badge

The schools featured on this list offer the best value options for obtaining an online bachelor's degree in geographic information systems (GIS) based on alumni salaries and low tuition rates. Graduates of the #1 school, University of Arizona, report earning a median salary of $89,300 after earning their Bachelor of Science in Geographic Information Systems Technology. With the lowest tuition on the list, Delta State University offers two bachelor's degrees in geographic information systems for an affordable rate of $7,501 per year. Alumni from this school reported a mid-career salary of $66,653

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.

RankSchool Annual Tuition Mid-Career Salary
# 1 #1 University of Arizona $15,750 $89,300
# 2 #2 Oregon State University $13,905 $81,900
# 3 #3 North Carolina A&T State University $17,280 $82,393
# 4 #4 North Park University-Chicago $16,500 $78,909
# 5 #5 Delta State University $7,501 $66,653
# 6 #6 Florida Atlantic University $21,595 $69,300
# 7 #7 Western Illinois University $8,883 $59,600
# 8 #8 Unity College $14,100 $59,983
# 9 #9 Arizona State University $15,900 $54,200
Salary data provided by Payscale Logo
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2020 Online Colleges Offering Geographic Information Systems Degrees - Ranking Details

#1 University of Arizona

  • Annual Tuition: $15,750
  • Median Salary: $89,300
  • Locations: Tucson (AZ)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The online Bachelor of Science in Geographic Information Systems technologies at the University of Arizona is designed to prepare students for GIS and geospatial sciences careers. The 120-credit-hour program provides a solid foundation in the discipline with coursework that includes map science, cartographic design and production, GIS, advanced GIS, and remote sensing. Students use the Desire2Learn (D2L) learning management system to submit assignments, check their grades, and collaborate with their classmates. The program follows a semester schedule and is typically completed in four years. The curriculum is based on the US Department of Labor’s competency model to prepare graduates for careers in the private, public, or nonprofit sectors. Distance learners have access to IT support for D2L, academic advising, networking opportunities, and tutoring. Admission to the online GIS bachelor's program requires prospective students to submit an online application and official transcripts.

#2 Oregon State University

  • Annual Tuition: $13,905
  • Median Salary: $81,900
  • Locations: Corvallis (OR)
  • Accreditation: NWCCU

The Bachelor of Science in Geography and Geospatial Science offered at Oregon State University aims to provide students a comprehensive and diverse education in the subject matter. Students receive instruction on the broad topic of geography with coursework in human geography and climatology. The curriculum also includes more focused geospatial science topics, including the foundations of geospatial science and remote sensing. Students have the opportunity to select from a variety of minors to enhance their education. The online curriculum is available through Oregon State University’s eCampus, which is an extension of Canvas. The Canvas learning management system houses students’ calendars, assignments, grades, and communications with their professors and classmates. Students may also use Zoom and other conferencing tools. Program courses are designed to be interactive and collaborative and may include pre-recorded lectures. This 180-credit-hour online GIS degree can prepare students for careers in cartography, urban planning, or teaching. Interested students can apply for a winter or spring start date by submitting an online application, academic transcripts, and college entrance exam scores. Academic resources for online students include exam proctoring, success coaching, virtual tutoring, and technical support.

#3 North Carolina A&T State University

  • Annual Tuition: $17,280
  • Median Salary: $82,393
  • Locations: Greensboro (NC)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The 124-credit-hour Bachelor of Science in Geomatics at North Carolina A&T State University is available entirely online. It provides students a comprehensive education in the theories, practices, and technologies of measuring and determining Earth's surface locations. Coursework completed in the online GIS bachelor's degree includes geographic information systems, land surveying, boundary and survey law, and photogrammetry. Students access their online classes, email, classroom announcements, virtual tutorials, and grades through the Blackboard learning management system. The program may also include quizzes and small-group exercises. Before beginning the program, students can take a Blackboard orientation course to become familiar with the online platform. Students can also benefit from career support, tutoring, program coordinator assistance, and library resources. Graduates can pursue careers in boundary surveying, aerial surveying, or surveying and mapping management. To apply, prospective students must submit an online application to the university. Admission is based on the strength of students’ transcripts and test scores. Dedicated admissions advisors can help students through the process.

#4 North Park University-Chicago

  • Annual Tuition: $16,500
  • Median Salary: $78,909
  • Locations: Chicago (IL)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The online Bachelor of Arts in location intelligence (GIS) program at North Park University in Chicago provides an interdisciplinary curriculum that combines a liberal arts foundation with business and location intelligence courses. Major coursework comprises 36 hours and focuses on topics like spatial data management, smart mapping, and remote sensing technologies. Graduates of the online GIS degree program can apply their knowledge and skills in a variety of fields, including urban planning, conservation, and media.

