Master of Geospatial Information Science and Technology

The Master of Geospatial Information Science and Technology (MGIST) program equips students with the necessary knowledge and tools to become high-end geospatial professionals using a unique curriculum that leverages NC State’s strengths in computational and data sciences and interdisciplinary training, in combination with professional skills development. The MGIST program is administered through the Center for Geospatial Analytics, the intellectual hub for geospatial education and research at NC State.

The Master of Geospatial Information Science and Technology was designed to be completed entirely online, allowing flexibility for both students just entering the work force and working professionals. The program also admits a small number of on-campus students, generally only when necessary to accommodate tuition benefit restrictions the student may be receiving. The schedule, structure, expectations, and rigor of the programs are identical, whether you are on-campus or in the online program.

Through a combination of geospatial theory, hands-on applications, and client-based instruction, students graduate from the program with a solid foundation to provide a wide range of geospatial expertise for local, state, national, and international organizations.

Students in the MGIST program also receive the Professional Science Master’s designation on their transcript upon graduation. The PSM program is a nationally recognized program focusing on preparing professionals with both the technical and professional skills necessary to succeed in the workplace. The NC State PSM Program and the National PSM Organization provide valuable resources for students in PSM degree programs, including mentoring, professional development workshops, and other resources.


Admissions to the Master of Geospatial Information Science & Technology (MGIST) degree is based on an applicant’s undergraduate and post-graduate educational background and professional experience.  At a minimum, applicants must meet the following criteria:

    1. Completion of an undergraduate degree and an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher. We accept students from a variety of undergraduate degrees, if you are unsure if yours qualifies, please contact us.
    2. Preferred Skills in the areas of:
      • Basic Geographic Information Systems
      • Introductory programming (in any language, but Python is taught in our program)
      • Introductory statistics

Generally an undergraduate course or 1 to 2 years of using these skills in the workplace are sufficient.  For applicants concerned about not having 1 or more of these skills in place at the time of admission, the program may recommend one or more courses to be completed during the first semester of enrollment (or students may consider taking courses as a non-degree student prior to admissions to gain these skills). Please address these skills in your personal statement.

  1. Professional Experience is not required, but many of our students have had some experience in GIST outside the classroom. This can be highlighted in your resume/CV and personal statement uploaded as part of your application.
  2. Visit our Apply page for full application instructions and required materials.


Visit NC State’s Graduate Online and Distance Education Tuition rates page for detailed information about graduate tuition and fees. The total cost of your program will vary based on several factors, including residency status (in-state or out of state), program (distance education or on-campus), and the total credit hours you take.

Financial Aid & Scholarships

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 Online and Distance Education degrees. Criteria for funding is based on academic merit, demonstrated financial need, and enrollment in multiple Online and Distance Education courses per semester. For additional information, please visit NC State’s Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid website. NC State also offers a monthly payment plan.


There are a number of external sources where students can search and apply for scholarships.  Some specific opportunities include:


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 10 hrs/week of work and pay a small semester stipend. Eligibility is determined in consultation with the specific instructors and director of graduate programs.

Technology & Software Requirements

The Master of Geospatial Information Science and Technology degree, by its nature, requires knowledge and use of technology to perform course assignments and project tasks. At a minimum, computers should meet the following specifications:

  • Intel i5 (or AMD equivalent) process or faster
  • 8 GB of RAM (minimum)
  • 250 GB hard drive (500 GB recommended)
  • Windows operating system (or ability to run windows on a Mac)
  • Strong Ethernet connection

Students will be exposed to a variety of software programs throughout their time in the program.  All of the software we use in our program will be freely available to students and can generally be accessed in several ways, either by downloading a copy to a personal computer and accessing a remote license, or using NC State’s Virtual Computing Laboratory and Remote Desktop to remotely access necessary software on an NC State computer.  Much of the software is also available on-campus in computer laboratories.


The Master of Geospatial Information Science and Technology curriculum consists of at least 33* credit hours (beginning Fall 2017), 21* of which are required core courses taught by our Lead MGIST Faculty.  The additional 12 credit hours are electives and allow the student to focus on related areas of interest to supplement their GIS instruction and professional skills development.  As part of the program students will complete a Capstone project and develop a Professional Portfolio.

Students are required to take at least one course per semester (Fall and Spring) for the duration of the program (unless financial aid or other considerations require half-time (4.5 hours) or full-time (9 hours) status). Students must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or greater in order to graduate. It typically takes a minimum of 4 semesters (2 academic years) to complete the appropriate sequence of courses. Students have a maximum of 6 years to complete the program.

Core Required Courses (21* hours)

Click on a course title to read more about the course.

