Academic Policies

No, per the Graduate School Policy, undergraduate students who wish to enroll in graduate level courses (500 and above) may only transfer 6 credit hours (B or better) into the Certificate program for courses not taken as part of another degree requirement (core or elective). Therefore, to receive the GIS Certificate, current NC State undergraduates can only take 6 credit hours of 500 level GIS courses before graduation. Upon graduation, the student must apply to the Graduate Certificate in GIS program through the Graduate School to complete the remaining courses. The same course restrictions apply.

Yes, students currently enrolled in the Graduate GIS Certificate program must apply to the MGIST program as normal. You can get started by going to our Apply page. Admissions to the Certificate program does not guarantee admissions into the MGIST.

Students in the MGIST program can typically transfer between 6-9 units of previously taken credits, with restrictions. Review the NC State University Graduate School Handbook for complete information on the restrictions.

Students in the Graduate Certificate in GIS program can transfer a maximum of 6 credit hours into the Certificate taken in Non-degree status at NC State. No transfer credits from other institutions are allowed in the Certificate program.

The GRE is not required for our MGIST or Graduate Certificate programs.  If you have taken the GRE within the last five years and would like to submit scores, you are welcome to do so via the online graduate school applications.

NC State University’s GIST online programs welcome graduate students from universities all around the world. For international students, the Graduate School requires TOEFL scores of at least 80 on the internet-based version. Please review The Graduate School Handbook for English proficiency and visa requirements.

International Students enrolled in the distance education program are not eligible for a student visa to study in the US. Please be aware that if you currently live outside the US and begin the online program you will be taking classes from your home country, alternatively you may apply for our on-campus MGIST program, which has the same requirements and admissions policies as our online program (NOTE: we admit a very small number of on-campus students each year).

MGIST Program: Yes, there are 2 requirements for students to come to NC State’s campus in Raleigh. We feel these experiences add an invaluable networking opportunity for our students and provide them with additional tools to be successful in our programs. The 2 on-campus requirements include:

  • A day-long orientation in December (for new Spring students) or August (for new Fall students)
  • A half-day Digital Symposium (where students present their capstone projects) and celebration coinciding with graduation for students completing the program

Certificate Program: No, there is no on-campus expectations

NOTE: We will make every effort to accommodate students with significant exceptions that cannot attend these events.


Yes! Our programs have a strong track record of admitting both active duty and veteran military officers. Individuals affiliated with the military are encouraged to contact the NC State Veteran’s Education to discuss options for obtaining your degree from NC State.  An expedited 18-month Master’s program may also be available for certain military individuals under benefit time constraints. Please contact us for more details and qualifications.

Applications for both our MGIST and Graduate Certificate programs are reviewed beginning around our application deadlines (April 15 and Oct 15). Applicants should expect to receive a decision within a couple of weeks of the application deadline; any time between April 1 – May 1 & Oct 1 – Nov 1 is typical.

All application materials should be submitted prior to the dates published below. Applications will be reviewed after this date and admission recommendations submitted to the Graduate School. We do not admit students to start in the summer due to course availability and timing of admissions decision-making.

NOTE: Application deadlines for the MGIST and Graduate Certificate are different than dates specified by the Graduate School for other programs.

  • Fall: April 15th (March 1 for International Students)
  • Spring: October 15th (July 15 for International Students)
  1. Take 2-3 of the required courses (MGIST applicants), or 1-2 courses (Certificate applicants) as a non-degree student and do well in them.  Earning a B or better (not a B-) shows that you are capable of succeeding in graduate courses.  These credits may be able to transfer into the degree program (see transfer credit).
  2. Make sure you have taken the prerequisite courses.
  3. Relevant work experience can substitute for some missing coursework.
  4. Any of the following (if true) will help your case that you are capable of maintaining above a 3.0 GPA in graduate school:
    • Undergraduate degree was many years ago and you have now matured.
    • Poor grades were early in your undergraduate career and/or your major GPA was above a 3.0.
    • You had one bad semester but otherwise maintained a decent GPA.
    • You have strong GRE scores

Students are encouraged to address any of these issues in their personal statement during the application process to help the admissions committee evaluate you completely.  Some students who apply may be recommended for the certificate or non-degree status when appropriate.