#5 Delta State University

  • Annual Tuition: $7,501
  • Median Salary: $66,653
  • Locations: Cleveland (MS)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Delta State University offers an online Bachelor of Applied Science in Geospatial Analysis and Intelligence for students that wish to pursue an education in the field of geographic information systems. This 120-credit-hour degree program is designed in line with the fundamentals of the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation. Students complete coursework in a wide range of topics that offer instruction on the theories and technologies used in the industry, including geospatial project planning and topographical mapping. Classes are delivered through the Canvas learning management system and may include written assignments, real-time and pre-recorded lectures, presentations, and quizzes. Students can pursue the degree on a part-time schedule, taking 1-2 classes at a time. The online format is introduced through a single general education course, which counts toward the program requirements. For those without a computer capable of running GIS software, virtual computing support is available. Additional support for distance learners includes career services, health services, and academic tutoring. To apply, interested students must submit their SAT or ACT scores, an online application, and all previous transcripts indicating successful completion of the College Preparatory Curriculum (CPC) with at least a 2.0 GPA.

#6 Florida Atlantic University

  • Annual Tuition: $21,595
  • Median Salary: $69,300
  • Locations: Boca Raton (FL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Florida Atlantic University (FAU) has a Bachelor of Arts in Geoscience for individuals seeking an online geographic information systems degree. Housed in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, the MA in Geosciences has a focus on geography and three possible concentrations: Environmental Systems, Human Systems, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The major requires 55 credit hours, with classes deriving from each of the concentrations. The full bachelor’s in GIS degree is 120 credit hours. Online students have access to academic advising, the Center for Learning and Student Success, and a writing center. The Center of eLearning provides virtual tutoring, career services, disability accommodations, and FAU library resources. Online classes use the Canvas Learning Management software and may be delivered either asynchronously or through live stream using WebEx video-conferencing tools. Incoming first-year students must meet the admission requirements, which include general education credits and a foreign language component. Students qualify as transfer students if they have earned at least 60 college credits. Transfer applicants must have at least a 2.5 GPA upon applying. Interested candidates complete an application form (with fee) and submit ACT/SAT scores. FAU also has VA-approved programs for military students.

#7 Western Illinois University

  • Annual Tuition: $8,883
  • Median Salary: $59,600
  • Locations: Macomb (IL)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Western Illinois University’s online bachelor programs are designed for working adults and students in the military. Classes are flexible and delivered asynchronously, so online students are responsible for completing class assignments on their own time, without regular attendance required. Online learners have access to academic advising and career services. Additionally, students can access the uTech Support Center for technical assistance. Tools provided include a live chat feature for IT questions. The online Bachelor of Science in Geographic Information Science from Western Illinois University is offered through the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, & Geographic Information Sciences. Students in the program learn how to effectively use GIS software and analyze the data. A 4+1 BS/Master of Science in GIS degree is available for students with a high GPA. The BS can be completed in four years, though transfer students can complete the major in two years. The traditional program requires 120 credit hours to graduate. Online GIS bachelor’s degree applicants need a 2.75 GPA from high school work. Students must submit standardized test scores (ACT or SAT) and official transcripts. Applicants qualify as transfer students if they have more than 24 credits of college-level courses completed. Transfer students must have a minimum GPA of 2.0.

#8 Unity College

  • Annual Tuition: $14,100
  • Median Salary: $59,983
  • Locations: Unity (ME)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

Individuals pursuing an online geographic information systems degree have four options from Unity College: a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Emergency Management, a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies, a Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Business Management, and a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Conservation. Each of these programs has a concentration in Environmental GIS. Each degree requires 120 credit hours to graduate and a final capstone project. Online programs are designed to be flexible and accommodate working professionals. Case studies and fieldwork are crafted so students can complete assignments in their own communities. Students may take classes on a part-time or full-time basis and complete work at their own pace. Course materials are housed in the Canvas learning management system. Online learners receive career advisement, personalized attention from professors through Skype office hours, resources from the Unity College Library, and 24/7 technical support. Unity College has been recognized as a Military-Friendly school. There are multiple start dates throughout the year, depending on which degree is chosen. Applicants must have completed a high school degree. Students with previous college experience may transfer up to 90 credits toward the Unity College degree.

