Courses & Curriculum

Degree Requirements

To earn a Master of GIS at the University of Washington, you must complete eight courses for a total of 40 credits.

The Master of GIS is a project-based, non-thesis degree program.  Each of the first seven courses concludes with a final project, and the capstone project makes up the eighth course.


With its focus on sustainability management, the UW Master of GIS curriculum is designed to teach you how to use GIS technologies to solve complex sustainable system problems. Leveraging the full range of GIS capabilities, you’ll learn to analyze the social, economic and environmental factors involved and to model sustainable solutions at all scales.

Specifically, you'll learn how to: 

  • Frame a sustainable system problem. Formulate a problem statement that incorporates social, economic and environmental considerations.
  • Plan the approach. Approach the problem using a geodesign workflow, a decision support method for modeling and evaluating the sustainability impact of different scenarios.
  • Gather and manage the data. Design the database. Gather data from a variety of sources, at a variety of scales and in a variety of vector and raster formats. Store and integrate data, making it available for analysis.
  • Analyze the data to reach a solution. Use GIS to analyze complex system interrelationships and model and iterate on possible interventions.
  • Report on proposed solution. Present recommendations using 2-D, 3-D and 4-D (spatial-temporal) sustainable system maps that highlight the character of system interrelationships.

To ensure that the knowledge and skills gained in the program are nationally recognized, the program curriculum incorporates concepts from the Geographic Information Science & Technology Body of Knowledge as well as the U.S. Department of Labor's Geospatial Technology Competency Model.

Core and Concentration Courses

gis classroomThe Master of GIS consists of four core courses (20 credits) the first year and four concentration courses in sustainability management (20 credits) the second year.

Core courses teach the fundamentals of working with GIS software to frame sustainable system relationships while developing advanced skills in spatial thinking, problem solving and decision making. Concentration courses provide a background on how sustainable system problems are viewed around the world and focus on refining problem-solving so you can balance competing priorities among stakeholders. 

Course Sequence

Quarter Course Title
Year One
Autumn GEOG 582: GIS Data Management
Winter GEOG 560: Principles of GIS Mapping
Spring GEOG 565: GIS Programming
Summer GEOG 517: Geospatial Data Analysis
Year Two
Autumn GEOG 562: Coastal GIS
Winter GEOG 564: GIS & Decision Support
Spring GEOG 568: International Case Studies of GIS for Sustainability Management
Summer GEOG 569: GIS Workshop (Capstone Project)