GIST is inherently interdisciplinary, so we accept students from a wide variety of backgrounds and interests. There is no single undergraduate major that we look for, though the majority of applicants come from fields such as Geography, GIS, Environmental Science, Natural Resources, Anthropology, Planning, etc. We strongly suggest that if you have had zero exposure to GIS or related technologies, that you take an introductory course (community college, other university, etc.) to make sure it is something you want to pursue at the graduate level. Students in our programs tend to do better if they have some of that experience either through coursework and/or work experience.

Curriculum Requirements

No, our Master of Geospatial Information Science & Technology program is a non-thesis degree program. This means that instead of a research-based thesis, students are required to complete a semester-long capstone project with a community partner.

A Professional Science Master’s, or PSM, means that the program is affiliated with the National Professional Science Masters Association. PSM are unique in their design of curriculums that integrate professional skills development into the program to prepare students for professional careers in the field of study. The MGIST program was the first GIS program in the country to be recognized as a PSM.

We highly recommend having the following coursework or work experience before entering the program. While these are recommended, they are not required. Applicants should highlight these skills in their personal statement.

  • 1 semester introductory statistics (or work equivalent)
  • 1 semester programming (Python, Java, etc.) (or work equivalent)
  • 1 semester GIS (or work equivalent)

The time to completion depends on your individual situation and whether you are a full-time (9 credit hours), half-time (5 credit hours), or part-time student. The average time to completion is 2.5 years. In general, for students that are also working full or part-time, we recommend starting with one course per semester and increase that to two once you are confident you can fit the workload into your schedule. Students who are working full-time often find one course per semester is enough. Some full-time students take 3 courses per semester.

Typical times to completion are:

MGIST: Full-time = 2 years (4 semesters); Half-time = 3 years (6 semesters); Part-time = 3.5-4 years (7-8 semesters)

Certificate: Full-time = 1 year (2 semesters); Half-time = 1.5 years (3 semesters); Part-time = 2-2.5 years (4-5 semesters)

NOTE: Students entering the MGIST program on active Military benefits can qualify for an expedited 18-month program to meet military requirements. Military applicants should consult with the program director prior to applying and enrolling.

Financial Aid & Tuition

Cost of attendance will vary based on several factors, including residential status (in-state vs. out of state), and track (online vs. on-campus). A full breakdown of current costs can be found at the Cashier’s Office website.

The majority of our students are self-funded; however, a limited number of teaching assistant opportunities may be available to students once they have completed one semester in the program. These opportunities typically require 10hrs/week of work and pay a small semester stipend. Eligibility is determined in consultation with the specific instructors and director of graduate programs.

General Financial Aid: Students in the MGIST program are generally self-supported.Financial aid eligibility is determined by the Financial Aid Office. We encourage you to contact your financial aid advisor in the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid. A limited amount of grant funding is also available to students enrolled in Distance Education degrees. Criteria for funding is based on academic merit, demonstrated financial need, and enrollment in multiple Distance Education courses per semester. For additional information, please visit NC State’s Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid website, or call (919) 515-2421. NC State also offers a monthly payment plan.

Scholarships: There may be a number of external scholarships available to students that meet certain qualifications. Some specific opportunities include:

Online Learning Environment

Generally, No. All of the software you will need for your projects and coursework will be made available to you either through personal download to your computer or via NC State’s Virtual Computing Laboratory.

The majority of our online courses are taught asynchronously, meaning online students interact with the course materials at different times (within limits specified by the instructors). For example, course materials may be posted at the beginning of a week and students will have that week to accomplish certain tasks on their own time.

Synchronous learning means that students in the traditional on-campus class are meeting live with the online students enrolled in the same course and the instructor.

A ‘flipped’ course refers to a course that has taken a majority of it’s original ‘on-campus’ material and delivers it primarily online. Often these courses may maintain a synchronous meeting for discussion.

There are several types of online courses you may encounter during your time at NC State. The majority of our courses use Moodle and Blackboard Collaborate to deliver course content. Students will use interactive discussion forums, take online quizzes and exams, upload homeworks and other assignments, and watch recorded lectures (often voice-over-powerpoint, audio only, screen casting, and live room capture) via these interfaces.