#9 Arizona State University

  • Annual Tuition: $15,900
  • Median Salary: $54,200
  • Locations: Tempe (AZ) (and 4 others)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Arizona State University offers three online undergraduate programs for individuals searching for a degree in geographic information systems (GIS): a Bachelor of Science in GIS, a Bachelor of Science in Geography, or a Bachelor of Arts in Geography. The geography programs offer a concentration in GIS Software. Students take classes in GIS skills and research methods, as well as statistics. The BA in Geography includes a social perspective regarding how humans interact with the physical environment. Classes are taught in 7.5-week sessions. There are six start dates throughout the year. Each program requires 120 credit hours to complete. The BS in GIS includes a final requirement of an internship, capstone seminar, or independent research project. ASU's online classes share the same faculty as the on-campus programs. Most classes are asynchronous and rely on students to hold themselves responsible for completing assignments by the due dates. Online students will be assigned an academic advisor and have access to a 24/7 IT help desk. Graduates from ASU Online are invited to attend the on-campus graduation ceremonies. First-year student applicants must meet a 2.5 GPA requirement and receive a minimum 22 ACT score or an 1120 SAT score (24 and 1180 respectively for non-Arizona residents). The complete application requires transcripts, test scores, an application form, and a fee. Students who don't meet these requirements can access the Earned Admission Pathway, a program that allows students the opportunity to complete some online courses. These individuals must maintain a minimum 2.75 GPA during this period.

Overview of Online Geographic Information Systems

Many positions within the field will require a bachelor's degree, which will take fours years to complete comprising of 120-credit hours of coursework. Online master's degree programs are also available to prepare professionals to take on senior roles in more specialized areas. Students can receive their graduate diplomas in two years depending on their choice of full-time or part-time study. Professionals who are looking to advance their careers but don't want to commit to a full graduate degree program can participate in a post bachelor's online certificate program, which can be completed in a year or less.  

Online Bachelor's Degrees in Geographic Information Systems

By participating in an online bachelor's degree program in geographic information systems students will learn the mapping and programing skills needed to be successful in the industry. Key courses within a geographic information systems curriculum include website design, data base design and management, cyber law and ethics, geospatial programing, information technology communications, computer platforms technology, and information technology portfolio planning. A typical online bachelor's degree program is comprised of 120 total credit hours and will take students four years to finish. Many graduates go on to work as geospatial scientists, remote sensing technologists, user interface developers, and geographic information systems analysts. Applicants who wish to participate in an online bachelor's degree program will need to submit their high school diploma or GED certificate along with transcripts. Applicants will also be required to submit transcripts from each post-secondary they attended. an admissions essay may also be required. 

The Importance of an Accredited Online Geographic Information Systems Degree 

Regional accreditation is the process in which an outside, non-profit organizations conducts a quality review on a a specific program or school. This is something that should be taken into consideration before making a final commitment to a school. These quality reviews ensure that the program is taking all of the necessary steps to provide the best education for the students involved. Reviews are conducted on things like curriculum, facilities, teaching material, student resources, and faculty. Students who may be in need of financial aid will want to apply for accredited programs because federal financial aide is only available through accreditation. Many employers in the professional world will not recognize a degree unless it has been received through an accredited program. For this reason accreditation can make the job search upon graduation a much easier process. Lastly, many institutions will only accept transfer credits that have been accredited. If a student feels that they may need to transfer institutions anytime in their future this must be considered. 

Careers in Geographic Information Systems

In a world that is becoming increasingly reliant on various new technologies, there are many career options available to those that earn an online degree in geographic information systems. Graduates might find work in such fields as environmental resource management, urban planning, or cartography. Those who go to work in the field of cartography using geographic information systems will likely work under the title of geographic information specialist. These specialists will use GIS to create and update maps that digitally present spatial information. These maps will be used in a variety of settings, like planning the use of land, marketing, geology, and environmental studies.

Another notable option for online GIS graduates is to find work as a geographer. These professionals can work for the federal government or private organizations, and their job involves creating maps based on a variety of geographic data. These maps are not always just maps of land features or cities; they may also include visual representation of things like cultural structures or political features. Geographers will look at geographic data and combine it with information relating to things like economics, health, or the environment, and then create a map that accurately represents this information. This information is used for a variety of purposes, from planning the layout of roads to determining the best way to respond to a disaster. Geographers usually need a bachelor's degree to find work within the federal government or in entry-level jobs. A master's will help them to advance in their career.

This website offers school details to prospective students as an informational resource. The appearance of a school listing on this website should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the school by this site.

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