*beginning with students entering Fall 2017; students that entered prior to Fall 2017 are required to complete at least 30 credit hours, but may elect to complete the additional 3 credit hours

Electives (12 hours)

The following are just a sample of electives that have been approved for students.  Students should consult the course catalog entry for the most up to date information on pre-reqs and availability of courses.  Other courses may serve as electives after consultation with an advisor. At least 6 credit hours of electives must be from a course with a GIS prefix.

GIS Electives

  • GIS 512 Introduction to Environmental Remote Sensing
  • GIS 515 Cartographic Design
  • GIS 520 Spatial Problem Solving
  • GIS 521 Surface Water Hydrology with GIS (NOTE: GIS 521 will not be available in Fall 2019, it should return in  Spring 2020)
  • GIS 535 Web and Mobile GIS Protocols
  • GIS 609 Geospatial Forum
  • GIS 630 Independent Study

GIS Special Topics Courses
Special topics courses will be labeled GIS 595 or GIS 610 and cover topics that are not part of our regular curriculum. These offerings change each semester and there may be multiple offerings in a given semester. Check the courses page for upcoming offerings.

Professional Skills Electives
Graduate students are also eligible to earn a Certificate in Professional Communication and Managerial Skills (PCMS) by completing 4 professional skills electives. Find course requirements and application procedures. Typically a student wanting to complete the MGIST + PCMS will require at least 36 total credit hours

  • BUS 501 Strategic Management Foundations (meets PCMS requirement)
  • BUS 590 Management Foundations
  • MBA 554 Project Management (meets PCMS requirement)
  • COM 521 Communication and Globalization (meets PCMS elective)
  • COM 525 Group/Team Communication
  • COM 527 Organizational Conflict Management (meets PCMS elective)
  • COM 530 Interpersonal Communication in Science & Technology Organizations (meets PCMS elective)

Environmental Science/Natural Resource Electives

  • MEA 511 Introduction to Meteorological Remote Sensing
  • SSC 545 Remote Sensing Applications in Soil Science and Agriculture
  • SSC 540 GIS in Soil Science and Agriculture

Engineering Electives

  • CSC 540 Database Management Concepts and Systems
  • BAE 535 Precision Agriculture Technology
  • BAE 536 GIS Applications for Precision Agriculture
  • CE 705 Intelligent Transportation Systems
  • ECE 759 Pattern Recognition
  • ECE 763 Computer Vision
  • ISE 754 Logistics Engineering

Statistics Electives

  • ST 507 Statistics for Behavioral Science I
  • ST 508 Statistics for Behavioral Science II
  • ST 511 Experimental Statistics for Biological Science I
  • ST 512 Experimental Statistics for Biological Science II
  • ST 533 Applied Spatial Statistics
  • Other 500-level ST courses

Capstone Experience

An integral part of the Master of Geospatial Information Science and Technology program is participation in a Capstone project during the last semester of the program. Students work directly with community and industry partners to apply the knowledge and skills they have developed in the program to real-world problems. The program works closely with each student to identify an appropriate project based on our partner’s needs and the interests of the individual students. Students present their final project to their peers and the greater geospatial community during our Professional Showcase. Visit our Capstone page for more information, or view sample student projects.

Professional Portfolio

All students are also required to produce a professional digital portfolio. The digital portfolio will present personal MGIST program accomplishments to demonstrate individual competences through knowledge, skills, and abilities of a geospatial science professional. This requirement is met through taking the course GIS 660 in the last term of the program alongside the capstone course.

Learning Environment

Students in the Master of Geospatial Information Science and Technology program will have access to state-of-the-art online course delivery methods and will participate in unique, interactive experiences throughout the program. Our program primarily uses Moodle and Blackboard Collaborate to manage and deliver course content to students via recordings, live online lectures, and interactive forums, in conjunction with more traditional lecture materials, such as powerpoint presentations and texts. Students will learn both synchronously (i.e., live interaction at a set time) and asynchronously (flexible timing).

Residential Component

A unique aspect of our online Master of Geospatial Information Science and Technology program is an emphasis on building relationships between our online students, faculty, and on-campus students. We feel this is an extremely important component of graduate education. It is important that our program provide a sense of community among our students, event those that may be studying in a different state or country. To facilitate this interaction, our program requires that students come to campus on two occasions during the program.

The first is an all-day orientation program at the start of the program designed to introduce faculty and advisors, bridge relationships between our new online and on-campus students, learn about the details of the program, and have fun together!

The second on-campus experience takes place at the end of the program during our Professional Showcase. Students graduating will be asked to participate in a symposium to present their Capstone projects to our community partners, and the geospatial community at NC State. It is a great networking and professional development opportunity for graduating students.

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Upcoming Deadlines

  • Apply by Oct 15 for Spring
  • Apply by April 15 for Fall

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